We’re very sorry to have to say this to Kevin Love. We like his game quite a bit. In fact, we think he’s one of the best players in the NBA.
But given what we know about the Cleveland Cavaliers, we expect LeBron James and the rest of your teammates to be at their very best on Friday night — and it’s because Love will be on the sideline.
Love was ruled out of the Cavs’ nationally televised game against the Washington Wizards, and for a few hours, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue kept his plans for the rotation close to the vest. Ninety minutes before tip, though, Lue announced that Iman Shumpert would enter the starting lineup with Love out to rest, sending LeBron to the power forward position. And it’s a move that absolutely had to happen, whether Love is healthy or not.
Iman Shumpert will get the start in Kevin Love's absence. Tyronn Lue is going small. LeBron James will play the four.
Because isn’t it odd that the Golden State Warriors are running rampant over the NBA thanks to Draymond Green? The Warriors forward is a versatile, do-everything kind of guy; when defenses trap Stephen Curry, Green’s there to initiate the next step in the offense. And on defense? He can literally guard anyone in the league.
Which is weird, because that all sounds like the stuff that LeBron used to do. When he was with the Miami Heat and things were rolling in south Florida, The King did whatever was necessary. He set screens and made the catch on the move, destroying opposing defenses before they could react to the supercomputer residing in a freight train that was headed their way.
In Cleveland, that version of LeBron is gone. He operates on the perimeter, chucking triples that he can’t make. When things get tight, he might demand the ball and barrel to the rim — a welcome sight, since he’s fantastic at finishing through opponents.
But there’s never nearly enough of LeBron setting screens for Kyrie Irving and putting the fear of god in defenses from there. And in refusing to play like a power forward, he’s dooming any chance the Cavs might have of standing toe-to-toe with the Warriors.
So what we need from LeBron is one night of absolute power forward domination. Set screens, operate at the elbow and destroy the Wizards. Then, when Love is back, do it all over again. Free Love up to run off of screens on the other side of the floor and spot up for open 3s. Allow him to be the greatest third option in the NBA, the same way you did for Chris Bosh.
The 2015-16 season is wrapping up, and we still don’t know quite what to make of this Cavaliers team. Friday night will give LeBron ample opportunity to answer some of the outstanding questions. Now, we wait to see if he’ll respond.