Nets fans are going to be watching Kevin Durant at the Tokyo Olympics later this month. But they also might also want to keep an eye on another Team USA big man: Kevin Love.
The 32-year-old Cavaliers star might be coming off his worst statistical season, but he’s going to be a big name on the trading block this summer or even on the buyout market. If Love is bought out, he figures to be a prime target of the Nets, who scooped up Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge the same way this past season.
For a five-time All-Star who sounds as if he realizes his time as a franchise star is done and his time in Cleveland could soon be over as well, Love would be a fit in Brooklyn.
“Yeah, I understand going into my 14th season that being that No. 1 guy, playing 35 minutes, getting 20 touches a game is probably in my rearview,” Love said Tuesday. “But how I can affect the team, and feeling how I’m feeling now, I know that I can do it at a very high level. I don’t try to put a ceiling or limit on myself at all. So long as I’m feeling good, I know I’m going to play good.
“If it’s asked for me to have to pivot in my career for a team to win, I’m more than willing to do that. … But I do feel like on that [Cavaliers] team, or whichever team I end up on, USA Team, this is definitely something that I can continue to progress in the right way for really anybody. It doesn’t matter who I’m out there with, or who I’m playing with out there on the floor.”
Love spoke after the first day of Team USA training camp in Las Vegas, where he practiced alongside Durant, among others. It was the presence of Durant and Kyrie Irving that attracted James Harden to Brooklyn, and that Big 3 lured Griffin and Aldridge.
Griffin will be a free agent. Love, coming off a season in which he started just 25 games and averaged just 12.2 points on 40.9 percent shooting, is hardly free. Yet.
Love has two years and $60 million left on his current deal. Cleveland is expected to explore offseason trade possibilities, and Love has been linked to the Clippers, Heat, Pelicans, 76ers and Trail Blazers by Hoops Wire.
Just because Love isn’t his old self doesn’t mean he’s too old to contribute to NBA teams, such as the Cavaliers (or Nets), and to Team USA, which picked him over Knicks All-Star Julius Randle.
But Love knows he has something to prove.
“Yeah, just that I can still be the player that I was before I had a couple tough injuries,” Love said. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time.
“In a way I understand it, because I came off a season where I didn’t play that many games and wasn’t at the top of my game. I was very vocal about that, saying I wasn’t where I wanted to be mostly for my team, for my coaching staff and for the Cavs in general.… So for me to come here, I just feel like I have a lot to prove.”
That was part of Love’s motivation in committing to the Olympics.
“We all know he didn’t have a great year, but he’s worked diligently to get his body ready for this. He wanted to do it badly,” said coach Gregg Popovich, who added that not only will Team USA benefit from Love’s floor-spacing and international experience (something Randle lacks), but also the veteran will benefit from the Olympics.
“Absolutely,” Popovich said. “We’re going to work his ass off [the] next four, five weeks, and demand a lot. And that’s going to definitely get him back into the rhythm he needs to be in. … And that’s one of the big reasons he wanted to do this, to get himself back to who he was.”
Wherever that takes him.
International tournaments are often where the recruiting for super-teams is done. There will be recruiting in Tokyo — and even before, in Las Vegas.
“I feel like it’ll be everybody has their fair share since we’re gonna be around each other so much,” Bam Adebayo said.