September 30, 2022

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Sports Really Satisfies

Kevin Love discusses resurgent Cavaliers, why Evan Mobley is Rookie of the Year … and that LeBron James dunk

Kevin Love has seen a whole lot during his tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s been on title teams, and more recently, teams that have landed in the lottery. Now, he serves as a key contributor for a young Cavs squad that is on the climb back to contention. They have sealed their first winning season since 2017-18, and will look to secure a postseason berth via the play-in tournament later this month.

In the meantime, Love found a few minutes to talk to CBS Sports about the upstart Cavs and their impressive rookie, the improved Eastern Conference, and his new partnership with Milk-Bone, among other topics. 

CBS Sports: I wanted to start off by asking you about your new partnership with Milk-Bone and how that came about. Was it as just as simple as you being a dog guy? 

Kevin Love: Really it just came from Vestry [Love’s Vizsla] being a star. She’s like an extension of our family. Milk-Bone celebrates their dogs and Vestry honestly loves their treats. For them, launching the Birthday Cake biscuit, which is why we’re here today, and the fact that the treats are good for her, she loves them, it’s kind of a percent blend of us two coming together. And I get to sit here and talk about my best friend, so it’s nice.  

CBS: I could talk to you about dogs all day, but I feel like my editors would probably be a little annoyed if I didn’t switch over to the court a little bit. So, I wanted to ask you how fun has it been for you this year to be part of this resurgent Cavs team after a couple of tough seasons in Cleveland? 

Love: It’s been amazing, especially being around a group that celebrates each other as much as we do. Just being around the coach, obviously J.B. [Bickerstaff], who I knew from my first three seasons in the NBA. Colby Altman in the front office, who I’m familiar with since I got here in 2014-15. And just seeing Evan Mobley come into his own at 20 years old, going to be the Rookie of the Year. Darius Garland making the next step, becoming an All-Star, a guy that’s going to be a superstar in this league, and Jarrett Allen, who I know he’s out right now, but he’s been so consistent and great for us the entire year.

Really just having different guys step up, playing with freedom, allowing themselves to grow within what we’re trying to get done. And just really establishing a culture that we were trying to build the last three years. It finally felt like it got set and again, that growth mindset of us every single day has been something that’s been exciting to go to work, and go in and try and get better. So, it’s been amazing. 

I’ve kind of seen it all here in Cleveland, from the championship runs, the Finals runs, to kind of being at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and the NBA standings, to now having a winning record outright for the season. It’s something to be said for that, especially with all the injuries that we’ve had and kind of [considering] where people predicted us to be at the end of the year. 

CBS: You guys have definitely been one of the surprise positive stories of the season. With that said, what do you think your ceiling is heading into the playoffs [or play-in tournament, at least] this season as a relatively young team?

Love: I think that if we’re whole, I don’t want to put a ceiling on us, because I think in a seven-game series, the way that we defend and the way that we play in the half court can make it really tough for teams. Matchups play such a huge part of it as well. I do think that having playoff experience, in general, for a young group is paramount.

It’s not only getting to the play-in games, which is where we’re slated right now in the seven seed, but to actually make the playoffs and go through a seven-game series, and play at the very least four games, and going into the offseason hungry for more. I think it’s a win-win, whether we were able to win a round, win a couple rounds, go as far as possible or we just get that first taste and we go into the offseason wanting more. 

So, I think there’s a lot of good in all of it. And as a veteran, I just want it so bad, not only for the team collectively, but just to see the whole organization making that next step within our evolution and the team we have set now because we’re balanced and made up to be good for a very long time.

CBS: I think the fact that [the Cavaliers] are seventh in the Eastern Conference standings is indicative of how solid the conference is this season. In fact, a lot of media members have said that the balance of power has kind of shifted from West to East, or that the East is at least the deeper conference this season. Do you agree with that?

Love: Yeah, I think the teams at the top of the Eastern Conference … it’s so competitive at the top. I mean, you had Boston who went from not even in the play-in game earlier in the season to now being [near the top of the standings]. It’s pretty incredible what they’ve been able to do.

A Miami Heat team who with their culture, they’re right at the top every single season. Milwaukee, the defending champs, the 76ers, adding James Harden with maybe the MVP in [Joel] Embiid. You have the Chicago Bulls, who have really had a resurgence and obviously have high-level superstar players. And then you have a team like Toronto. You want to get healthy and you want to play and trend in the right direction at the right time and they certainly are. [Pascal] Siakam is playing out of his mind. So is Fred VanVleet, and they have a championship-type pedigree.

And then seven, eight, nine, 10 you have teams that are extremely talented and I don’t know if I would want to face in a seven-game series a team like, the Brooklyn’s of the world, or obviously us [Cleveland]. What LaMelo [Ball] has been able to do [in Charlotte], they’re a scary team because they have so much talent. One through 10, there’s a lot of teams that could really make a splash and do some great things. There’s still a lot a lot of talent in the Western Conference. It just feels like, one through 10 in the Eastern Conference, it could be formidable teams and go up and down in the standings, as you’ve seen. 

CBS: You touched on this a little bit earlier, but as a guy who is in the locker room with him on the daily, I want you to tell me why Evan Mobley should win Rookie of the Year. 

Love: I think consistency. I obviously have a lot of respect for [Scottie] Barnes and what he’s done. He’s going to be a very, very good player for a long time and I don’t even know if, with his raw talent, he’s really scratched the surface of how good he can be. Cade Cunningham, same kind of thing. I think he’s going continue to make big steps. 

But, I think Evan has just been consistent all the way through. Defensive end, offensive end. He stepped up when Jarrett Allen was out, or we’ve had different guys in and out of our lineup. He’s just been a steady force. He never really hit a rookie wall throughout the season. I’ve seen a lot of rookies come in and out of this league and he has a chance to be extremely special. I think he’s proven that he’s downright Rookie of the Year. But again, he has really good company in the guys that are at the very top of his class.

CBS: We saved the most pressing question for last, so here it goes. Are you and LeBron still cool after that poster dunk last month? Is he still invited to your upcoming wedding? 

Love: [Laughs] He asked me before I put him in that headlock, literally right before at halftime. He said “man, just get out of the damn way! Like what are you thinking?”  

We had a good laugh about it. He’s one of those guys that just, his athleticism and his output and energy, what he’s able to do in an 82-game season this far into his career [is incredible]. Again, he could be the outright greatest player of all time, outright GOAT, but as far as longevity and doing it for this many years, it’s not even debatable. So again, like he’s just incredible with what he’s been able to do. We saw each other after the game. He’ll be at the wedding, but you know, I might have to let it be known. No more of that shit moving forward.