What Kevin Love did was unprofessional, inexcusable and frankly,
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or aren’t a fan of the
NBA, chances are you’ve come across the viral clip of Love angrily
batting a ball inbounds after a referee tossed it over to him.
That’s where we’re going to start.
It’s no secret that the louder national outlets and the talking
heads are going to make this into something it’s not, so let’s
provide some context as to why Love was fired up in the first
On the possession prior to the meltdown, the 32-year-old was
attempting to box out ever-so-active Toronto Raptors big man Khem
Birch, which resulted in a foul and Love’s knee hitting the floor
hard; he actually ended up with quite a floor burn. About a minute
later, the equally-as-active Freddie Gillespie bumped him on a
similar play, and his force sent Love into the stanchion underneath
the basket as Malachi Flynn got a layup out of it. Love glanced
over at the official on the baseline and was unhappy with a lack of
a loose ball foul call. So to vent his frustration, Love decided to
hand-deliver a free three points to Toronto by punching the ball in
bounds, giving Stanley Johnson the easiest steal (and assist) of
his professional career.
Now, let’s lay out the reasons that this act was selfish and
wrong. For starters, Love is the oldest, most seasoned player on
this mostly young Cleveland Cavaliers team. He and Matthew
Dellavedova are the only ones that are left from the championship
years, and are considered the dependable veterans of this group to
guide those inexperienced players and set an example. With that
decision, Love showed that it is okay to pout and cost your team
points and momentum when you don't get your way.
Speaking of which, that’s the second point to make: the Cavs
were *in the game*. With fewer than two minutes remaining in the
third quarter, the Raptors were clinging to a six-point lead in a
game where they had to stave off a feisty Cleveland bunch that was
missing seven players, including Collin Sexton. That advantage
ballooned to nine, and then 11, to close the period because of
Love’s mistake. One would think he’d have a little more emotional
maturity to center himself in a two-possession contest.
But that kind of leads to the third thing: this is not the first
time Love has lashed out. This has been a pattern since he and the
Cavs decided to continue their relationship post-LeBron James, when
the two parties came to a four-year, $120 million extension
agreement in the summer of 2018. While hindsight is 20-20 in both
cases, that deal has not amounted well to either -- on the cap
sheet or on the floor.
Let’s make this perfectly clear: Love hurting his toe in that
preseason and having to step away four games into that contract
absolutely sucked, and it was just the beginning of an incredibly
unfortunate trend that he’s dealt with since. Through no fault of
his own, the veteran simply has not been able to stay on the floor.
Anybody can imagine the mental toll that can take on somebody’s
psyche, especially if you’ve played the game for as long as he has.
He even talked as recently as March about how difficult this latest
calf injury was to heal, strictly from the impact it had on his
mind more than the physical aspect.
However, the situation is what it is. Love has played 96 games
out of a possible 208, which equates to 46% if you’re wondering. If
we’re being honest, that could be what he’s frustrated about, which
Still, getting into a shouting match with then-head-coach John
Beilein and general manager Koby Altman in a practice wasn’t the
way to handle that. Throwing up your hands mid-game, clapping at a
then-20-year-old Collin Sexton and chucking a ball for a “pass” to
Cedi Osman wasn’t the way to handle that. Showing up your teammates
and head coach and deliberately turning the ball over in a winnable
game because you got pushed around, even if you might’ve been
justified in your aggravation, is not the way to handle that.
(According to a report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo
Sports, "Love’s intent wasn’t to slap the ball inbounds,
sources said. Love was frustrated with officials and not his team’s
performance, sources said.")
Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor reported that a source texted him that the behavior
was "unacceptable." Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff relayed
that he apologized to his teammates; Love did not speak to the
media following the game. It might’ve been a good time to clear the
air, however, cooling down before addressing the matter could have
been a smart decision.
In terms of discipline, the Cavs and general manager Koby Altman
can’t be soft here. They
sent JR Smith home in 2018 due to his discontent. They came
down hard on Kevin Porter Jr. with suspensions and ended up trading the blossoming
guard following a heated argument. They recently kept Andre Drummond away from the
team to try and find a new home for him (though that was less
of a punishment and more of a situation). The point is, with these
examples: What should make Love immune from paying the price?
There’s no demand to sit him down or release him; that would be
way too reactionary. But a few games of an in-house suspension or
DNP-CDs would be appropriate at the least. Haynes reported late
this morning that the team is taking care of the matter internally,
yet "focused on turning the page"
after Love's apology.
If Cleveland wants to create the culture it desires, it needs to
address this elephant in the room. Love has meant a great deal to
this franchise, has stuck through thick and thin and continues to
be important for the next generation of wine-and-golders. On the
floor, the difference he makes is legitimate.
That being said, something has to be done to stop this juvenile
pattern of habits. Every time Love has an episode like this, the
immediate response is, “Damn, he really hates Cleveland,” or “he
doesn’t get along with Sexton.” Both are hardly anywhere near the
truth, and guess what? He signed the contract, a fruitful one at
Instead of constantly looking for a reason why these things are
happening, maybe we need to realize that there’s only been one
It’s time to be the adult in the room.