Heat’s Kevin Love: Leaving Cavs ‘Incredibly Hard’

Heat power forward Kevin Love faced his former team for the first time on Wednesday, the Cavaliers emerging with an impressive 104-100 road win.Kevin Love

Just a few short weeks ago, Love was a very member of that team, joining the likes of Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley on Cleveland’s rise to prominence. He also was the last face remaining from the Cavs’ 2016 championship team.

But after being benched for 12 straight games, Love sought a contract buyout to find a place he could play. He scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds in 21 minutes, having been a starter in Miami since the day he arrived.

Leaving the Cavs, though, was not easy.

“Professionally, it was the hardest thing I ever had to do without question,” Love said, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “I think you guys know how much I love Cleveland and Ohio. All the fans there have always supported me and the team. Naturally, winning there makes it bigger than guys like myself, (Kyrie Irving), (and LeBron James). Even here I look up and see the championship banners and I’m like, ‘That’s special.’

“I go back to Brecksville and I’m like, ‘We did that. We really did that.’ That was incredibly hard to do after eight and a half seasons.”

Overall, in seven appearances with the Heat, Love is averaging 7.4 points and 7.6 boards, shooting a season-best 40 percent from the field.

In Cleveland, he struggled with a lingering thumb injury and proved to be a liability on defense, causing coach J.B. Bickerstaff to keep Love glued to the bench.

“I think it was a really tough decision for him to take me out of the lineup,” Love said, via Fedor. “I think they wanted to go young and stick with those guys, especially (Ricky Rubio) and (Dean Wade) getting back from injury. They wanted to get the guys more minutes. But the natural frustration is you want to be out there, you want to have those conversations in the locker room, you want to be in those timeouts, those type of situations.

“I think it like all came so fast for me and there wasn’t any prospect of me going back out there and playing — and I wanted that. I was hungry for that. I was foaming at the mouth for that. Those were really tough conversations, but those are ones that I’m grateful they had with me so I was able to find something else and find a place where I could be happy and play.”

Love, 34, will be a free agent at the end of the season and in search of his next contract. How the rest of this season plays out in Miami will determine that destination. 

The Heat (35-32) and the Cavs (42-26) will do it all over again in Miami on Friday, when they meet in a rare back-to-back set.

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