Blogtable: How will Kevin Love's injury affect Cleveland Cavaliers?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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Cleveland’s Kevin Love is out for at least six weeks after knee surgery. How significant is this for the Cavaliers? For the rest of the Eastern Conference?
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David Aldridge: Very significant, for one reason: LeBron James’s load is only going to get larger. James is in Alpha Male mode when anyone asks him about his minutes these days, but the reality is that while he’s just 32 years old chronologically, he’s logged the minute load of a 35-or 36-year-old during his amazing career, when you add all the playoffs/Finals games, and the three Olympic Games and practices. At present (this could obviously change at any minute), there’s not an obvious choice on the roster who could step in at the four and provide the rebounding that Love does. Channing Frye was brought in last season to space the floor, not pound the glass, and newly signed Derrick Williams has never averaged more than 5.5 rebounds per game in his career. There is an argument to be made that it might make more sense for Williams to be put in the starting lineup so that the existing bench minutes and rotation can stay intact, but that would impact the starters’ continuity. The only logical move is for James to play more minutes at the four (some of us have argued that’s his best position, anyway), which means more banging in the post and more hard minutes for LBJ. Does that mean there’s a glimmer of vulnerability in the Cavs for the likes of Boston, Washington and Toronto? A teeny tiny glimmer, maybe. But as long as Love is healthy and ready for the postseason, the Cavs are still prohibitive favorites in the East.
Steve Aschburner: More significant for the rest of the East, at least among the undifferentiated pack of playoff aspirants long considered to be marking time until another Cleveland coronation. If the stated timetable holds, Love would return to tune up in the last couple weeks of the regular season, then have another 10 days as the Cavs eased through the first round. What Toronto, Boston, Washington and maybe Atlanta and Indiana have to be thinking is, if Love’s timetable does not hold … Well, good luck with that as long as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are healthy (however tuckered out).
Fran Blinebury: It is potentially costly. With the Celtics now just 2 1/2 games back, it could cost the Cavaliers the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage in an Eastern Conference finals series against Boston. Depending on how quickly Love regains form upon his return, it could make the entire playoff run for Cleveland scarier.
Shaun Powell: The significance for the Cavs won’t be known until the postseason and they see how Love responds from the injury. That’s a mystery, since everyone’s body is different. If he’s back to normal or close enough, the Cavs are fine. If not, then we’ll see if they manage to hold onto home court advantage between now and season’s end, and also if LeBron James holds up, before this merits further discussion. I still don’t see anyone in the East as a serious threat, not even Toronto with Serge Ibaka. Remember, Love was so-so last season, when he wasn’t an All-Star, and Cleveland still buried the East.
John Schuhmann: As long as Love is eventually 100 percent by the conference finals, it’s not too significant. The Cavs know who they are and they have LeBron James to carry them through the early stages of the postseason. There are two things for them to be concerned with, however. 1. The Cavs have been mediocre defensively all season and won’t have a chance to put a good stretch of regular-season defense together with their core. So they’ll have to flip the proverbial switch come playoff time, and there are better offenses among other East playoff teams than there were a year ago. 2. LeBron James needs to get some rest between now and April 15. With Love’s injury and with the probability that James will take some games off, the door is open for Boston or Washington to gain home-court advantage over the Cavs. But as long as Cleveland is healthy in May, that probably won’t matter.
Sekou Smith: This isn’t a significant blow for the Cavaliers, who have dealt with the absence of core players in recent seasons about as well as any team can. The rest of the Eastern Conference probably feels good about their chances to go after what looks like a vulnerable Cleveland team, but I’d suggest they look at how well LeBron James plays when things look like they’ve gone sideways for his team. As long as LeBron and Kyrie Irving are healthy and in the lineup, there isn’t an Eastern Conference team that worries them down the stretch of the regular season. And as long as Love comes back in time for the postseason, the trajectory for this team remains the same.
Ian Thomsen: They’re going to miss him — but in his absence they’ll have no choice but to develop other options on the perimeter, which will force them to address the playmaking issue that LeBron raised weeks ago. We can argue over whether they’ll hold onto the No. 1 seed, but it doesn’t really matter because (if healthy) the Cavs should prevail against everyone in the East whether they have homecourt or not.
Lang Whitaker: I know the Cavs have had a series of injuries this season, but the optimist in me tends to think the timing could be much worse. Two years ago, Love and Irving went down in the postseason, and the Cavs still nearly limped to the title. If you are going to lose some guys along the way, which is basically a certainty over an 82-game schedule, having them all back by the time the playoffs starts seems like a pretty fortuitous break.
MORE BLOGTABLE: Who replaces Love on East All-Star team? | When will Spurs’ run of winning seasons end?