Kevin Love

Central Notes: Bledsoe, Pachulia, Love, Bucks

The final year of Eric Bledsoe’s $70MM contract extension with the Bucks has a $3.9MM partial guarantee in the final season, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The extension became official on Monday.

Bledsoe’s $19.375MM salary that season would be fully guaranteed if he’s on the roster beyond June 30, 2022, Charania adds. The cap hits for the first three years of the extension are $15.62MM, $16.87MM and $18.12MM, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets.

Bledsoe, who is not eligible to be traded until September 4, will rank 13th in salary next season among point guards around the league, and that doesn’t include impending free agents Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and D’Angelo Russell, Marks adds.

We have more news from around the Central Division:

  • Pistons reserve center Zaza Pachulia has been fined $25K by the league for confronting and verbally abusing a game official and failing to leave the court in a timely manner upon being ejected, according to an NBA press release. Pachulia was tossed against Toronto in the second quarter on Sunday after arguing a no-call and getting assessed two technicals.
  • Kevin Love has no regrets about signing an extension with the Cavaliers this summer but he wishes he could have been a bigger part of their season, as he explained to Jason Lloyd of The Athletic.  Love missed a chunk of the season after undergoing foot surgery and the Cavaliers soon went in rebuild mode. “There have been some bright spots in terms of younger guys getting better,” he said. “But it’s been tough, especially stepping into a leadership role and then you’re not out there for three months.” Love also weighed in on the Zion Williamson situation, saying the Duke star and likely No. 1 overall pick shouldn’t return this season from his knee sprain, “If I were him, I’d probably say, especially after a scare like this, I’d heavily consider telling the NCAA to pay us or else shutting it down and doing what’s best for his family,” Love said. “That kid is really an exceptional talent … I would lean toward not coming back.”
  • Bucks GM Jon Horst deserves more credit for the team’s success, Matt John of Basketball Insiders argues. Trades and free agent signings that brought in Bledsoe, Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic greased the skids for Milwaukee’s rise to the top of the Eastern Conference. Horst also made other moves that improve the team’s salary-cap flexibility going forward, John adds.

Kevin Love Wants To Play Every Remaining Game

Kevin Love sat out 50 games because of foot surgery, but the Cavaliers‘ star forward doesn’t expect to miss any more, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Love told reporters today that he plans to play in all 24 remaining games, even though the Cavaliers have fallen far out of the playoff race and are in a four-way competition to be among the three teams with the best odds at landing the top pick in the draft.

“I think you’ll see me more on a steady basis and not miss games after the break, I’m hoping,” Love said. “So just continue to improve the minutes and make sure that I’m feeling good and go from there.”

Love has seen brief action since making his return on February 8. He played about six minutes that night against the Wizards, skipped the next game, then played 16 minutes February 11 against the Knicks. The Cavs rested him for the final contest before the All-Star break.

Love will be kept on a minutes restriction until team doctors clear him for full-time duty, coach Larry Drew told Fedor. He was able to play five-on-five today without any physical problems and is working to regain his conditioning.

Love has four years and more than $120MM left on the extension he signed last summer. He has insisted he wants to remain in Cleveland even as the team undergoes a rebuilding process.

Central Notes: Pacers, Love, Dunn

The Pacers, fresh off of a season-worst four-game losing streak, lack swagger without star Victor Oladipo, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star writes. And it’s not just at the end of close games.

Michael notes that plenty of the Pacers’ struggles could be addressed by the addition of an established shot-maker, the likes of which could very realistically be available when the buyer’s market typically ramps up after the trade deadline.

If a player like Wesley Matthews, who was recently acquired by the Knicks in their Kristaps Porzingis‘ trade, has his expiring contract bought out, he could be of great service to a team like the Pacers.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • For the first time in over three months, Cavaliers forward Kevin Love is taking part in 5-on-5 contact practices, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes. Love’s last taste of action was on Oct. 24, prior to undergoing surgery to repair a toe injury. Guard David Nwaba, who has missed 18 games of his own, did not fare as well in the practice — the Cavs have pulled back somewhat on his rehab process.
  • Despite reports that the Bulls will be gauging Kris Dunn‘s worth over the final 30 games of the regular season, the 24-year-old former fifth-overall pick is unfazed. The third-year-guard tells Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times that he’ll compete anywhere he ends up, just as he has this year, through a knee injury and mid-season coaching change.
  • Newly appointed All-Star Khris Middleton had high praise for the Bucks organization, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. “For us,” Middleton told Velasquez, referring to himself and Giannis Antetokounmpo,”It’s not being in the right market, it’s being with the right team. This organization laid down everything that they can to make sure we succeeded.”

Latest On Kevin Love

It was exactly six months ago today that Kevin Love signed a four-year contract extension with the Cavaliers that locked him up through the 2022/23 season. That means, since players who sign veteran extensions can’t be dealt for six months, Love is now once again eligible to be traded.

[RELATED: Special Trade Eligibility Dates For 2018/19]

With two weeks left until the February 7 deadline, it’s possible the Cavs will explore the trade market in search of a Love deal, but there are two potential roadblocks in the way of such a move. Love’s health is one of those roadblocks. The other? Cleveland may just not want to trade him.

Sources tell Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com that the Cavaliers’ stance on Love hasn’t changed since he signed his extension, and that the club wants to keep him in Cleveland for the foreseeable future. According to Fedor, the franchise values his leadership and his “set-the-tone work ethic” in addition to what he can do on the court when he’s healthy.

Even if the Cavs wanted to move Love, his health would be a red flag for any potential trade partner, though he appears to be making progress toward a return from his foot injury. According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic (Twitter link), the veteran power forward participated fully in a non-contact practice for the Cavs today.

Last we heard, Love was unsure about his recovery timeline, speculating that he may be ready to play again sometime around the All-Star break. Head coach Larry Drew said that there’s still no timetable for Love’s return, per Vardon.

Central Notes: Burks, Hood, Bullock, Cavs, LaVine

Guards Alec Burks and Rodney Hood are the players most likely to be moved by the Cavaliers before the trade deadline, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Burks was acquired from Utah last month because of his movable $11.5MM expiring contract. He can provide scoring off the bench, defense and ball-handling for a playoff contender. Hood is a skilled player on an expiring $3.4MM contract, though he can’t be traded without his approval since he’s playing on a qualifying offer. Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson are other Cleveland players who could be moved at the right price. GM Koby Altman is seeking draft picks, multi-year contracts of expensive players who could be traded in the future, and young players with potential, Vardon adds.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Pistons shooting guard Reggie Bullock and backup point guard Ish Smith are garnering trade interest, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. Detroit would like to re-sign both players, who are on expiring contracts, Ellis continues. Bullock is making $2.5MM this season and Smith is pulling in $6MM. An offer of a first-round pick could entice Detroit to move Bullock, Ellis adds.
  • The steady diet of losses is weighing on the Cavaliers, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. The injury-riddled Cavs went 1-5 on their just concluded road trip. The Cavaliers don’t want to think that the rest of the season will be a slog to the finish line. “I don’t accept that,” Clarkson said. “I’m trying to compete in games. It’s tough. But we don’t even have a team. You’re playing Channing (Frye) right now and he wasn’t even getting no minutes this year. All these guys dealing with injuries and stuff like that. Sometimes coming into the game a little overmatched. But I’m not set on this is how we are.”
  • Bulls guard Zach LaVine took a veiled shot at coach Jim Boylen after the team’s loss to Miami over the weekend, Michael Walton of NBC Sports Chicago reports. LaVine expressed his frustration that the team is playing worse despite getting some key pieces back in the lineup in recent weeks. “Something is obviously wrong,” he said. “We weren’t losing by double digits earlier in the season.” Many of the team’s issues can be attributed to Boylen’s unimaginative offensive scheme, Walton adds.

Market For Kevin Love Appears Sparse

Pinning down Kevin Love‘s trade value is going to be a challenge and pulling off a trade for the big man may be problematic for rival teams, Ken Berger of Bleacher Report relays.

“The problem is: You have a rookie GM [Koby Altman]—who’s a really good guy and has done some really good things and is trying to prove himself. And you’ve got a delusional owner [Dan Gilbert],” a Western Conference executive tells Berger. “And they’re going to think they’re supposed to get something for the guy. You’re not getting an asset for him under any circumstances.”

Love, who remains sidelined with a foot injury, with will make approximately $28.9MM next season in the first year of the extension he signed last summer.

“It’s a lot to ask someone to take on $144 million for a 30-year-old with an injury history,” another executive said. “You’re dealing with a very small, narrow marketplace for him.”

Love isn’t eligible to be traded until January 24, which is the six-month anniversary of him signing his extension in Cleveland. Finding a suitor will be an issue. The Cavaliers will hope that a contending team will be willing to take a huge risk in order to inch closer to the Warriors atop the league’s hierarchy.

The Rockets and Thunder both make sense as landing spots should a trade occur, one Western Conference executive speculated. The Nuggets have Paul Millsap‘s $30MM salary coming off the books next summer and are fans of Love’s game. The Trail Blazers could use a floor spacer and the Pacers may see the upside he provides. The Hornets and Mavericks have eyes for the big man, Sam Amico of Amico Hoops hears, but finding a deal for either team is no easy task.

“It’s going to have to be a playoff team in a non-destination market,” one of the executives tells Berger. “A team that has a couple of stars that isn’t going to get anybody in free agency because they don’t have the room or nobody’s going to go play there.”

The Thunder-Love scenario is intriguing. Love and Russell Westbrook remain friends and have been close since their days at UCLA. Westbrook’s massive deal worth over $200MM runs through the 2022/23 (with a player option on the last year), which is the exact same timeline as Love’s contract. Paul George is under team control at least through the 2020/21 season and with those contracts, as well as Steven Adams‘ $100MM contract on the books, the team isn’t going to have cap room anytime soon.

“[GM Sam Presti] will figure it out in three years when Russell and Paul are coming to the end of their run,” the Western Conference GM said of a potential Love-to-the-Thunder trade.

It’s difficult for OKC to construct a deal for Love that doesn’t involve giving up one or more of the team’s key contributors due to the big man’s $24.1MM salary. Dennis Schroder ($15.5MM), Alex Abrines ($5.46M), and Patrick Patterson ($5.45M) would make up an interesting package, though Schroder has brought much-needed playmaking for the team, taking some of those duties off of Westbrook this year.

Adams’ salary clocks in at slightly under $24.2MM and if the Thunder have confidence that Nerlens Noel can step up into a bigger role (a big if), perhaps trading their enforcer in the middle makes sense.

However, it’s hard to envision why the Cavs would make such a deal beyond Adams’ contract expiring two years earlier than Love’s. Cleveland covets young players and draft picks as it begins a rebuild. Bringing in an additional team on a three-way trade might be the solution should a deal come together, though that is simply my speculation.

Love’s defense adds another risk to a complicated situation,  as people within the league believe he is a liability on the defensive end.

“When we need a bucket against Cleveland, that’s who we attack,” an anonymous coach tells Berger. “Guys like him become hard to hide. There’s always been a premium on pick-and-roll defense, but even more so now. Everybody is spreading the floor and driving and kicking and trying to generate something going downhill.”

One executive groups Love’s contract in with John Wall‘s, calling the pair of deals the “two worst contracts in the league.”

“How many teams are really looking for a dinosaur face-up 4-man, or a 5 who can’t switch pick-and-roll?” the exec said of Love (via Berger).

Most of the pessimism comes from Love’s contract. The executive compared Love to Brook Lopez – an offensive-focused player who landed just a one-year $3.4MM deal with the Bucks this past offseason – suggesting that Love wouldn’t receive much on the open market.

The evaluation seems extremely pessimistic. Love still has value; the questions is: what is that value? He can still help a team in the win column and it’ll only take one team willing to meet the Cavs’ demands to make a deal.

Kevin Love Unsure About Return Date, Reaffirms Desire To Stay With Cavs

Injured Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love said last month that he was targeting a mid-January return from the foot injury that has sidelined him since October. However, speaking on Monday to reporters, including Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, he admitted that timeline is no longer realistic. Love is still several weeks away from getting back on the court, and likely won’t be back until closer to the All-Star break.

“I think just kind of go with the symptoms,” Love said. “Like if I’m feeling anything we’ll just kind of keep it at that pace, just a progression from here. But I think I’ll get more of an idea of that over the next couple weeks and then from there there will be even more progression and get out on the court. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three, but I think that’s all part of the next few weeks I’d say.”

Approximately halfway through the 2018/19 season, the Cavaliers hold an NBA-worst record of 8-32. With lottery positioning on their mind, the Cavs will likely be as patient and deliberate as possible with Love’s recovery. However, the five-time All-Star has no intention of shutting it down for the season.

“That’s never really been the thought process — at least for me,” Love said, according to Fedor. “I know going out there, I want to play. I want to be out there with those guys. I feel like I would be letting my teammates down and letting LD (Larry Drew) and the coaching staff down if I didn’t get out there and play and get out there and play as soon as I could so long as I’m healthy.

“I would just hope to come back whether it be right before All-Star break, after All-Star break, just things to start trending in the right direction and give the fans and this organization some hope for better times that are going to be here.”

Of course, there’s a possibility that Love won’t even be in Cleveland beyond February 7, the date of this season’s trade deadline. However, if he’s not even healthy by that point, at deal seems awfully unlikely.

For his part, Love acknowledged today that even if he’s not traded in the next month, he’ll probably be the subject of trade speculation again in the summer. The 30-year-old added that while this season hasn’t gone as planned, he remains committed to staying in Cleveland long-term after signing a four-year extension with the Cavs last year.

“I would love to be here,” Love said. “Would just love to get through a whole season healthy just because I’ve had nagging things that have taken time and been a little bit unlucky, but I would like to play ball here.”

Central Notes: Lopez, Parker, Love, Carter, Pistons

It’s only a matter of time before Bulls center Robin Lopez and forward Jabari Parker are either traded or bought out, suggests Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. The Bulls are in fire sale mode and the Justin Holiday deal with the Grizzlies is just the start, Mayberry continues. Lopez has an expiring contract, while Parker has lost his rotation spot under new coach Jim Boylen. Lopez jokingly referenced in practice Friday how he could be the next shoe to drop with the front office in a seller’s mode, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune relays. “There’s kind of been a little shoe-dangling over the past couple years,” Lopez said.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers forward Kevin Love can progress with “select” basketball activities and continue to advance his therapy and strength and conditioning program, according to a team press release. Love has been targeting a mid-January from the foot surgery he underwent in early November and the latest news suggests the timetable hasn’t changed. There have been conflicting reports recently on whether the rebuilding team is interested in trading the power forward, who signed an extension during the offseason.
  • Bulls rookie center Wendell Carter Jr. has seen wild swings in his playing time but he’s not squawking about it, Mayberry reports in a separate story.  Carter played a season-low 13 minutes against Orlando on Wednesday and has played fewer than 20 minutes in five games since Boylen took charge. Carter blamed himself for his limited minutes against the Magic. “I don’t feel like I brought it,” Carter said. “I couldn’t get into a good groove. So I would have (taken) myself out.”
  • The Pistons’ cap situation will improve marginally this offseason, Rod Beard of the Detroit News notes. Reggie Jackson, Jon Leuer and Langston Galloway will also be entering the final year of their contracts and that could open up opportunities for the team to retool, Beard adds.

Cavs Notes: Love, Osman, Sexton, McCaw, Korver

Marc Stein of The New York Times predicted this week that trade talks involving Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love will heat up in advance of next month’s deadline, but sources reiterated to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com that Cleveland hasn’t had “deep discussion” about that scenario. Fedor added that it isn’t high on the club’s list of priorities.

Still, if the Cavs get an enticing offer for Love this season, they’ll have to consider it. That’s a possibility head coach Larry Drew is aware of and prepared for, even if it’s probably a long shot.

“Would I be surprised (if Love were traded)?” Drew said on Thursday, per Fedor. “As far as trades are concerned, I understand the nature of this business. Anybody can be traded. I’ve been in this league long enough where I’ve seen that happen. I think any deal that makes sense for any team, sure, they’ll be willing to pull the trigger. But that’s just the nature of our business.”

For now, Drew is simply looking forward to getting Love back in his lineup. The five-time All-Star has been sidelined since October due to a foot injury, but is said to be targeting a mid-January return.

“Our guys are ready for him to come back,” Drew said. “We miss him dearly. He’s our main guy, he’s our go-to guy. We’re missing a lot of points, we’re missing a lot of rebounds in our lineup. Whenever it’s time for him to come back, we’re going to be ready.”

Here’s more out of Cleveland:

  • Cedi Osman and Collin Sexton have two of the worst defensive ratings in the NBA, prompting Joe Vardon of The Athletic to explore whether the Cavs are asking too much of the young duo. For his part, Osman has appreciated the opportunity to work through his ups and downs so far this season. “This is really important for my development — even on nights when I’m struggling, it’s really important that coaches are trusting in me,” the second-year forward said. “Those crucial minutes, they always put me in the game and they want me to feel that pressure. I really appreciate that.”
  • Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com takes a look at whether newly-added shooting guard Patrick McCaw, who made his Cavs debut on Wednesday, can help improve the team’s defense against opposing point guards. McCaw’s $3MM salary for this season will become fully guaranteed if he remains under contract with the Cavs through Monday.
  • Having been traded from Cleveland to Utah earlier this season, Kyle Korver won’t be looking for any sort of payback when he faces the Cavs on Friday, as Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News relays. Korver said he had too many “great experiences” as a Cavalier to be anything but appreciative for his time in Cleveland. “Some people come back with a chip on their shoulder and feel like they’ve got to give it to the other team, but it’s not going to be like that for me,” Korver said. “Just a lot of gratitude for the time I had there.”

Central Notes: Love, Hutchison, Ilyasova, Parker

Trade talks involving Cavaliers forward Kevin Love will heat up in the coming weeks, Marc Stein of the New York Times predicts in his latest newsletter. Love, who signed a four-year, $120MM extension over the summer, becomes trade eligible on January 24th. Love is still sidelined after undergoing toe surgery but could return to action sometime this month. Love is still regarded by some NBA executives as a difference-maker who could be available despite the Cavaliers’ insistence they don’t want to deal him, according to Stein. The Nuggets might be a team to watch, since they have coveted Love for years and may be in a win-now mode, Stein adds.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Bulls first-round pick Chandler Hutchison has embraced the role of defensive stopper, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times writes. Hutchison is averaging a modest 4.2 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 17.2 MPG but he has heeded coach Jim Boylen’s urging to become a defensive presence. “For me right away that was the first thing I noticed was I can help the team,’’ Hutchison told Cowley. “Then one thing leads to the next if you can help the team. Coaches are going to find a way to get you on the floor, which is a reward for me, but also if I can help the team in areas that we need help, it’s going to help us win.’’
  • Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer plans to keep power forward Ersan Ilyasova in the rotation when he returns from a fractured nose that required surgery, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Ilyasova, who suffered the injury during a December 16th practice, could return to action this weekend. Second-year man D.J. Wilson has played well in his absence. “Ersan’s somebody that we think we’ll find minutes for and then (with) those young guys, keep trying to figure out how we can keep them involved and growing and developing, but I guess for me it’s a couple days away,” Budenholzer said.
  • The Bulls have tried to package forward Jabari Parker with the expiring contracts of either swingman Justin Holiday or center Robin Lopez in preliminary trade talks, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports. Parker, who has been benched by Boylen, has a $20MM team option on his contract for next season. Holiday is making approximately $4.4MM, while Lopez is pulling in $14.35MM this season.