Did Cavaliers regret buying out Kevin Love? Altman won't answer question

Apr. 29—No one knows what each Cavaliers player is doing these days, and, of course, it's nobody's business since they were eliminated from the playoffs on April 26. But maybe some of them will spend their first free Sunday in quite a while watching their friend and former teammate, Kevin Love.

Love and the Miami Heat he plays with begin their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Knicks at 1 p.m. April 30 in Madison Square Garden.

Love played for the Cavaliers from the start of the 2014 season until he and the Cavs agreed to a buyout in mid-February. He signed with Miami on Feb. 20 and by Feb. 24 he was starting for his new team. He missed all four shots he took and grabbed eight rebounds in his first game with Miami.

President of basketball operations Koby Altman did not want to get into a second-guessing debate about buying out Love when Altman met with reporters on April 28 at Cavaliers' headquarters in Independence.

The handy excuse for Coach J.B. Bickerstaff and his players, plus Altman in his own post mortem reflecting on the quick exit from the playoffs, was the Cavaliers were young and inexperienced, that they had to be hardened by a playoff series to know what to expect a year from now.

Love was in 60 playoff games during his time with the Cavaliers — 57 of them starts. He played in the NBA Finals four times and was part of the Cavs' 2016 championship team. His experience and ability to rebound might have made the Browns more competitive.

"I would table that conversation and just put it that we're happy for Kevin," Altman said. "Any conversation about Kevin Love will be hopefully when he returns retired as a Cavalier (with his jersey) in the rafters.

"We will embrace him for what he brought to this franchise. That was a difficult decision for him and us, but one that was made for the right reasons for both parties. So you can go down a rabbit hole of a lot of different things when you lose in the first round. But that's not one that we're going down."

Love found a niche coming off the bench for the Cavs last season. He played in 74 games with only four starts. The eight games he missed were COVID-19 related. He averaged 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds.

Love tried to reprise his sixth-man role this season, but he suffered a hairline fracture of his right thumb going for a loose ball in a game with the Timberwolves on Nov. 18. He struggled with the injury after missing eight of 12 games with it and then fell out of Bickerstaff's rotation. Love was listed as "did not play" in nine straight games before the buyout negotiations began.

Dean Wade, who suffered a shoulder injury earlier in the season, began taking some of Love's playing minutes.

"To the people of Cleveland and all of Ohio, I love you and always will. More to come," Love wrote in a tweet after the buyout.

Love helped the Heat upset the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. He started the last three games of the series. Miami won all three. Love scored 18, 4, 6, 6 and 15 points and pulled down 8, 3, 7, 7, and 12 rebounds — all but two of the 37 off the defensive glass, which means he would have challenged Knicks center Mitchell Robinson for some of those 29 offensive rebounds Robinson pulled down while the Knicks were dispatching the Cavaliers.

Caris LeVert is a pending free agent. He said he wants to re-sign with the Cavs. Teams can begin negotiating with free agents on June 30. The signing period begins July 6.

"I definitely want to be a part of this culture, be a part of this team," he said in his locker cleanout interview. "This group is a super special group and I definitely want to be a part of that. But you all know it's a business. So we'll see what happens this summer. But I would love to come back."

Altman said he wants LeVert back. This was LeVert's first full season with Cleveland after being acquired at the trade deadline in 2022.

"Caris has been incredible for us," Altman said. "We've asked him to buy into being an all-around player, defending, obviously scoring, playmaking, spot shooting and all he did was give us a career year in terms of games 74) He played almost 400 more minutes games than any year of his career.

"He's bought into our performance team like none other from the nutrition standpoint, wellness standpoint. He's our rock star and he's a really good vet for our young guys to see going through multiple really hard injuries, how you can come away from that."

LeVert was paid $18,796,296 for the 2022-23 season.

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