Cleveland Cavaliers veteran forward Kevin Love has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, the team announced Monday. While he’s already been ruled out against the Charlotte Hornets, he’s also expected to miss multiple games, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. At this time, it’s not known if Love tested positive for COVID-19. The Cavs plan to provide further updates “at the appropriate time.”
In any case, this is a blow to the Cavaliers, who, though under .500 at 3-4, have started off the season in encouraging fashion. They’ve picked up wins over the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers, and have been competitive in every single game thus far.
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Love being healthy and engaged has been a big factor. Through the first seven games, he was putting up 9.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists off the bench, and that was despite not even shooting the ball well yet. And though it’s an admittedly small sample size, Love’s net-rating differential to start the season is plus-5.1.
He’s no longer a star player, but this is a big, big difference compared to the last few seasons. Love played just 103 games in the last three seasons combined, and often sulked — both on and off the court. He had multiple notable moments of frustration, including a bizarre play last season when he tapped an in-bounds pass right to the Toronto Raptors, who scored an easy basket.
“That wasn’t me,” Love said at the time. “I apologize for that moment. It was an ugly one. It was one that was not ill-intentioned. “I [messed] up. Everyone knows that. My intent wasn’t to disrespect the game, my intent wasn’t even for the damn ball to go inbounds. It was a moment that I got caught up in.”
There’s been a noticeable change in Love’s approach this season, one that has been recognized by head coach JB Bickerstaff.
“Ricky Rubio is a starting point guard in the NBA,” Bickerstaff said. “There’s no ifs ands or buts about it. Kevin Love is a starter in the NBA, probably first ballot Hall of Famer. Those two guys sacrificing and a willingness to come off the bench and only care about the team, nobody else can say anything. There is no excuse for anybody else to not be willing to do that. Leadership may look different for everybody. But their willingness to sacrifice and still buy in, that’s leadership.”
As of now it’s not clear how many games Love will miss, but the Cavaliers will be hoping he’s back on the court sooner rather than later.