On Friday night, 31-year-old LeBron James became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 27,000 career points. The Brand Name recently passed Hakeem Olajuwon for 10th all-time on the NBA scoring list and he’s breathing down Elvin Hayes’ neck at No. 9.
The more intriguing story to me, however, was the deadly and in-sync manner in which Cleveland defeated the Washington Wizards 105-94 on the road.
It wasn’t too long ago that Kevin Love was the faulty piece of The Big Three, struggling to find his royal flow in a system that features LeBron and rising superstar Kyrie Irving as the main ball-controllers.
This year, he's rising up the totem pole and becoming a major player in Cleveland's quest for back-to-back rings.
The Cavaliers have scored 885 points in seven games this season. To date, LeBron, Kyrie and Love have scored 551 of those points. As far as possessions go, Irving leads the triumvirate with 33.2 points per 100 possessions, but Love comes in next at 32.5 points per 100, and LeBron James comes in third at 30.8 points per 100.
Love is averaging 21 points per show, his highest total since averaging 26.1 in his last season with Minnesota. And he's pulling down rebounds again. Love was a rebounding monster with the T-Wolves, averaging a league-high 15.2 per game in 2010-11. Since coming to Cleveland in the 2014-15 season, he is averaging less than 10 boards per game.
Love had 14 points and 16 rebounds on Friday. The offensive numbers aren’t eye popping, but they tell a positive tale. Love’s entire game is all the way up this season. As Cleveland continues to develop into an impenetrable force and build on last season’s chemistry, Love has emerged this year and is impacting the game at an All-Star level again.
He’s finally figured out his role on the Cavs, and he’s much more confident in asserting every facet of his game.
The expression, “Winning cures all ills,” seriously applies to the relationship between Love and the World Champion Cavs.
That first season in 2015, Love was struggling and at times looked disconnected and frustrated. For most of his first season with Cleveland, up until he tore his arm out of the socket and missed the playoff run and eventual loss to Golden State in the finals, Love played like a shell of his former self.
There were even heavy trade rumors in the offseason. Media reports said Love was not comfortable in Cleveland and he wasn’t understanding or valuing his role in King James’ court.
Playing in Minnesota -- basically NBA’s Siberia -- Love was allowed to do anything he wanted to do on the court, similar to how it was with Irving before LBJ came back home. He went to Cleveland thinking that he had hooked up with The King and his championship dreams would be fulfilled.
I’m not sure he understood just how much hard work, time, sacrifice and selflessness it would take for all of Cleveland’s new superstar pieces to function together. He also had to accept LeBron’s guidance, which was a huge change from being the man in Minnesota and telling everybody else what’s good.
It could have ended ugly for Love. He could have tried to force a trade after that first season. Or even after winning the c’hip last season. Love suppressed his game, but he still wasn't maximizing his opportunities and his other talents. Media went as far as calling the team's relationship dysfunctional at one point.
King James will continue to chase records and accolades. His first year back in Cleveland was his shining moment. Though he lost to Golden State, he showed his greatness as he gave Golden State all they could handle without the services of the injured Irving and Love.
The next season, the gang was all together. They got the c’hip largely due to Irving, who is reaching his peak as a player and embarking on a streak of individual and distinguished hoops excellence that will define his career.
Through the good and bad times, Love has been a soldier. Trudging through the muck, madness and magnificence, trying to recapture his identity. He has hardware to show for his efforts
With those things considered, this is Kevin Love’s season to shine. He’s the last piece of the Big Three left to put his signature stamp on a season and a championship run.
Three-time NBA champ James Worthy lived in the shadows of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob McAdoo, Norm Nixon and Jamaal Wilkes until he won a Finals MVP in 1988.
Despite his success and unselfishness, Worthy was considered a third leg until the 1990-91 season when he and Magic were the only guys left from that Showtime Lakers Era. Worthy averaged a team high 21.4 points per game and led the Lakers to the NBA Finals against the Bulls.
So far, Love’s third season in Cleveland seems to be a charm. He’s emerging as a force again and his fans have been waiting to see him step to the forefront and grab some spotlight. When it’s all said and done and the final chapter of this Cleveland squad is plastered into the record books, Love needs to do something that says, “I was there.”
No time like the present.