Love not lost
There was Kevin Love, shooting jump shots with teammate J.R. Smith prior to the Cleveland Cavaliers' shootaround before their Thursday night matchup with the Trail Blazers at Moda Center, none the worse for wear.
Love's left hand, fractured on Jan. 30 in a game at Detroit, was unwrapped and his stroke was sweet. The former Lake Oswego High phenom appeared ready for a return to duty, which he says will come soon.
"I should be back either at the end of next week or sometime the following week," Love said. "It feels good. I'm able to shoot. I've worn a glove for contact stuff. I'm getting my legs underneath me and just trying to get back."
When Love returns, it will be to a reconfigued Cavs team that includes trade deadline acquisitions Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood, George Hill and Jordan Clarkson.
"We've missed several guys who have been out (due to injury)," LeBron James said Thursday. "But with Kevin's production — 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) for the most part every night — you miss that more than anything. And it happened right before the All-Star break, right when we were getting the new four guys."
Love's numbers this season aren't quite that high, but they are of All-Star-caliber — 17.9 points, 9.4 rebounds while shooting .463 from the field, .404 from 3-point range and .883 from the free-throw line. And with Isaiah Thomas gone to the Los Angeles Lakers, Love will be the undisputed No. 2 threat behind James as the Cavaliers (39-28) gun for their fourth straight NBA Finals appearance.
The Cavaliers have gone a pedestrian 11-8 in Love's absence, which has made it more difficult for the 6-10, 250-pound power forward to stomach.
"It sucks," Love said. "It's always hard (to be injured), just to look and see where you know you could help. But I'm trying to look at it this time as glass half-full. I can work on other stuff and make sure my body's right for the long run."
Love got together with his family — parents Stan and Karen, brother Collin, sister Emily — along with former Laker teammate Ernie Spada for dinner Wednesday night at the Ringside Steakhouse.
"It's been our family spot for a few years," Love said. "I got to see a lot of people last night. I'd rather be playing, but it's nice to have a little bit more down time and see everybody."
Last week, Love poured his feelings out in a heartfelt first-person piece in the Players Tribune about personal anxiety issues he has been dealing with for some time.
The reaction, Love said, has been "universally positive."
"It's been not only therapeutic for myself, but I'm helping a lot of people," he said. "I didn't think the response would be like it was. A lot of guys, even on the team, and with our traveling party, have come to me. Hey, everybody's walking around with something. Everybody is going through something that you can't see. I've had a number of people — from players to former players, coaches, front-office types — talk to me about it.
"I asked (readers) to tell me their stories, and I got 6,000 to 7,000 emails in response within a couple of days. I'm sure people will continue to share their stories and come up to me and speak at length about it. It's been nice to have that."
In late February, Toronto's All-Star guard, DeMar DeRozan, went public about his struggles with depression.
"He was the one who opened the door for me," Love said. "Another part of it was, during the All-Star break, watching the Parkland, Florida, (school killings) situation, and reading my direct messages on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
"Even before that, people reaching out to me, saying, 'Hey, my kid's getting bullied at school.' Or, 'Any encouraging words you can give to my son? He's super down right now.' Or, 'Could you say hi to my daughter? It would make her feel better." That was the driving force behind that. But I'd say DeMar more than anything — putting the power in our hands and taking the stigma away."
Love approves of the trades that brought the Cavs four rotation players, including starters Hill and Nance.
"We got younger, we got longer, more athletic," he says. "We all knew it would take a little bit of time for us to get adjusted. We've shown phases where we can be really good. Finding an identity going into the playoffs is going to be huge for us."
Getting healthy, too. Hood missed a couple of games with a back injury. Nance (hamstring) will miss the Blazers game, as will center Tristan Thompson (ankle) and forward Cedi Osman (hip). None are expected to be out long-term, however.
"That's a lot of points, a lot of rebounds, we can distribute when we get back," Love said. "We'll be better when we get back at full strength."
Love, who turns 30 in September, is in the middle stages of an NBA career that is in its 10th season. He's an NBA champion, an Olympic gold medalist and a five-time All-Star. How does he view his career thus far?
"I feel like I can do more," he said. "It's like a human instinct to put the carrot right outside what we consider success. I don't think that ever really changes.
"I always feel like I can achieve more, do more, help out the team more. The needle does move, but there's always a sense of needing to accomplish something and strive for something greater."
Love feels as if he has something important off his chest now, however. The Players Tribune piece took care of that.
"It's going to be really fun moving forward," he said. "That article had a big part to do with it, but also getting back with this team is fresh and new. I feel pretty good about that."