AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — New Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says Kevin Love(Kevin Love Jersey)’s All-Star snub is unprecedented for a first-place team.
“I just thought, in this league it’s always been about winning and winning has always been rewarded,” Lue said before the Cavs’ shootaround Friday morning in preparation for their game against the Detroit Pistons. “Being No. 1 in the East and Kevin being one of four guys in the NBA to average a double-double on a winning team, I’ve just never seen being a first-place team and getting one guy in. I’ve never seen that before.”
Lue’s stat supporting Love was a little off. There are actually seven players on winning teams averaging a double-double this season — Love, Hassan Whiteside, DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Zaza Pachulia. Only one of them, Drummond, made the All-Star team, as a reserve, voted in by the coaches.
LeBron James was asked whether he thought coach David Blatt’s firing — a move that coaches universally panned throughout the league — could have affected their voting process when it came to Love’s candidacy.
“I haven’t seen any of the coaches speak out on it, so I really haven’t noticed it much,” James said. “But, we got to earn our respect, as a team and as a franchise we got to continue to earn our respect. It’s just another notion of that.”
Love is averaging 15.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.0 steals this season. His rebounds, assists and steals are all slightly up from a season ago, but his scoring has taken a dip, as have his shooting percentages (41.8 percent from the floor, 35.8 percent from 3).
“I think there’s a lot of good players in the East,” Love said when asked about being left off the team for the second straight year after making the February festivities three out of his final four seasons in Minnesota. “I’ve said that all along, especially at the forward position, too, with the starters. I think it’s a good team on both sides.”
Love finished eighth in voting among all frontcourt players in the East. Chris Bosh, playing for the seventh-place Heat; Paul Millsap, playing for the third-place Hawks; and Drummond, playing for the sixth-place Pistons, were selected as frontcourt reserves ahead of Love.
James, set to play in his 12th straight All-Star game, said the Cavs should feel misrepresented without Love and Kyrie Irving suiting up with the league’s best.
“It’s definitely a kick in the rear end for our team for sure, knowing all the work we put into it and knowing the two other guys,” James said. “You know, Kyrie’s games being limited like that, I figured the coaches wouldn’t give him the nod, but you know he’s an All-Star. And then with Kev, I think Kev has played great basketball for the first half of the season. He could’ve been awarded, but hopefully those guys use it as motivation for the rest of the season and the team will as well.”
Back in October, after the Cavs’ second game of the season, James declared of Love, “He’s going to have a hell of a season. He’s going to get back to that All-Star status.”
It looked that way for a while, with Love averaging 19.9 points on 47.1 percent shooting (41.2 percent from 3) and 11.8 rebounds in 14 games in November. But his season then went on the decline, averaging 12.7 points on 37.3 percent shooting (27.1 percent from 3) and 9.2 rebounds in 13 games in December and 13.4 points on 39.4 percent shooting (34.8 percent from 3) and 10.9 rebounds in 14 games in January so far.
Is Love disappointed, considering how promising of a start he got off to?
“Yeah,” Love said, “but you knew that everybody getting back there would be a couple things that changed. Now just finding a way to adapt to Coach Lue’s style and go from there.”
He was also asked whether the snub could be used as motivation for him and Irving, as James suggested.
“Uh, sure,” Loves said. “I don’t know if Kyrie or myself need more added motivation, but we’ll take anything we can get.”