Kevin Love underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday and is expected to miss six weeks. With the NBA trade deadline nine days away, will the Cavs look to replace Love’s 20.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game?
Sekou Smith isn’t so sure.
“I don’t think the likelihood (of a trade) increases at all,” the NBA-TV analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think the Cavs have to take a long-term view of the health of their team. When do we get J.R. Smith back? Is Kevin Love’s injury something that can be managed between now and the end of the regular season? Can you get him back healthy for the playoffs? Of course, injuries don’t happen on anybody’s clock. They come whenever they come and you have to deal with them. But if you’re planning long-term and you’re the Cavaliers, I don’t think you can be held hostage by circumstance come trade deadline. You’ve got to make some sound decisions. I know LeBron has chirped about what he wants to see done, but David Griffin and that front-office staff have to think about how they mange this between now and the end of June. To me, that means sitting back and maybe letting the deadline pass without overreacting to their current situation.”
The Cavs (37-16) lead the Celtics (36-19) by two games in the East. The Wizards (33-21), Hawks (32-23) and Raptors (32-23) rank third through fifth, respectively.
“Listen, (Love is) important, and nobody should diminish the important role that he plays on their team,” Smith said. “But they absolutely can get out of the East without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving healthy. They did it two years ago. LeBron is that good and he’s still that good. He’s good enough to get you through the Eastern Conference playoff grind, if he has to, without some of his key pieces.”
Getting to the Finals and winning a championship, however, are two different things.
“If they’re serious about challenging a Warriors team that has four All-Stars, then yeah, their math is not right,” Smith said. “They don’t have the math on their side to take down the Warriors. We can talk about what happened last year in the Finals – the 3-1 deficit and how they came back – but that was largely orchestrated by superhuman performances from LeBron and Kyrie Irving. I don’t think you can bank on that happening again after you’ve been through it one time. The Warriors aren’t crazy enough to allow what went down last year to happen again.”
In other trade-deadline news, Smith weighed in on Carmelo Anthony, who has navigated a public, contentious spat with Phil Jackson about as professionally as possible.
“Carmelo has never really let his guard down, to me, since his early years in Denver,” Smith said. “He was kind of burned by George Karl, and being undermined by your head coach in that situation (was unfortunate). You come to New York and embrace this idea of being the face of their franchise – which, not a lot of guys have been up to that challenge. If you’re Carmelo right now, you have to be feeling like you’ve been blind-sided. Phil Jackson comes in, you get this huge contract, all signs point to, ‘Hey, we’re going to build this team, a playoff team, hopefully a contending team, around you.’
“Really, it’s been one rug (pulled) out from under him after another,” Smith continued. “They didn’t waste any time making sure he understood that Kristaps Porzingis was the future and that he was basically the past. Now they’re doing everything they can to make him uncomfortable and trying to get him to force his way out of town. I think Carmelo is playing this wisely. I think he’s doing the right thing taking the high road and not allowing himself to play the games that Phil Jackson and that Knicks front office are playing.”