CLEVELAND: Thirty-two thoughts for 32 points from Kevin Love in a 120-105 win over the Lakers on a day an impressive victory quickly became an afterthought…
1. Well that was interesting. First LeBron dismissed any thought his tweet Saturday night was directed at Kevin Love, then later conceded, “It’s not a coincidence, man.”
2. Quickly the back story: Love was speaking in October about how the transition with his new teammates was going and recalled a story from the flight to Brazil for the preseason game against the Heat.
3. “I’m comfortable and just not trying to, I guess, fit in so much,” Love said in October. “I had a talk with the guys on the plane ride over (to Brazil) and also at different practices off the floor and they told me to fit out. Just be myself.”
4. Which led to this tweet from LeBron late Saturday night.
Stop trying to find a way to FIT-OUT and just FIT-IN. Be apart of something special! Just my thoughts— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 8, 2015
5. The use of “fit in” and “fit out,” plus the emphasis on both (all caps) seemed a bit too similar to be coincidental. Yet when he was asked about it while surrounded by the large media contingent, James denied he was aiming the tweet at any one specific person.
6. “It was more about people in general,” James said. “It was a general thought I had. Obviously whatever thought I have people try to encrypt it and Da Vinci code it and all that stuff. People are always trying to fit out instead of fit in and be part of something special. That’s what it’s all about.”
7. After the large pack of cameras and recorders dissipated, a few of the regular beat writers stuck around a few extra minutes. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, who used the original “fit in/fit out” Love quote in an October story for ESPN, showed James the original quote. He smiled.
8. When we pressed him on it some more, James laughed and said, “It’s not a coincidence, man.”
9. I was shocked. McMenamin was shocked. No recorders were running, no cameras were live. It was just some guys standing around talking. The conversation continued for a few more minutes before James dressed and headed for the door. I stopped him just to be clear.
10. “When we’re standing around BSing like that, do you consider it on the record or off the record?” I asked. James responded: “Ain’t nothing off the record. I know everything that comes out of my mouth. If I say it, it’s on the record.” Then he pointed at McMenamin and walked out of the locker room.
11. James has been talking about sacrifice for days, perhaps even weeks. He has talked about putting the team first and doing whatever it takes to win, even offering that he would come off the bench if it helped the team win. All of us assumed LeBron was gearing those comments toward Love, too. But Sunday he made it blatant.
12. Those are the facts. Now my interpretation: I don’t think James intended for any of this to be malicious. He made it a point to say he was looking for Love on the court today. Three of his eight assists went to Love and James said he was even drawing up plays in the huddle to ride Love’s hot hand. He scored 17 points in the second quarter, including four 3-pointers in a span of 2:07. James got the assist on two of those four.
13. “I drew up a few sets for him in the timeout when he had the hot hand,” James said. “I wanted to keep going to him.”
14. I have no idea why LeBron went about this the way he did with Twitter. I don’t know why he didn’t pull Love aside and have this conversation with him privately. I don’t know why he initially denied the connection between his tweet and Love’s October quote, then later admitted to it. Was it because we had the October quote in front of him? Perhaps. Only LeBron knows. But he’s been in the league for 12 years now and doesn’t really answer to anyone. He clearly has a master plan and it most certainly appears to be in motion.
15. Love, for his part, was blindsided by the whole thing. He has a Twitter account, but hasn’t posted anything since Christmas Eve. He had no idea about the tweet or James’ comments.
16. Love was the last one to speak after the game. I didn’t want to embarrass him or put him on the spot in front of everyone, so when the crowd dispersed I filled him in. He had no idea what I was talking about so I showed him James’ tweet and explained James’ “it’s not a coincidence” remark.
17. “I feel like I’ve done all the right things. I haven’t got upset or been down,” Love said. “There’s moments when I hope I would’ve played better but it’s a long, long season. I don’t know really what he’s talking about. I feel like I’ve sacrificed and I think everyone knows that. I’m not trying to downplay what he said, but I think I’ve done a pretty good job of trying to help this team.”
18. It seems like an odd time to make this an issue. The Cavs have won 13 of their last 14 and finally seem to be hitting their stride. David Blatt is clearly annoyed by all the Love questions, too, bristling tonight when asked about him again.
19. “You people like to talk about a lot of the things that are in my mind, less important,” Blatt said. “We win 12 games in a row and everybody is talking about Kevin’s five-point game. I mean, really, who gives a damn? What’s important is that the team is winning and Kevin knows that.”
20. I tend to agree with Blatt on winning being most important, but now it’s not just us asking about Love. Now his star player is doing it.
21. The personalities of Love and James are complete opposites, which has intrigued me all season. Love is an admitted introvert who enjoys sitting home and watching movies. Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic, who was Love’s closest friend in Minnesota, told me last week he had to struggle sometimes just to get Love to leave his apartment. Love wasn’t overly close with a lot of his teammates in Minnesota. The list consisted of Pekovic and Corey Brewer. That was about it.
22. James is the exact opposite. He wants a tight-knit bond among all of his teammates. He wants to develop that “family” type atmosphere and has spoken at length at various points this season about the importance of camaraderie.
23. “I think it’s a huge thing,” James said in December. “Every leader is different. My leadership consists of that. I think that’s part of what makes a team really good on the floor. I’ve been like that. I’ve preached that. I’ve learned from my coaches over the years when I was younger that the more and more we’re close, the camaraderie we have off the floor, it makes the game that much easier. You start knowing where guys are, what guys are thinking, what guys are feeling.”
24. I mentioned to James tonight the difference in their personalities. James seemed to dismiss it, saying guys can do whatever they want when they leave the facility as long as they don’t embarrass the organization. But the larger point I think still holds true. James wants everyone to be close, while Love is happy walking to his own beat.
25. I know the trade deadline is approaching and an easy talk radio topic is whether the Cavs should trade Love. Not happening. The Cavs have not entertained any thought like that and haven’t discussed Love with any other teams. They are committed to making this work and Sunday was proof that it can.
26. Love was terrific, Kyrie Irving had 28 points and 10 assists and James would’ve had a triple-double (22 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists), but he didn’t play the fourth quarter because the game was already in hand.
27. This was just the fifth time all three stars scored at least 20 points and the first since Dec. 23. Love got going with inside touches – seven of his first 11 touches came either in the paint or near it – before he moved outside and started splashing 3-pointers. Love has talked about the importance of getting touches inside early in games, but it doesn’t always happen on this team. Sometimes he gets inside looks early, sometimes he’s relegated to the perimeter right away.
28. But his best games seem to be when he works inside first. That was true in Thursday’s win against the Clippers and it was true again Sunday against the Lakers.
29. “That’s the way I’ve always played,” Love said. “Sometimes just to get an easy touch shot or get to the free-throw line is how I’ve played my entire life. … It definitely does change the game when I start inside, yes.”
30. This team is best with James in charge and Irving and Love falling in behind. When James rested knee and back injuries earlier this season, Love averaged 16 shots and 21.6 points. He scored 27, 30 and 28 points in three consecutive games, but the Cavs went 1-2. They went 1-6 in games with Love and without James.
31. It’s a safe bet James and Love will be having a conversation sometime soon if it hasn’t happened already. James can further explain what he wants because Love left Quicken Loans Arena shaking his head and feeling blindsided. Love feels he’s sacrificed the most of anyone this season and hasn’t complained about any of it. James apparently sees things differently.
32. To his credit, James has appeared in each of the last four Finals and has won two rings. Love hasn’t even been to the playoffs yet in six years. Talk to you Wednesday after the Heat.