The Cleveland Cavaliers announced late Wednesday that power forward Kevin Love has undergone surgery to repair the dislocated left shoulder he suffered in a controversial tangle with the Boston Celtics' Kelly Olynyk during Game 4 of the two teams' opening-round playoff series on Sunday.
Love's "projected recovery time is four to six months," according to the team. That eliminates any chance that he could return at some point during the Cavaliers' playoff run and, if Love's rehabilitation skews toward the longer end of the timetable, raises the possibility that he could miss all of training camp and preseason, bringing right up to the start of the 2015-16 campaign.
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Love posted a photo to his Instagram account on Thursday morning to show fans that he's in good spirits after going under the knife:
Tough break but I woke up feeling great this morning," Love wrote in the caption of his Instagram post. "Thank you everyone for the love and support. #GoCavs"
In the short term, Love's surgery means the Cavaliers will be without their starting power forward, leading rebounder and No. 3 scorer not only for their second-round matchup against the winner of the series between the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks, but for the duration of their stay in the postseason, even if they should make it to the NBA Finals in June. Love's absence — and, to start Round 2, the absence of J.R. Smith, who's been suspended for Games 1 and 2 after swinging his fist into the face of Boston's Jae Crowder in Game 4 — will force Cleveland head coach David Blatt to test-drive a number of lineup and rotation adjustments. We've discussed those in some depth already.
Beyond just these next few weeks, though, Love's decision to undergo surgery and the recovery framework laid out Wednesday may cast even more doubt as to the 26-year-old three-time All-Star's plans this summer. The four-year, $60.8 million maximum contract extension that Love signed while a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves back in 2012 includes a player option for the '15-'16 season, allowing Love to extricate himself from the deal after this season and enter unrestricted free agency if he so chose.
Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski recently discussed some of the factors of interest surrounding Love's potential summer plans:
When Love was pushing Minnesota for a trade a year ago, he spent a weekend in Boston trying to get a sense of the city. He hit the bars, the box seats at Fenway Park and left intrigued with the possibilities. Boston never had the parts to make a deal with Minnesota, which moved Love to Cleveland for the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. The Cavaliers never would've traded Andrew Wiggins had Love offered team owner Dan Gilbert and general manager David Griffin the slightest uncertainty on his commitment to stay long-term. Cleveland wasn't trading the No. 1 overall pick – in fact, two of them counting Anthony Bennett – for a Love rental.
Nevertheless, Love's commitment at an NBA-sanctioned July meeting in Las Vegas was non-binding. Around the NBA and within the Cavaliers, they understand: Love wouldn't hesitate to bail on the franchise. Love can opt-out of his contract into free agency this summer, or stay one more year and hit the market in 2016. There isn't a team in pursuit of Love who hasn't done significant research and left unconvinced that Love won't minimally explore the market this summer. That was the case before the playoffs, anyway. Before Sunday. [...]
The best chance the Cavaliers had of re-selling Love on a Cavaliers future had been this postseason. He never knew the feeling of winning in the playoffs, nor how things could change once he started making plays in the postseason. If people started to see Love as a winning player making winning plays – not merely an individual chasing stats and endorsements – perhaps that would influence Love about how he feels about his role in that Cleveland system, about his fit in the environment.
They won't have that chance now, leaving Love in a sort of limbo, if one that affords him a number of options.
He can opt out and look to negotiate a long-term maximum deal with the Cavaliers, who could offer him a fifth year at higher annual raises by virtue of holding his Bird rights, meaning he can command a significantly higher total salary by staying in Cleveland than he could anywhere else. He can look to re-up with Cleveland on a shorter-term extension that would keep him in the fold alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving but build in an opportunity to re-enter free agency in the summer of 2016, when the influx of revenues from the league's new $24 billion broadcast rights deal hits and expands the salary cap to an unprecedented $89 million.
If he decides he's had it in Cleveland, Love can opt out and pursue another suitor with a roster structure that would return him to the sort of primary offensive role he had in Minnesota, albeit at the expense of one fewer year (four years maximum) and smaller annual raises (4.5 percent instead of the 7.5 percent that his Bird rights holder can offer). Or, if he's OK with Cleveland for now and isn't sure exactly what he wants to do, he can decide not to opt out and play the final year of his deal for the contracted $16.7 million.
There are plenty of options on the table for Love. Unfortunately for those of us who were hoping to see his maiden postseason voyage last a bit longer, though, now he'll have nothing but time to think about them.
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