Kevin Love said LeBron James’ wedding invitation is not in jeopardy.
That’s what Los Angeles Lakers star James jokingly feared after he posterized former Cavaliers teammate and friend Love with a spectacular dunk on March 21 in Cleveland.
“Yeah, barely. Barely made it. I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll just invite Savannah and just let ‘Bron sit at home,’” Love said, referring to James’ wife. “But, yeah, he’ll be there. He wants to come, he’s excited. We’re all excited.”
Cavs’ five-time All-Star forward Love and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Bock will be married this summer and Love said he has participated in some of the planning.
“They always say it’s the bride’s day, but we’re making it more about the people that we have there, a big celebration of our life,” Love said. “We really want to make it the most fun for everybody and not just about us. We’ll have the ceremony, it will be about us, but then it will just be about loving up on everybody else.”
Will Kevin Love retire with the Cleveland Cavaliers?
That’s also how Love feels about his Cavs teammates, who have revived his joy in the game and helped him find a greater leadership voice as he moved into a sixth-man role to start this season.
In a wide-ranging one-on-one interview as Love and his dog, Vestry, team with Milk-Bone to help launch its Birthday Cake Artificially Flavored Biscuits, Love discussed recent comments that implied he might retire in Cleveland.
“This has been a lot of fun watching these guys grow and to get to be a part of this, obviously hope to do it for a long time with these guys,” Love said on March 19.
Love, 33, said that finishing his career with the Cavs is possible, although it would require another deal when his four-year, $120 million contract runs out after next season. While he didn't mention it, he would have to play at a much-reduced salary.
“Yeah, I could definitely see that being the case,” Love said on March 29 in a 15-minute Milk-Bone media day interview. “I have next year and hopefully I can extend it a few more.
“That is something that is definitely where I see it.”
Love said he came to Cleveland from the Minnesota Timberwolves in an August 2014 trade to win. Starting in 2015, James led the Cavs to four consecutive NBA Finals and Love, James and Kyrie Irving formed a big three that captured the 2016 championship.
With the 2021-22 team coached by J.B. Bickerstaff, Love sees parallels in terms of a roster built for sustained success. Love and Bickerstaff spent three years together in Minnesota starting when Love was a rookie in 2008-09.
“This team, we’re built to be good for a really long time. Especially this year and how guys not only treat each other, but we celebrate each other and the atmosphere coming in to work and the trust with J.B. and the trust with the front office, I could 100%, I could definitely see that happening,” Love said of finishing his career with the Cavs. “It’s 100% not out of the question.
“I love my house here, I love where I live, Kate and I are comfortable here, Vestry loves it. The fans have been amazing. When we get hot in the second half or the third quarter, that’s the stuff that we live for.”
Love said he spoke with Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams about “celebrating the little wins during the season” and believes the Cavs have put that into practice. One way is Bickerstaff’s Junkyard Dog chain, given after victories to the most scrappy and impactful player.
“It makes it not so monotonous; it allows people to get their respect. Like Dylan [Windler] winning the chain, stuff like that is the game within the game and there’s a beauty of it within the season," Love said. "I think that culture has been something that has been super fun.
“It’s made me feel joyous and young again. Outside of winning the championship in ’16, I don’t know that I’ve had more fun playing with this team. Guys are curious, they want to get better. They want to learn from the vets, they want to learn from the coaches. And they love Cleveland. It’s cool to represent that and be a part of this.
“I’ve been here eight years, why not more?”
Love on taking more charges: 'It’s worked out for me, minus getting dunked on by LeBron'
Love touched on several other subjects, including why he decided to try to take more charges in his 14th season, even if it led to the viral video clip when he failed to stop James.
“I think it’s a momentum thing. It can be deflating, almost like an offensive possession,” Love said. “I think about it in terms of like me taking the ball out of the hoop or grabbing a rebound and throwing it down, that can deflate a team. I think giving any player, but like a star player an extra foul, a charge, that saves a possession.
Accepting sixth-man role: 'Absolutely amazing': Cavs learned to sacrifice from Kevin Love, aided by Ricky Rubio
“I saw a stat on steals and blocks for the Miami Heat — I don’t know if they’re last in the league or towards the bottom — but they lead the league in charges taken. The next closest team had like 60 or 50 and they have 101. There’s so much more to defense than just those stats.”
That clicked in Love’s mind.
“I thought to myself, ‘Man, if I had really started putting an onus on taking charges at the very beginning of the season, I probably could have been leading the league,’” he said.
Not long after he returned on Nov. 17 after missing eight games due to COVID-19, Love started putting his body in harm’s way. He said there’s only been one hard fall where he got “that whiplash type of feel” and even on that one, he was ‘mostly unscathed” and able to stay in the game.
“It’s worked out for me, minus getting dunked on by LeBron,” Love said. “Outside of that, the success rate has been pretty high, especially when you consider I’ve only made a conscious effort to start taking them at the beginning of December.”
'We need more of those touchdown passes'
Love’s other on-court trademark — his length-of-the-court outlet passes — hasnot been quashed by Bickerstaff, although Love admitted turnovers have been the Cavs’ “Achilles heel” this season.
Love has found a new favorite target in second-year guard Isaac Okoro, but said he’s still trying to convince his young teammates of the passes’ value.
“I have to tell guys to run all the time,” Love said. “My favorite target right now is Isaac. ‘If you, like, contest and kind of hit the guy, if the two guys from the corner of the wings don’t get back on defense, if I get a rebound, you can have a layup.’ Statistically, he’s been great, efficient, shooting the ball well from 3, getting to the free-throw line. I’m like, “I can help you get even a little bit more of that.’
“I think he’s starting to understand. He’s like, ‘Man, I need to run and play more downhill.’ Like [Darius Garland] coming back for the ball, I said, ‘Never do that.’
“It’s a constant fight and struggle with those guys, but it all comes from a good place. We need more of those touchdown passes.”
Cavaliers' Kevin Love credited with helping to save dog injured in hit-and-run
Before he partnered with Milk-Bone, Love showed his deep affection for dogs when he helped save a therapy animal seriously injured in a hit-and-run outside the Cavs’ Cleveland Clinic Courts practice facility in late January. The story was reported by P.J. Ziegler of WJW Channel 8.
“I didn’t know that it was going to make the news,” Love said. “I was traumatized. I know that the owner of the dog, especially him being a therapy dog and him always being with the puppy, I can’t imagine what that was like.
“Turning out of our facility right there it was one of the first houses, seeing that dog laying on the ground in pain and suffering. It had lacerations and broken ribs and a number of health problems after the fact, but is good now.
“I was so shook by it, it just made me go home and love my dog Vestry even more.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read more about the Cavs at www.beaconjournal.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Cleveland Cavaliers Kevin Love discusses LeBron dunk, retirement