CLEVELAND (AP)Kevin Love’s long, winding run with the Cleveland Cavaliers could be ending after nearly nine years.
The five-time All-Star forward has discussed the possibility of a contract buyout with the Cavs after being dropped from their rotation, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Love is in the final year of a $120 million, four-year extension he signed in 2018.
The 34-year-old hasn’t played in the last 12 games and his representatives approached the Cavaliers about the buyout, said the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because negotiations continue.
At this point, nothing has been finalized and the sides are expected to engage in discussions during the All-Star break, the person said.
Love has been with Cleveland since 2014, and one of the NBA’s most versatile big men is the last remaining link from the 2016 title team, which ended the city’s 52-year pro sports championship drought.
Although he’s not contributing like he once did on the floor, Love has become a beloved player to Cleveland fans.
His acceptance of a reserve role last season helped fuel the team’s turnaround after winning just 60 games combined in the three previous seasons. And Love’s public disclosure of struggling with mental health issues in the past made him relatable and easy to root for.
The Athletic first reported Love’s buyout request.
Love played well earlier this season before being slowed by a thumb injury. When forward Dean Wade and guard Ricky Rubio recently returned from injuries, Love’s minutes shrunk, and lately he hasn’t been in coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s rotation at all.
Love’s situation became cloudier when the team signed veteran forward Danny Green after he became available via buyout. Green made his debut in Wednesday night’s 118-112 loss at Philadelphia while Love sat again.
Love wants to play, and if the Cavs, who entered the day fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, agree to a buyout, he could draw interest from other contending teams. Miami and Phoenix are among the potential landing spots.
Last week, Cavaliers president of basketball operations Koby Altman said he had not spoken to Love or his agents about a buyout and expected him to have a contributing role again at some point this season.
Bickerstaff said something similar while complimenting Love on continuing to be a good teammate and leader.
”We still believe he’s capable of helping us in big moments because he has that experience and has been through those pressures,” Bickerstaff said Monday night before a win over San Antonio. ”I do think there’s going to be times where we really need him because again he’s another one of those guys who’s been through those moments and seen those types of things that we’re going to need hopefully down the stretch here.”
Love has averaged 17.2 points and 10.5 rebounds since 2008. He spent six seasons with Minnesota before being traded to Cleveland.
Love had some initial struggles trying to fit in when he first arrived. Accustomed to being the star with the Timberwolves, he had to learn how to be a supporting player aside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
Love eventually found his footing, and Cavs fans will long remember his defense on Steph Curry in the closing minutes of Game 7 in 2016 as Cleveland completed a comeback from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Golden State Warriors.
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