The Cleveland Cavaliers hashed out their differences during a team meeting Monday, and while Kevin Love reportedly drew the ire of several teammates, it seems no one was spared.
“Everyone was able to have their say if they wanted to say something,” USA Today NBA writer Jeff Zillgitt said on Tiki and Tierney. “From my understanding, no one was spared in the frustration that they had with each other, including LeBron James, including Dwyane Wade – Kyle Korver, even. It went down the list. You could point to each player on the team, and they are doing something – or not doing something – that is not helping the team right now. Once they got whatever their frustration was with Kevin Love out of the way, then they focused on, ‘Hey, what can you do to be a little bit better and help us win? What can you do?’ I think that was the tenor and the tone of that.”
Love left Cleveland’s 148-124 loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday due to illness, but some of his teammates reportedly questioned whether he was actually sick. Either way, the Cavs (27-18) have lost 10 of 14 and trail Boston (34-13) by six games in the East entering play Jan. 23)
Zillgitt wonders if James’ impending free agency is affecting the team.
“I think it just floats over the team in a bad way, and they’re trying to deal with that,” Zillgitt said. “I think to some degree it has led to a little paralysis of what the franchise wants to do, what the coaching staff wants to do. Everyone is walking around on egg shells just a little bit trying to figure out what the right thing is to do to make sure that guy is happy not only right now, but at the end of the season – to the point where he wants to stay.”
Still, Brandon Tierney does not understand why Love has become the team’s public punching bag. He’s playing out of position, still averaging 18.6 points and a team-high 9.4 rebounds per game, and doing it all with a smile on his face.
Why is Love the one being criticized?
“I wonder sometimes if it’s just not his personality that lends itself to that in that locker room dynamic, that he was the easy one to pick on in that particular moment where the frustration was building up and they get their clocks clobbered by Oklahoma City,” Zillgitt said. “The quickest one to blame, unfortunately, probably was Kevin Love. I thought Kevin probably handled it the best way possible and refused to say who was calling him out and deflected the situation and maybe even diffused it a little bit so that they can move on.
“But I agree with you guys,” Zillgitt continued. “This Cavs team, in one way or another since LeBron has been back, they’ve almost thrived in some of this chaos. When the chips are down or their backs are against the wall or they’re firing a coach midseason with the best record in the conference or they’re 20-20 in LeBron’s first season back or even last year as they struggled down the stretch – they seem to thrive in (those situations). Maybe that’s what gets the best out of that team when there is that chaos and turmoil.”