Five-Time All-Star Looks to Bounce Back After Injury-Plagued Season
by Joe Gabriele (@CavsJoeG)
9/18/19 | Cavs.com
Last season was frustrating for several Cavaliers, but maybe none more than Kevin Love.
The lone remaining member of the Big Three that led the Wine & Gold to their first NBA title in franchise history, Love signed a contract extension heading into the season as the Cavaliers hoped to remain competitive after LeBron James’ free agent departure.
The five-time All-Star got off to a stellar start – averaging 19.0 points and 13.5 boards through the first four games of the season. Unfortunately, that’s where his campaign would hit a major speed bump – a toe injury that required surgery and proceeded to sideline the former Bruin for the next 51 games.
Love returned to the lineup on February 8 and looked like his former self for most of the remainder of the year.
There’s little argument that Love has Hall of Fame-level bona fides, especially now that he owns Championship jewelry. Late last season, he joined just seven other players in league history – Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Rasheed Wallace and Antawn Jamison – who’ve accumulated at least 12,000 points, 7,000 boards and 1,000 three-pointers for a career.
In terms of historic numbers, Love has (by far) the most career games of at least 25 points, 15 boards and three three-pointers made – posting 27 such outings. (The next-closest player, Karl-Anthony Towns, has 11.) And only Dwight Howard (501) has put up more double-doubles over the past ten years than Love (413).
Love comes into the season as the only Cavalier born in the 1980s – the elder statesman of the squad at the ripe old age of 31. He was looking forward to taking a leadership role with the young squad, but the toe injury precluded him from working with Cleveland’s youngsters on a day-to-day basis through the season’s first half.
Over the summer, Love and his longtime girlfriend traveled the globe, and now he’ll ready himself for his 12th NBA season. If he’s healthy, the Wine & Gold can remain competitive in the up-for-grabs Eastern Conference. If he struggles to stay in the lineup, the Cavaliers’ youth movement will be accelerated.
LOOKING BACK — Love was only able to suit up for 22 contests. But he was very good in the games that he did.
In limited action, Love averaged a double-double – the seventh time in his career that he’s done so. He topped the 20-point mark in his first two games last year and grabbed double-digit boards in three of his first four.
And it didn’t take him long to rediscover his rhythm when he returned. Not long after returning to the lineup before the All-Star Break, Love bounced back with three straight double-doubles – including a 32-point, 12-rebound outburst in a home win over the Grizzlies.
Love would top the 20-point mark five more times before season’s end, doubling-up in nine of his final 16 appearances.
With the season wrapping up, Love was essentially shut down for five of the club’s final six contests – making a rare bench appearance in the campaign’s second-last game, giving his close friend Channing Frye the start before his pending retirement.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 … number of players in NBA history to average at least 10.0 rebounds per game while sinking at least 1,000 three-pointers – Kevin Wesley Love.
Love has drilled 1,077 career triples and boasts an 11.3 rebounding average. He’s averaged double-digit boards in seven of his 11 seasons as a pro and has canned at least 100 threes in six of them.
LOOKING AHEAD — The big question heading into the 2019-20 campaign for Kevin Love will be how he fits in with a franchise in flux. A young roster, mixed with a new coaching staff and system, will be an adjustment for the veteran forward.
Coach Beilein loves shooters, and Love is still one of the best in the business at his position. His veteran leadership when he returned to the lineup last year helped the squad’s young guns – and there will be more greenhorns to work with this season.
Love has had a spectacular career and is still near the top of his game. When he’s played, he’s been excellent. How he adjusts to Cleveland’s youth movement will be paramount as he and the team move forward.