When Cavaliers forward and Lake Oswego alum Kevin Love was named the U.S. men’s national basketball team for the 2020 Olympics, it sparked some controversy.
Why was a guy coming off a season in which he played 25 games and averaged 12.2 points and 7.4 rebounds named to the all-star roster?
It surely could have gone to other players that stood out more a season ago, but it didn’t. Love was plagued by a calf injury a season ago, hasn’t been part of the national team since 2012, and has been absent from the All-Star team since 2018.
From 2012 to now he’s gone from a possible generational player to just an All-Star caliber player. A respectable decline, but a decline nonetheless.
"In a way, I understand [the criticism] because I came off a season where I didn't play that many games and wasn't at the top of my game," Love said. "For me to come here, I feel I have a lot to prove."
A lot could be on the line for Love depending on his summer performance. Will it help his trade value from Cleveland? Can his production garner faith from the organization and fans? Will his play be enough to convince outsiders he was perfect for the team?
"I'm 13 years in now, I've heard it all," Love said. "All I can do is go out there and chase the game, let everything fall into place and just bust my ass and see what I can do for this team.
"I do believe if it's on me to have to pivot in my career for a team to win, I'm more than willing to do that. I do feel like on [the Cavs] or whatever team I end up on or USA team, this is definitely something I can continue to progress in." Regardless of how it’s spun, Love is still one of the top players in the league. It’s just his value has waned in the past seasons.
International competition and being around some of the best coaches and players in the NBA could help Love regain who he was and garner back some consistency as he enters his 14th season.
"We're going to work his ass off the next four to five weeks and demand a lot," said Gregg Popovich. "That's going to definitely get him back into the rhythm he needs to be in to continue to play. I think that's one of the big reasons he wanted to do this, so he can get himself back to who he was."