The morning after Kevin Love was finally, officially, flipped to Cleveland, a photo of him in a Cleveland jersey donning the number zero surfaced. And the internet, as it is wont to do, jumped all over the historical significance and unironic twisted truth of his predicament. Did you know Kevin Love has never made the postseason? Not once? It was jokes, or what appeared to be funny digs, I guess, but simultaneously a look at how most will feel now and into the future about LeBron James’ new big man sidekick.
A more cynical person than I would not care about a thing people say about Kevin Love and this whole circus. But the face-palm reactions from everyone involved including even the execs — who some believe he’s overrated because bad defense and no postseason appearances — is stunningly nearsighted and, for lack of a better word, stupid. Which is why the departure of Love to a much better team, and alongside the greatest player in the world, will alleviate precisely zero percent of the concerns from the people who are so appalled by his shortcomings.
If, and when, Love makes the playoffs in the Eastern Conference it won’t be sold as his perseverance through a dysfunctional managerial structure in Minnesota or a consistent rotating door of mediocre teammates or even a fluky year of misfortune in a stacked 2013 Western Conference. His former team adds Thaddeus Young, Andrew Wiggins, and Anthony Bennett to a core of Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, and Ricky Rubio. They’re certainly not a lock to even fight for a playoff spot but expecting improvements from Rubio, Wiggins’ immediate impact on defense and as a situational cutter and shooter, and a consistent style could result in a somewhat competitive year — think 35 wins. That sort of success without taking into account how awful the Wolves have been off the court leads right into the myth that he isn’t a winner. If Chris Bosh was and is underrated by deferring on offense to Dwyane Wade and LeBron while excelling on the other end, this Love train of irrational takes will only gain steam forever.
It took a while before the appreciation of Chris Bosh as a superstar or even a Hall of Famer started to manifest itself. He apparently needed to hit big shots — in ample supply — and Miami’s struggles without a 100 percent Wade that convinced most of his excellence. And even then we can expect Miami’s struggles with Bosh as its franchise max player to somehow be an indictment on his failings as a star in the upcoming season.
While Minnesota fans understand what Kevin Love is and have accepted the fate of losing a star, the rest of the world has yet to catch up. Like Toronto, Minnesota games seem to fall into a vortex of everyday nothingness, existing only if there are hot fantasy pickups during that week. The path of Bosh is exacerbated by Love’s always preordained label as a guy who can’t win. Not known as a defender, Bosh fine-tuned his game into an excellent help defender and stretched his shooting to the three-point line. Love’s strengths is his unparalleled ability as a big man to push and pull defenses diagonally. Those calling his style one that necessitates a “true superstar” or “alpha dog and proven winner” are proven accurate in the sense that arguments against falsified hypotheses can only result in a conclusion less feasible than Dion Waiters actually being better than LeBron James.
Both players are entirely different fits into LeBron’s style of play; don’t get it twisted, this won’t be so much about David Blatt’s offense as to how he will tailor his entire schemes to the abilities of the best player in the world. In the formation of the Miami Big 3, LeBron needed Bosh as the rim protector and defensive big that could double and recover without missing a single beat. Now 30 and less able to fly around at those same breakneck speed and heights, LeBron finds what is a new fit in Love; a big man not nearly as mobile but entirely willing to shoulder the load of scoring. Kyrie Irving isn’t Prime Wade so much as Love will fill the second banana option on that end. The new Big Three is formed, yet again, around two guards and a big man.
No matter what Love does, the damage he has done to his reputation, so brazenly accepted by many as a failure and stubbornness to lose — as if that’s a thing — is more irreparable than anything Chris Bosh has done. Bosh is made fun of for his “different” features and actions, but Love is already slammed for things out of his control. I shouldn’t care about how others view Love, but as a grieving Golden State Warriors fan, it’s despairing to see the path Love is taking to success. Because when he comes out of this with not one, not two, not three, or however many rings and postseason appearances, we can only hope that erases those silly Minnesota myths. It just might not be as easy to overcome those factless perceptions for Love as it was for Chris Bosh.