What happened with Kevin Love during the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-96 loss to the Toronto Raptors is a lot like The Smoking Peanut from SpongeBob Squarepants. In that episode, SpongeBob throws a peanut at a giant clam, which makes everyone believe that’s why the clam is throwing a tantrum.
Love, meanwhile, went to inbound the ball with less than 40 seconds left in the third quarter. Well, that’s what he was supposed to do.
Instead, Love batted the ball wildly after the official tossed it to him and proceeded to march absentmindedly down the court. This set up the easiest play of the night for the Raptors as rookie guard Malachi Flynn drained a three-pointer off the gaff. After the game, Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff shared with the media that Love spoke with his teammates about what happened, he apologized and the team was moving on from the incident.
But, Cavs fans, the giant clam in this scenario, were already throwing their tantrum online due to Love’s own smoking peanut. If you were to search “Kevin Love” on the beautiful hellscape known as Twitter dot com, you’d find plenty of profile pictures changed to Love’s headshot with a universal no on top of it. You’ll also find plenty of people, hours after the fact, demanding that Cleveland sends Love home. Or that people are personally offended for a multi-million dollar organization that Love isn’t honoring the mammoth contract he plays for.
Let’s unpack all of that. In reverse order though. But, before we do I want to make it clear that what Love did last night against Toronto (Tampa Bay? I don’t know) was unacceptable. It’s clear that his frustrations with what’s going on in that moment boiled over and it was a bad look for him and the organization. Love is one of the leaders on this Cavs squad and needs to be an adult, or at least act like one when things get tough. Thankfully, the team will handle this internally and move on from it.
With that said, when it comes to Love and his contract, all parties involved are culpable. Sure, Love should be playing up to the expectations of a near-max contract. But, the Cavs are also the ones who gave Love all that money in the first place. So, it’s really hard to say who is more at fault here. So that talking point is weak in the grand scheme of things and shouldn’t be used as a serious argument for or against Love.
But, for whatever reason, that’ll continue to be one of the main argumentative points for Love’s biggest critics amongst Cleveland fans. Love, who was a key piece in the Cavs reaching four straight NBA Finals and winning a championship in 2016, has always been a punching bag for fans during his time with the Cavs. When things were good but the vibes felt off? Blame Kevin Love. When things are bad and there’s unnecessary drama? Blame Kevin Love. Doctor Eggman stole the Chaos Emeralds? Blame Kevin Love.
That’s the thing. People want to take shots at Love on a day-to-day basis when it comes to the Cavs when in reality, a lot of this currently isn't his fault. Love didn’t singlehandedly take the team from championship contender to prospective rebuild all by himself. LeBron James leaving town did that. Mind you, my name isn’t Adrian Wojnarowski so this isn’t a shot at James but it is the truth. When he left town for the second time, all that was left for Cleveland were the pieces assembled around LeBron to maximize LeBron and Collin Sexton.
Sexton is still here. But the majority of those complementary pieces, sans Love, are gone. The Cavs have compiled an impressive young core, but still have a long way’s to go. That’s just the reality of a team in a non-glamor market going through a major rebuild. Love will probably be the next one to go and that’ll be a sad day when that happens. Sure, moments like the ones against the Raptors will be some of the more recent memories but you cannot see the forest for the trees. What Love has done to impact that organization positively more than outweighs the last few outbursts he’s had. Instead of hating on Love, appreciate him while he’s still here.