INDEPENDENCE — When Cavaliers forward Kevin Love signed a four-year, $120 million contract extension this summer, the implication was clear. The Cavs, with LeBron James off in Los Angeles, are now his team.

With that title and money come the expectations, and the primary one is that he will be the first option offensively.

"When he carried that franchise in Minnesota, [he] had great numbers. [He] had great talent around him,” coach Tyronn Lue said of Love during the team’s annual media day Monday. “And I just think here in Cleveland it's his first chance to be the No. 1 option, so I think he's excited about that.”

The franchise certainly wouldn’t turn down those numbers from Love's Timberwolves years when he averaged a double-double (19.2 points, 12.2 rebounds) per game, including two seasons when he averaged more than 26 points per game.

“I'm 30 now, [so] I don't know if he's still there,” Love joked when asked if that player was still there.

But he answered frankly. When the Cavs' version of the Big 3 came together with him, James and Kyrie Irving, Love was the one who had to sacrifice his numbers for two isolation players who needed the ball in their hands. He’s not that kind of player.

“My game has changed. Will there be nights where my statistics are gaudy? It's very, very likely," Love said. "In some cases, I'll be asked to do that, but in a lot of cases I'm going to be looking to set up teammates and looking to help other guys grow in their game.”

Love said he views that as part of being the leader of the Cavs now, which may be the most significant vacuum created by James’ departure. In that regard, Love said he learned plenty from his former teammate and friend, who was known for ensuring camaraderie existed off the court so it would translate to the court. 

Recently, Love had members of the team in Miami for a pre-camp session to work on offensive sets.

“Between the lines, I think, being more vocal, leading by example and just trying to be an extension of the coaching staff,” Love said of his new mindset. “I think in a lot of ways — I'm not saying I have to grow up — but I have to take the next step in my evolution as far as leadership goes.”

Since a letter revealing he suffered from anxiety and panic attacks appeared in The Players Tribune, leadership has extended off the court.

Love recently established the Kevin Love Fund in partnership with Bring Change to Mind, founded by Oscar-winning actress Glenn Close and which works to raise awareness of mental health, and the Just Keep Livin Foundation, founded by actor Matthew McConaughey and his wife, Camila, which promotes physical and mental health in teens. Love is also working with UCLA, where he attended school, and with Headspace, a company that developed a meditation app.

He announced that initiative on the “Today Show” and has been out front in raising awareness about mental health since his revelation, and his passion shows. He said it’s made him more empathetic and he recognizes it’s an issue that’s “bigger than basketball.”

“This thing has legs. We're going to be able to help so many people with this and this thing is universal,” he said. “This is worldwide. Just being able to help that next man and pay it forward, it's going to be special.”

It’s important enough that during his Monday session with the media, he acknowledged his mental preparation is just as important as the physical for the upcoming season.

“I’m preparing my mind for a lot more touches, whether it be for post-ups, for pinch-post touches and a lot of pick-and-rolls,” he said.

Love would like nothing more than for all of that to translate to the basketball court, and he expressed optimism it would.

“We're going to be a team that surprises a lot of people,” he said. “Ty Lue knows what he wants from us and vice versa. We have guys who have been here. We have guys who know how to win, knowing in losing the best player in the world we're going to have a fresh start.”

George M. Thomas can be reached at gmthomas@thebeaconjournal.com.  Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByGeorgeThomas.