The world’s best, rather than a mess. Instead of Brew, Uncle Drew. Promises and affinity, rather than discourse and remorse.
At its outset, Kevin Love’s Cleveland tenure resembles everything his time in the Twin Cities wasn’t.
New hope abounds in the Land of 10,000 Lakes after the blockbuster deal that sent Love to the Cavaliers and netted an abundance of young, long athleticism in Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Anthony Bennett. Conversely, there’s unprecedented anticipation on Love’s side of things that the respect, opportunity and championships he feels he deserves are unattainable no longer.
"I’m committed to this team," Love said upon being introduced in Cleveland late last month, "committed long-term to the end goal and that is to win championships and to win a championship here in Ohio. We know it’s earned, not given, but every day is an opportunity for us to get better and try to seize that opportunity."
Kevin Love, at last year’s Timberwolves media day: "We’re just going to move forward and the best thing that we can do is go out there and just win basketball games and play hard."
That’s the spoken difference between playing for a contender and a middling organization.
After missing the playoffs his first six years in the NBA, Love joins LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in the league’s latest "Big 3." They’re projected to roll through the comparatively week Eastern Conference and play for the title Love says he’s long coveted.
"LeBron and I have had conversations that I’ve needed to just mentally prepare myself for playing into June, and that’s something that really struck me as something that I wanted to do," Love said.
But it’s not the only conversation the two have had.
James called Love the day he recommitted to the Cavs this summer and asked him to join him in his home state. He gave him personal pep talks at the 2012 London Olympics. They had a private talk about Love’s potential at Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday party last year.
It’s a perception Love thought he earned but didn’t receive from the Wolves — especially when owner Glen Taylor and then-president David Kahn withheld a maximum extension from him in 2012. And while he’s not wont to come out and admit as much, Love gives off the impression he’s almost as concerned with what people think of him as he is with winning.
"I don’t know who labels people stars, but even Glen Taylor said ‘I don’t think Kevin Love is a star, because he hasn’t led us to the playoffs,’" Love told Yahoo Sports in December 2012. "I have a very, very good memory, and I always remember the people who have done right by me, and the people who have done wrong by me. It will be embedded in my brain, and something I won’t forget about."
Which is why Love is now a Cavalier and Wiggins, hoped to be the NBA’s next superstar, was at the Minnesota State Fair trying fried alligator and scooting down a giant slide next to fellow rookie Zach LaVine.
Rather than serving as far-and-away his team’s best offensive option, Love now will be a secondary scorer behind James and, at times, Irving. His 26-12-type numbers may decrease, but so will the yoke upon his shoulders.
Some have questioned how Love will handle that, including his former owner.
"I question Kevin if this is going to be the best deal for him, because I think he’s going to be the third player on the team," Taylor said. "I don’t think he’s going to get a lot of credit if they do really well. I think he’ll get the blame if they don’t do well."
To which Love responded on ESPN’s Mike and Mike radio show: "For Glen to say that, I just think that he should be focusing on the players that he just received."
Besides, Love wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to play with James, his friend since the Olympics and another buddy in Irving, with whom he filmed a Pepsi Max "Uncle Drew" spot back in 2012. He’s familiar with free-agent signee Mike Miller after spending his rookie season with him in Minnesota. Love and shooting guard Dion Waiters worked out together frequently this summer in Los Angeles.
With all that in mind, Love sounds firm in his long-term commitment to the Cavaliers. He can opt out of his current deal and become an unrestricted free agent after this season, which allowed him to force his way out of Minnesota in the first place.
Of course, his time with the Wolves began in a similarly optimistic manner. It’s easy to forget the days when Love seemed a lot happier to be around the Target Center than he did the past couple seasons.
He takes the high road when looking back on it now.
"It was tough, but saying that I didn’t enjoy my time in Minneapolis wouldn’t be doing it right," Love said. "I loved my time there. The people of Minnesota were great, the fans were great, they showed up win, lose or draw, and I really developed a lot of relationships all the way down through the organization, through ownership, through Flip, I mentioned management, players, all the way down to probably my best friend there which is Clayton Wilson, the equipment manager with our team.
"It was a great six years, and I enjoyed my time, and I can’t say enough good things about it."
He had friends in the locker room, too: outlet-pass target Corey Brewer, point guard Ricky Rubio, big man Nikola Pekovic, and so on.
But as Love learned in his six years here, the world of an NBA franchise is an ever-changing one. The Cavaliers don’t have a crystalline track record when it comes to performance, either; they lost James, after all, and have reached the East finals just four times in their 45 seasons.
Yet as the Wolves move on with a young core and build toward the future, Love’s future, at long last, is here.