Report: Cavs thought Kevin Love was ‘too slow’ and ‘too much of a liability on defense’ before he went to Heat

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Love is three wins away from an NBA championship with the Miami Heat a few months after the Cleveland Cavaliers felt he wouldn’t be able to contribute for them in the playoffs.

“Love is on the Heat because in January the Cavs decided he could not play meaningful minutes for them in the playoffs,” Joe Vardon wrote for The Athletic. “They thought he was too slow, too much of a liability on defense, and he was scuffling through maybe the worst shooting slump of his career. So Cleveland decided Dean Wade would take Love’s minutes as the team began to work its rotation into playoff form. Love asked for, and received, a buyout around the All-Star break, and signed with Miami shortly thereafter.”

Love was back in the Heat starting lineup Sunday, helping Miami win Game 2 against the Denver Nuggets 111-108. The forward took the place of Caleb Martin, and the change allowed Miami to alter its defensive strategy and put Jimmy Butler on Nuggets star Jamal Murray.

Love had not played in the previous three games, with his last action coming in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. But upon getting the nod in Game 2 against Denver, he recorded a team-high 10 rebounds in a little more than 22 minutes. The Heat were +18 when Love was in the game.

“When I heard this morning, I didn’t think I was going to take a single shot on offense,” Love told The Athletic. “My plan was just to come out and board the s— out of it, allow Bam [Adebayo] to be able to play back near the rim, and just get (the rebound) and fire it out.”

Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra may not want to veer from a winning lineup, so Love could get another chance in Game 3 with Martin again coming off the bench. Playing time also could change at some point if Tyler Herro is able to finally return from an injury that has sidelined him for almost all of the playoffs.

Love started 17 of the 21 regular season games he played in for Miami. In these playoffs, he started 14 straight games at one point before being replaced by Martin for Game 6 against the Celtics. Miami was struggling at the time and eventually had to win Game 7 to avoid becoming the first NBA team to lose a best-of-seven series after taking the first three games.

Meanwhile, Wade played in just two of five games during Cleveland’s first-round loss to the New York Knicks. He averaged 4.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in 44 regular season games for the Cavaliers, with the early portion of his season impacted by a shoulder injury.

Love helped the Cavaliers win the 2016 NBA championship against the Golden State Warriors. He averaged 14.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game during that playoff run, and his defense against Stephen Curry late in Game 7 of the Finals stands as one of the most memorable plays from that series.

Perhaps Love can create even more championship memories now that he’s back on the floor for the Heat, who host Game 3 on Wednesday. It seems clear that the 34-year-old will do whatever is asked of him in hopes of earning another ring.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. One of his favorite sports memories is the Cavaliers-Nets playoff series from 1993.