Cleveland Cavaliers Lose Kevin Love For 6 Weeks Due to Knee Surgery
The Cleveland Cavaliers could have a tough time repeating as NBA champions this season. Repeating is already difficult enough, but with news breaking that star power forward Kevin Love is dealing with a serious knee injury, Cleveland’s plight just got tougher.
Kevin Love Goes Down
The news isn’t disastrous, but Love will go under the knife for a knee ailment and won’t be back until just before the regular season wraps up. If all goes well, the star big man will miss roughly six weeks of court time, but should be back and healthy for a playoff run:
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 14, 2017
Cohesion and getting the same Kevin Love back are two big question marks here. Love could hit snags in his recovery, he could come back rusty or not quite as effective as he was prior to his knee injury or he could even hurt his knee further in the playoffs.
Whether Love returns like normal in six weeks or not, this is a massive loss for the Cavs in the interim. LeBron James had been pining for extra playmakers to help the offense well before this went down, while James specifically called Carmelo Anthony for Kevin Love trade rumors “trash” for a reason: because Love is a huge piece to Cleveland’s championship puzzle.
It might not seem like that to some judging by Love’s mediocre offensive numbers in the NBA Finals last year, but the big man was a major force on the glass and you may recall his surprisingly effective defense on a crucial Stephen Curry shot late in the decisive game seven.
The point is losing Love for any amount of time is a huge blow to this team. That puts added pressure on Kyrie Irving and LeBron James to create and score, and could also force players who may not be ready (or equipped) into bigger offensive roles.
The big picture highlights Cleveland’s playoff seeding, of course. Even if Love returns in time for the playoffs and is as good as new, will the Cavs have dug themselves a hole too big for even them to get out of?
Locking up the #1 seed doesn’t look quite as much of a given as it did a few weeks ago. The Boston Celtics have already pulled to within two games of the top seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and even the Atlanta Hawks are all technically within striking distance.
Losing Kevin Love for six weeks doesn’t have to be a back breaker. The Cavs are still going to the playoffs and if their depth can step up, they could get by and hold onto the #1 seed. Besides, just two years ago we saw the Cavs battle the Hawks as the #2 seed and make it to the Finals. Securing that top spot isn’t quite as vital as it may feel.
Regardless, the Cavs do have some bodies that can help. The team traded for sharpshooter Kyle Korver not too long ago, versatile scorer Derrick Williams was just added last week and big man Channing Frye is a passable starter and elite outside shooter.
The other piece to the puzzle could be J.R. Smith (thumb), who recently suggested he isn’t close to a return, but could make it back to help before Love returns.
For now, the Cavs probably don’t know for sure how this will play out. Frye will enter the starting lineup and the Cavs will see how expanded roles out of Williams and Korver pan out. More than that, of course, the team will ask and expect elite play out of James and Irving. If they get it, Cleveland could be just fine.
Cleveland’s Title Odds
This Kevin Love injury doesn’t cripple the Cavaliers. Not yet, at least. Love isn’t slated to miss the rest of the year, so while we won’t know exactly when he’ll be back and in what capacity, the Cavs should have him for the most important stretch of the year.
The big question, of course, is what Love will give them. There’s no way in knowing that yet, but he will surely be eased back into the rotation leading into the playoffs.
The other question is if Cleveland will stick as the #1 seed. With Love out for the next six weeks and the Celtics threatening, that seems fairly unlikely. On top of the Celtics, John Wall’s Wizards have been surging since late December, while the Toronto Raptors just traded for Serge Ibaka and are getting healthy at just the right time.
There are very real threats in the Eastern Conference this year, and Cleveland will have to answer to them. That should equate to the #2 seed when it’s all said and done, but that doesn’t mean the Cavs aren’t getting back to the NBA Finals. Even without Love it’s impossible to feel good about betting against a team with LeBron James leading the way, while as good as the rest of the Eastern Conference has become, they’re collectively still tough to trust.
If we broaden the scope, the long game might not look as appealing with this news. A lower seed would bring tougher series and a longer playoff run for the Cavs and if Love isn’t the same guy (or worse, not even available) come playoff time, Cleveland certainly would be in serious trouble once/if they got back to the NBA Finals.
Cleveland can survive without Love for the next six weeks. They just probably can’t win the title if he’s not the same guy when he gets back.
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