At this point, the relationship between LeBron James and Kevin Love has been scrutinized more than Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s marriage, but alas the two Cleveland Cavaliers teammates keep fanning flames, and the media firestorm rages on.
While promoting chocolate milk, as if chocolate milk needed promoting, Love appeared on two national radio shows and made comments about James on each that could be perceived as veiled references to a strained coexistence. Admittedly, it’s speculation, but neither Love nor LeBron have done all that much to quell concerns in Cleveland.
First, we’ll start with Love’s appearance on “Mike & Mike,” during which he was asked about the relationship in the context of LeBron’s Instagram post featuring six other members of the Cavaliers — none of whom were Love — and the caption, “Clique Up!!”
“It’s fine. It’s, it’s — you know, we’re not best friends, we’re not hanging out every day, but we see each other every day, whether at the practice facility, whether on the road or going to a game, so I think our relationship is also evolving. I can say the same with each and every coach, coach Blatt, and each and every player on the team, but that’s part of the NBA, and as I’ve said all along, as long as it’s for the greater good, then it’s fine, and I’m sure he’s going to have me in the next picture. We’ll see.”
This is all very seventh grade, of course, reading into social media shares, but it was LeBron’s own not-so-veiled shot at Love on Twitter — coupled with their public debate over the latter’s confidence (or lack thereof) — that started rumors of the free agent-to-be power forward’s potential exodus from Cleveland after just one season.
Stop trying to find a way to FIT-OUT and just FIT-IN. Be apart of something special! Just my thoughts
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 8, 2015
Regardless, teammates on championship-contending teams are not required to be best friends. I’m pretty sure Shaquille O’Neal said as much about Kobe Bryant in a rap once. But there are those who contend winning titles is easier when everyone gets along.
That brings us to “The Dan Patrick Show,” during which the host asked Love whether he’d vote for James or former UCLA teammate Russell Westbrook for NBA MVP —ignoring Stephen Curry, the favorite for the award. Rather than subscribe to some unwritten rule about backing the guy in your own locker room, Love offered his honest opinion.
“Oh, I would just say because of time spent on the court — Bron took those couple weeks off — you know, Russell Westbrook, he’s having — they're both having an MVP-type season — but I'm going to go with Russell Westbrook because he's, every single night you're looking at his stat sheet, they're fighting for a playoff spot, with Serge Ibaka going down now, Kevin Durant potentially being out the rest of the year and him still going out there and fighting for his team, and them winning and fighting for that seventh or eighth spot in the playoffs, I think Russ is arguably having the better season.”
It doesn’t matter Love’s reasoning is flawed, since James has played 344 more minutes than Westbrook this season, it’s just an opinion, and the Oklahoma City Thunder star’s superior averages suggest he is arguably having a better season than LeBron. And the four-time MVP probably doesn’t need Love to pump his tires to compete for a fifth.
So, maybe Love isn’t best friends with LeBron and maybe he doesn’t think James has been the league’s best player this season. Does any of that suggest he’s leaving the Cavs? While phrases sprinkled throughout Love’s two national radio appearances — “there have been better times,” “as long as we’re winning,” “I think it’s on me to do what’s best by the team and just try to be a consummate professional” and “it’s not something that I’m going to complain about” — don’t suggest he’s the happiest camper in Cleveland, we’ll leave you with this exchange between Patrick and Love on his departure from Minnesota.
Patrick: “If I gave you a mulligan, what would you have done?”
Love: “The same thing.”
Patrick: “The same way?”
Love: “The same way.”
Patrick: “Hmm. You just don’t seem happy, having fun, and I don’t know. You’ve always been the man, and I don’t know how difficult that is — to just sort of, kind of hit the reset, to say, ‘All right, now I’m not the man. I’m not even the second option some nights.’”
Love: “Right. Well, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t fight it sometimes, but winning this many basketball games — at least this far into a season — and having clinched a playoff spot is something that I haven’t done before … so it’s not something that I’m going to complain about. I get to play with two of the best players in the world, some veterans who have been really great to me, a team that has been really great to me, and guys who have won championships, so they know what it takes.”
Patrick: “Indulge me in this: More likely or less likely to stay if you win a title?”
Love: “I mean, any time you win, better things are going to happen, but, you know, I’m, I — I plan on being a Cavalier either way.”
Now, we’d try to decipher that last bit, but it’s probably best not to speculate until LeBron tweets another picture about this ridiculousness or Love takes another Freedom Tour through Boston this summer.
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