Time will tell if Cavaliers will ultimately miss Kevin Love | Jeff Schudel

Feb. 25—The end of Kevin Love's time with the Cavaliers came swiftly during the All-Star break. Love on Feb. 16 asked for a buyout so he could go to another team and actually play instead of just sitting on the bench and cheering for his teammates as he did in his last 12 games with Cleveland.

Love was waived on Feb. 18 and signed with the Miami Heat two days later. Just days before the buyout, Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff answered a question about Love and said the 34-year-old forward would get playing time as the season progressed with the inference the Cavs would rely on the 14-year veteran in the playoffs.

Cavaliers president of basketball operations Koby Altman said the same thing on Feb. 9 when the trade deadline passed without the Cavaliers making a trade or buying out Love. At that time he said Love had never asked for a buyout.

"It's not easy for Kevin," Altman said. "He wants to play. I think he'll have an opportunity to play again this year, but where we're at now, I think J.B. is really comfortable with the rotation we have. But to answer your question, I have not been approached by them at all (concerning a buyout) and I don't anticipate it, either."

So what changed in one week? It seems unlikely the Cavaliers would agree to a buyout for Love just to be nice guys. He was in the final portion of the final year of a four-year $120 million contract that at one time was too cumbersome to trade.

"We're going to miss Kevin, regardless (of playing time)," Bickerstaff said before the Cavs played Denver on Feb. 23. "I've talked a ton of what Kevin has met to me as a person and as a basketball coach, so we're going to miss him, for sure.

"It's going to take other guys finding a way to fill what Kevin was capable of. We don't know what we don't know yet. The guys that are going to have to play in those clutch minutes — are they prepared for those minutes? Can they do the things Kevin has done historically?"

The word "historically" is a key to what Bickerstaff said. Love's 8.5 points, 38.9 shooting percentage and 6.8 rebounds per game are all career lows.

Love started for the Heat on Feb. 24 in his first game with Miami. He played 21 minutes. He missed all four shots he attempted, each a misfired 3-pointer, but he grabbed eight rebounds and had four assists in a 128-99 loss in Milwaukee.

"This is a great opportunity for us," Bickerstaff said. "This isn't a one-year deal for us. This is a long-term plan we're putting in place. The only way those young guys who haven't experienced it get better at it is by going through it. So we'll see when the time is there."

The Cavaliers, 38-25, have lost three straight games after winning seven straight. They will try to end the skid Feb. 26 in a 6 p.m. game with the Raptors at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Love definitely wasn't in the team's long-term plans even if he played out his contract in Cleveland. But it isn't a stretch to imagine the Cavs finishing fourth and the Heat finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference. That would mean a first-round series of Love facing the team that decided to move on from him.