As the NBA trade deadline and All-Star break approach, the league is collectively in complete panic mode.
This panic typically manifests in the form of absurd trade rumors, but this year has been unique. The NBA has spun itself into complete chaos, and players that were thought to be untouchable have been the main subject of trade conversations.
In the last couple years, it’s become easier and easier to say that the Warriors are the main reason behind this disorder — of course, because of this, the Dubs seem to be one of the few teams immune to this panic. The Warriors have single-handedly affected their competitors more than anyone else.
No team has been a bigger victim of the wrath of the Warriors than the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In what was perhaps the most discussed “team meeting” in sports, the locker room has allegedly turned against Kevin Love. Love, who left a blowout loss to the Thunder because of an illness that many teammates questioned the legitimacy of, now finds himself the topic of trade talks.
The entire team is imploding, and it seems that both his teammates and the media have decided that Love will be the scapegoat for their frustrations.
As the second-highest paid player on the team it would make sense that Love would be a legitimate target for the blame if he wasn’t playing up to his contract. The five-time All-Star is having one of his best seasons since coming to Cleveland, averaging 18.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game with a true shooting percentage of 61.1, the highest of his entire career.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team is not having the same success. Tristan Thompson is the third highest-paid player on the team and is by no means living up to his $16 million contract. Additionally, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert are both making more than $10 million this year and have done very little to help the Cavaliers in their latest slump.
Thompson has appeared in just over half of Cleveland’s games this season and has averaged a mere 5.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Despite his lackluster numbers and huge contract, Thompson has been shockingly left out of the conversation of the Cavaliers’ struggles.
Jae Crowder, who was recently removed from the starting lineup, has been stirring the pot of Cleveland’s drama. During a recent loss to San Antonio, Love fell after contact and extended a hand to Crowder, who refused to help him up — the person that helped Love off the floor was Dejounte Murray of the opposing Spurs.
But Crowder isn’t the only Cavalier to turn his back on Love. After the Cavaliers team meeting, it was reported that new acquisition Isaiah Thomas was the one who led the accusations that Love’s exit because of an illness was illegitimate. Thomas has missed most of the season because of injury and has looked very little like the All-Star he was in Boston since his return to the court.
The blockbuster trade the Cavaliers made this offseason in response to the summer drama created by Kyrie Irving has seemed to have done very little to improve the locker room dynamic. Perhaps all that has resulted is a shift in focus of blame — to Love — the team’s clear second-best player.
In the era of superstars and supermax contracts, if Love played elsewhere he could easily be earning more money, more touches — and for that matter, more respect. Love is choosing to get paid less and be the second or even third option at times to play in Cleveland, where the locker room has turned against him for no reason.
Rafael Botello writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected].