When Cleveland acquired former seventh overall pick Lauri Markkanen from the Bulls in a sign-and-trade earlier this week, many assumed the Cavs’ next order of business would be to buy out the remaining two years and $60 million on Kevin Love’s contract, allowing the All-Star forward to sign with a team of his choosing (could a reunion with LeBron James in Los Angeles, where Love spent two years as a UCLA Bruin, be in the offing?). However, according to Love’s agent Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports, the 32-year-old has no plans to pursue a buyout.
The final remnant of Cleveland’s Big Three Era that brought the Cavs their first championship in franchise history, Love, in his declining state (12.2 points per game on a career-low 24.9 minutes per game last season), is an odd fit for a roster trending younger with the additions of Markkanen (24), Jarrett Allen (23) and rookie seven-footer Evan Mobley (20). Injury-prone and coming off a season where he didn’t shoot particularly well (40.9 field-goal percentage in 25 games), Love is a redundancy taking away minutes from younger, arguably better frontcourt players, but the Cavs, no matter how hard they try, can’t seem to shed him or his exorbitant contract.
Love could certainly benefit from a change of scenery, rebranding himself as a sixth man or complementary piece for a title contender like the Lakers or Nets, but that would also mean accepting a lesser role and significantly less money. For instance, Blake Griffin forfeited $13.3 million in his buyout with Detroit last season.
Working within the confines of an unusual profession with a finite shelf life, it’s understandable why Love, or anyone else in his position, would hold out for the most money possible. That said, Love has already pocketed over $200 million in NBA contract earnings—and that doesn’t even take into account the money he's banked from endorsement deals with Nike and other brands. However, you could also understand Love—despite the current Cavs bearing little resemblance to the powerhouse that once dominated the Eastern Conference—not being particularly eager to leave Cleveland, his NBA home since 2014.
For all we know, this could be a negotiating tactic with Love’s camp holding firm in hopes of arranging more favorable buyout terms. Or perhaps the Cavs, sensing there wouldn’t be much trade interest for Love, are content keeping him around as a veteran mentor of sorts. Whatever the result, it seems Cleveland’s Love saga is far from over.
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