The Cleveland Cavaliers have existed as an NBA franchise since the 1970-71 season, and there have been a number of players who passed through town and made a deep connection to the franchise. The gorup in the late 1980s and early 1990s was one of the most successful and accordingly most beloved, with Mark Price and Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance joining forces for numerous playoff runs.
The best group in franchise history, however, is the trio of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, who dominated the Eastern Conference for a four-year span last decade. The Cavaliers went to four-straight NBA Finals, winning the Cavaliers' only championship in a 3-1 comeback against the Golden State Warriors in 2016.
This was the group that made the Cavaliers into the greatest team in franchise history and finally brought home the ever-elusive championship trophy. Those three stars accordingly made a deep connection to the Cavaliers and their fans, however uncomfortable their exits from Cleveland were.
Irving's was certainly the most acrimonious, as he forced his way out before the run was over, missing the fourth and final run to the Finals. LeBron James will be forever beloved in Cleveland, not only for his long years of success with the Cavs and not only because he is from Akron, but because he chose to come back to win a title and delivered on that promise.
Kevin Love stuck around
Kevin Love was unique among the trio in that he stuck around, signing a lucrative contract extension and sticking around for another five seasons. Injuries and a struggle to give his all for a rebuilding team limited his impact, but he had another half-decade to continue building a bond with the franchise and with the city.
Kevin Love finally left the Cavaliers last season, asking for a contract buyout after he was pushed to the fringes of the rotation. He signed with the Miami Heat and made another run to the NBA Finals with them, choosing to re-sign this summer. He is in the rotation as the backup at both big spots and provides an important spacing element even in a limited role.
The Cavaliers got to reunite with Love this past Friday when they traveled down to Miami to take on the Heat. Cleveland made the most of playing a short-handed Heat team down two starters, including Bam Adebayo, to win 111-99. Love played well in the loss, finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds and four 3-pointers as the Heat won his 28 minutes by six points.
A Kevin Love reunion?
Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor caught up with Love after the game and scored an exclusive interview with the longtime Cavalier. Love shared with Fedor that he was definitely open to returning to Cleveland and retiring with the organization.
At 35 years old Love is nearing the end of his career, but he clearly still has somnething left in the tank, and he has a player option next summer that he could exercise in order to return to Cleveland. A contending Cavaliers team with Love sitting on the bench and playing a reserve role? That would bring joy to a lot of Cavaliers fans.
What about his running mates? Kyrie Irving's chances of returning to the franchise are essentially nil, both because he is under contract for multiple seasons and because they did not leave things on good terms and the Cavs have replaced him with an All-Star point guard of their own, Darius Garland.
What about LeBron James? He can likewise hit the open market next summer, although the Cavs can't clear anything close to max space. If he is looking for a different situation than maximizing his salary, however, the ball is in his court as to whether he would like to play his final season(s) in Cleveland. It wouldn't be out of the question given his deep connection to this area.
Kevin Love had his ups and downs in Cleveland, but the franchise and its fans generally love both the player and what he helped bring to the city. If he is interested in coming back that seems like a reunion that all parties would like to pursue.
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