Cleveland Cavaliers: Was the LeBron-Love Marriage Doomed From the Start?


Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers have figured out a way to finally pull it together, but the Love-LeBron union may have been cursed from the beginning

The merger of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love in Cleveland was supposed to be a positive one for three of the league’s best players, and for the most part it has been.

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After a significant adjustment period, LeBron has finally found his way to fit in once again with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving has found a way to coexist with the NBA’s best player while still doing Kyrie Irving things, and the Cavaliers have found their way to a 47-26 record and 2nd place in the Eastern Conference.

On the other hand, a third one, Kevin Love hasn’t found anything. As his team and teammates have discovered a recipe for success, one that really hasn’t included him, Love has struggled and toiled his way all the way to the bench. This was a unification that, on paper, was supposed to create the NBA’s next super team. The Cavs have still become one of the league’s best teams, and will certainly contend for an NBA title this spring, but the super team, with Kevin Love as part of its mainframe, may have been doomed from the start.

LeBron James has always made a point of getting close with his teammates. Kevin Love is known as a stoic guy who keeps to himself. LeBron has always thrived on teams where he and his teammates share fantastic chemistry. Love, up until this season, has thrived on sub-.500 teams where he put up great numbers without winning many games. The two opposing personalities haven’t quite meshed in Cleveland. From instances in which LeBron does nothing to hide his disdain, to LeBron tweets like this one, directed at “no one in particular,”

aka Kevin Love, to Love passive-aggressively telling Dan Patrick that he thinks Russell Westbrook is having a better season than LeBron and deserves to win the MVP; this lack of harmony has been quite evident.

Sure, it’s possible for two teammates to coexist with competing personalities, but one or the other has to prevail to set the tone for the team and, sorry Kevin, it’s not going to be you in Cleveland.

LeBron > anyone else.

No one is going to eclipse him or his personality.

Even aside from the obvious personality issue, the two players were really never compatible as players, either. Their styles of play are just too different. LeBron has never coexisted well with a true post player, which is fine; the dominant presence on the floor that is LeBron James essentially eliminates the post play aspect of an offense anyway.

We watched LeBron do it to Chris Bosh in Miami. The difference between Bosh and Love is that Bosh adjusted. By the end of LeBron’s tenure in Miami, Bosh was willingly playing out on the perimeter, taking 3’s, and setting picks — a completely different style than he had played previously in Toronto.

That’s really the only way a post player can survive on a LeBron team — to not be a post-player.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Kevin Love has the ability to completely rebuild his game the way Bosh did. Granted, Chris Bosh hadn’t made the transformation after just one season, either, but you could at least tell he understood and knew what he had to do to be able to collaborate with LeBron. Love doesn’t seem keen on changing his game in order to fit into the system in Cleveland and, just like the competing personalities, LeBron’s style of play will win out over Love’s 10 times out of 10.

Love also doesn’t really seem all that into being the third option on this team. His entire career he has been the first option for his teams, and that’s what he has become accustomed to.

All of this has me thinking that this was never really the right situation for Love, and that maybe he isn’t really the type of player who can play on a team with other stars on it.

That’s not to say that he’ll never play for a contender; Kevin Love could totally be the star on a contender if he fell onto the right team, with the right supporting cast. But all of these contributing factors: the weird personality, the stubbornness with his playing style and his lack of willingness to accept his role have me thinking that Kevin Love may just be a “Great player, bad team” guy.

Think Kevin Garnett in Minnesota, or Kyrie Irving in Cleveland pre-LeBron, or Carmelo Anthony for the rest of his career in New York…too harsh? Sorry.

Or wait; maybe think of Kevin Love when he was in Minnesota. Love established himself as a top-15 player as a Timberwolve, while playing on a series of sub-.500 teams. Not once did any of his teams ever eclipse .500, and only once did they win 40 games. While his stats flourished, his teams did not, that has always been the one stain on Love’s record — he wasn’t a winner. And now, as we watch his continuous and awkward frenemy-ship with LeBron, it’s seeming more and more like Kevin Love just isn’t the type of guy who can play on a contender.

Maybe his destiny is making max money, put up big numbers, and winning 36 or so games every year in Milwaukee or Utah.

Or maybe I’m just reading a little bit too far into it… and maybe this just isn’t the right situation for Love, and he just needs a fresh start somewhere else. Other than the fact that he is playing alongside the best player in the world, someone any player would be honored to adjust their game for, should Love, one of the league’s more unique talents, really be changing his style of play?

If he wants to remain in Cleveland, he most certainly should. But what if he ended up elsewhere next year, or the year after? Let’s say, hypothetically, on the Lakers.

And once the Lakers are free from Kobe Bryant’s atrocious contract, they bring in a playmaking point guard, how about Russell Westbrook, Love’s former teammate at UCLA-once again — all hypothetical.

In this situation which, once again, is hypothetical, Kevin Love is able to return to his old style, playing with a guard who can accentuate his skillset and give him another offensive option for him to pass to. Then the Lakers would surround the duo with other pieces that they can play with. That right there is a contender.

Once again, I really cannot stress this enough, this is all hypothetical. Not exactly what is going to go down over the next several years as Love and Westbrook become free agents, when the league salary cap skyrockets.

But right now Love is a Cavalier, and he is going to have to figure out a way to, at least temporarily, patch up this situation, or else he is going to be spending a lot of time this spring watching basketball from the bench.

Or maybe he’ll watch just from the corner waiting for the ball, which is basically what he has done all season long with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Next: LeBron James is frustrated with Kevin Love's inability to fit in