November 21, 2014

Medina
Partly sunny
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All-Star big man Kevin Love joins Cavaliers, quest for title begins

Kevin Love

Kevin Love

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili helped the San Antonio Spurs win NBA titles in 2003, ’05, ’07 and ’14.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh led the Miami Heat to four straight NBA Finals appearances and two titles from 2011-14.

Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce led the Boston Celtics to the top in 2008.

Now the Cavaliers have their own “Big Three” in James, Kyrie Irving and, with the official completion Saturday afternoon of a long-awaited trade, Kevin Love.

Titles are expected to follow, but they’re not guaranteed.

The Cavs, however, have already been installed as the favorite by Las Vegas oddsmakers now that the 6-foot-10, 243-pound Love, a three-time All-Star, has joined four-time league MVP James and two-time All-Star Irving in Cleveland.

Love, who averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists for Minnesota last season, will wear No. 0 with the Cavs. He will be officially introduced Tuesday at a 3 p.m. press conference at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

“Welcome to the Land @kevinlove!” tweeted James, who also posted a picture on Instagram of probable Cavs starters James, Love, Irving, Anderson Varejao and Dion Waiters.

Tweeted Irving: “Welcome to Cleveland Wes @kevinlove.” Love’s middle name is Wesley, and Wes is also the character he played in Irving’s Uncle Drew commercials for Pepsi Max.

The trade went down as expected, the Cavs sending Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, to Minnesota and a 2015 first-round pick acquired from Miami — it is top-10 protected for the Heat next year and in 2016 — to Philadelphia.

The Timberwolves also got forward Thaddeus Young from the 76ers, while Philadelphia received forward Luc Mbah a Moute and guard Alexey Shved, who both have contracts that expire at the end of the 2014-15 season, from Minnesota.

“Kevin joining the Cavaliers represents a very special and unique opportunity for our team,” Cavs general manager David Griffin said in a statement. “At only 25, Kevin has already firmly established himself as one (of) the NBA’s elite players and his talent, versatility and fit are major parts of our team’s vision for success.

“We want to also wish Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett the best as they will continue the start of their careers in Minnesota. They are both outstanding young men that have great potential on the court and long, very successful careers ahead of them.”

The addition of Love, the owner of arguably the best outlet pass in the league today, is the second-biggest piece in what has been the best offseason in Cavs history.

In addition to landing James as a free agent, Griffin has signed Irving to a five-year contract extension and signed free-agent veterans Mike Miller and James Jones, who won titles with James in Miami.

Veteran Shawn Marion, who also played with James with the Heat, has committed to signing with Cleveland as a free agent, and there’s still a possibility the 39-year-old Allen, yet another former James teammate, could sign with the Cavs as well.

Add Varejao, Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova and the Cavs are a heavy favorite to win the Eastern Conference and make the second NBA Finals appearance in franchise history.

Love is expected to opt out of his contract following the 2014-15 season, but he made it clear prior to the trade that Cleveland was where he wanted to be long term. If he opts out, he will be eligible to sign a five-year, $120 million maximum contract next summer.

“I can’t wait to get back on the court with my former teammate @kevinlove and #letitfly,” Miller, who played with Love in Minnesota in 2008-09, posted on his Twitter account.

Love, voted a starter for the Western Conference in the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, appeared in 77 games last season, shooting .457 from the field, .376 on 3-pointers and .821 at the line.

The fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft, the UCLA product led the league in double-doubles (64) and defensive rebounds (9.6) while ranking third in total rebounding average, fourth in scoring, tied for fourth in triple-doubles (four) and eighth in 3-pointers made (190) last season.

He became the first player in NBA history to record 2,000 points, 900 rebounds and 100 3-pointers in a season and set Minnesota franchise records for 3-pointers made in a season, points per game, free throws made (520) and free throws attempted (633).

In addition, Love became the first player to average at least 26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob McAdoo in 1975-76.

He scored in double figures in all 77 games last season, had 57 games of at least 20 points and set franchise records with 25 games of at least 30 points and six of at least 40.

Love’s scoring average will likely go down now that he’s on the same team with James and Irving, but his rebounding and assist numbers could actually increase.

Beyond numbers, James made it clear during his homecoming celebration in Akron earlier this month that he is a big fan of the way Love plays the game.

“I don’t even really care about the 26 (points) and 12 (rebounds),” James said. “I care about his basketball IQ. His basketball IQ is very, very high. I had the opportunity to spend 32 days with him in the 2012 Olympics. He was huge for us.”

Over his six-year career, Love has averaged 19.2 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He also made the All-Star team in 2011 and ’12, was a second-team All-NBA selection in 2012 and ’14, was named the league’s Most Improved Player in 2011, won the Three-Point Shootout in 2012 and earned an Olympic gold medal with James in 2012.

Injuries have been a concern at times. Love missed one game as a rookie, 22 in his second season, nine in his third, 11 in his fourth, 64 in his fifth and five last season.

The 19-year-old Wiggins, who averaged 17.1 points as a Kansas freshman, and 21-year-old Bennett, who averaged 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in a disappointing rookie year, are expected to be introduced Tuesday at a press conference in Minnesota, where Young will also be present.

Also Saturday, the Cavs announced they had signed forward Dwight Powell, the 45th overall pick in the 2014 draft. Powell and veteran center Brendan Haywood were acquired from Charlotte in exchange for Scotty Hopson and cash.

The 6-11, 240-pound Powell averaged 14.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists as a Stanford senior. He averaged 5.0 points and 3.7 rebounds in 11.3 minutes for the Cavs in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.