After dislocating his left shoulder in the first round of the playoffs last year, Cavaliers forward Kevin Love cannot wait for the season to begin. Love averaged 16.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 75 games, helping the Cavs go 53-29 and claim the No. 2 seed in the East.
This year, he’s hoping for even more.
“I feel good,” Love said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “The first couple of (preseason) games were to get that rhythm, make sure my shoulder was all right, get it hit a couple times – which we know is going to happen – and just from a mental standpoint be ready to go out there and play.”
Love, of course, was unable to play in the NBA Finals last season. Watching his Cavs lose to the Warriors in six games was pure agony for the three-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA player.
Love hasn’t forgotten that feeling.
“Sure, you tend to look back – hindsight is always 20/20, as they say – but for me, it was tough,” Love said. “After Game 1, I had done an interview (and said) I never wanted to be in a game so bad. Sitting there in Oakland, the fans are right on top of you, it’s us against the world, and knowing that I could be out there affecting the game – rather than be sitting there in a suit – it was a very tough pill to swallow. But that gave me a little added strength, a little bit of added hunger heading into the offseason. . . . It was tough when Kyrie (Irving) went down as well. Having both of us, who knows what would have happened. LeBron really had to bear a lot, but that’s something that he does on a daily basis and he continues to impress. We had a ton of guys step up, (and) a lot of guys (are) battle-tested and ready for this season. If we remain and get everybody healthy, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
That was one of the reasons Love signed a five-year, $110-million contract with the Cavs this offseason.
“I had always planned on coming back to Cleveland,” he said. “No matter who you are . . . you have people speculating (about) what you’ll do. I looked at 3 things: I looked at winning, happiness, and money – and if you can have all three of those . . . it’s kind of a no-brainer.”
As impressive as Love was last season, he actually put up numbers below his career averages. Of course, that was bound to happen to some degree. He was without question the No. 1 option in Minnesota, where he averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 2013-14.
But after Cleveland signed James and Love, among other free agents, it took time for the Cavs to gel.
“Yeah, I think so,” Love said. “From a comfort standpoint, it does take some time. We started off the season 19-20. There’s always different stages throughout the season where you either take steps forward or you take steps back. So for us, we had to take a step back first before we could take leaps and bounds forward. . . . I thought I played my best basketball late and unfortunately injuries happen. We were playing great basketball at the right time.
“Heading into this year, as far as comfort goes, I feel a lot better,” Love continued. “I think you will see me in the painted area a lot more. Offensive rebounding and defensive rebounds and mixing it up. That’s something that I’m looking forward to –carrying the load when we have guys like Shump and Kyrie out right now. So we need to get healthy and then we’ll start playing our brand of basketball, but for now, we’re going to have different guys stepping up like you saw last year in the playoffs.”