Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love told the media on May 31 he plans to return to the team next season. It was the first time he spoke to the media since he underwent shoulder surgery early last month.
Kevin Love is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2015-16 NBA season.
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During a press conference on May 31, Love had the opportunity to address the media for the first time since he underwent shoulder surgery earlier that month. Love said he is "happy with how things are progressing" in his rehab, per ESPN's Dave McMenamin.
"I truly haven't even thought about it, but as I mentioned, I expect to be suiting up by Game 1 of next year," Love said. When a reporter asked a follow-up question if this will be with the Cavaliers, Love said, "Yes, sir," per ESPN.
Despite Love's statement, he has continually been linked to other teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and the Boston Celtics, per The Northeast Ohio Media Group's Chris Haynes.
"It's something that I guess comes with the territory," Love told Haynes. "Anybody that has pending free agency coming up in the summer, I feel like that's going to happen no matter who it is."
According to McMenamin, Love has one year left on his deal which would pay him $16.7 million in 2015-16. He could opt out of this deal by June 30 so he can re-negotiate for a longer deal, possibly one worth five years.
Another possibility is for him to become an unrestricted free agent. If he takes this route, the longest deal he can strike is one worth four years according to the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, per ESPN.
Love injured his shoulder after he figured in a loose ball scuffle with Boston Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk during Game 4 of their first-round playoff series in late April. McMenamin says Olynyk "pulled down on Love's arm and yanked it out of the socket."
The NBA gave Olynyk a one-game suspension which he will serve once the 2015-16 season kicks off, per ESPN.
Love initially labeled the incident a "bush-league play" but has since mellowed down, telling reporters on Sunday he even reached out to Olynyk, per McMenamin:
"I initially was very emotional about the play. I think everybody thinks, 'Oh, he's going to be able to come back, pop it right in,' but at the time when it happened, I kind of knew. 'Hey, it's all good. It was a tough play.' And we just move on from there."
The Cavaliers have gone 8-2 since Love came down with the injury. After sweeping the Celtics, they beat the Chicago Bulls in six games and then swept the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Cleveland will go up against the Golden State Warriors in the 2015 NBA Finals, per ESPN.
McMenamin says Love's physicians cleared him to join his teammates on the bench for the playoff series against the Hawks. Love says he has kept in touch with his teammates, particularly Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellaveodva, via Facetime:
"Obviously I'd rather be out there playing, and that is, as a human being, from a human being aspect, is very tough. But as far as being here and supporting the guys and now being able to travel, it's a lot of fun, and I still feel like I'm a big part of this.
"What's great about technology these days is, when you have that, you can keep in touch with family and teammates from afar. But also we have the group texts that are kind of us all roasting each other, which is pretty fun."
Love told McMenamin he has lost around 15 pounds since the injury. He has been using the exercise bike, treadmimll and elliptical machine to stay fit.
A reporter then asked Love if he considers his teammate LeBron James to be this postseason's MVP, per ESPN.
"Well, how should I answer that?" Love asked while laughing. "Yes, I do."
Love also said he's happy for his teammates now that they're in the NBA Finals. He also appreciates the way they have lifted up his spirits, per McMenamin:
"I'll continue to work and try to get healthy over the summer and come back ready to play Game 1 (of next season). But like I mentioned, I'm super happy for these guys, proud of these guys, and there's times where I've felt down because of my shoulder and they've been here to pick me back up, and that's kind of how it's been the whole year."
He also told The Northeast Ohio Media Group one of the ways he can give back to his teammates is to root for them hard during the upcoming NBA Finals.
"The best thing I can do as I mentioned is encourage," Love told Haynes. "I can't necessarily clap, but I can scream. Try to help in that regard."
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