Cleveland Cavaliers veteran forward Kevin Love made a public apology Wednesday morning for his behavior during Monday night's game against the Toronto Raptors after he slapped an inbounds pass to the opponent as opposed to passing it to a teammate. He apologized to his teammates when it happened, but didn't speak to the media after that game to explain the situation.
After Cleveland's shootaround Wednesday morning, he addressed the incident.
"The reality of it is I f----- up. Everybody knows that," Love said, via TMZ Sports. "I love this team first and foremost. I know I f----- up, and I apologized for that. I don't go out there intending to upset anybody, to embarrass myself to embarrass the organization, because I feel like I'm a part of something bigger than myself here. "
"... My intent wasn't to disrespect the game. It wasn't even for the damn ball to go inbounds. It was a moment that I got caught up in. I didn't even understand what really happened as the possession played out. I think I was a little bit dumbfounded, I even heard a couple of our coaches say the ball wasn't in. My idea was I was going to go grab the ball and pass it right back in to [Darius Garland], but that obviously wasn't the case. I didn't realize how bad it looked really until after the game, I truly didn't. Until Larry had shown me and then after that I just completely shut down, because I never want that to be who I am. I don't want to have to be here and defend my character."
The play in question came with 33 seconds left in the third quarter with the Cavaliers down four points. After Raptors guard Malachi Flynn made a driving layup, Love was pushed into the stanchion and appeared to be frustrated that no foul was called. When the referee gave him the ball to inbound it, he just swatted at the ball, which led to Toronto gaining possession and nailing a 3-pointer. Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after the game that Love apologized to his teammates and they all decided to move on from the situation, and the Cavaliers decided to handle the situation internally, per Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes.
Love said on Tuesday that he wasn't frustrated with his teammates, but with the officiating of the game. Being frustrated in a game is understandable, but in that moment in time the Cavaliers were within reach of winning that game. Instead, Toronto went on a run in the fourth quarter to secure the win, which was fueled by Love's moment of frustration. It's also not the first time Love has done something like this before.
There was a play last season where he was frustrated that guard Collin Sexton was holding the ball too long, and Love clapped his hands in frustration to get the ball and immediately flung a hard pass to Cedi Osman to show he was annoyed with the lack of ball movement.
Love apologized for that, too. He's also gotten into verbal arguments with Cavaliers general manager Coby Altman that resulted in a $1,000 fine by the team last season. While Love said Wednesday that he loves the team and he'll "ride or die" for Bickerstaff and his teammates, the pattern of frustration shows that he isn't happy with his current situation in Cleveland. He even said as much Wednesday morning.
"I'm slightly broken hearted because I have had the game taken away from me," Love said. "I have missed games and I feel a lot of guilt. Feeling that guilt in missing games and letting my teammates down, letting the fans down and then having a setback and returning to play and not being able to be my old self. I'm so frustrated that I can't be my full self right now for my teammates and that … you know I can't be better for them and that was part of the moment of frustration that I had, that was a big part of it. And for that I apologize, too."
Since the 2016-17 season, the season after the Cavaliers won a championship, Love's production and health has steadily declined, especially over the past three seasons. It also doesn't help that the Cavaliers are in the middle of a rebuild centered around young guys like Sexton and Garland, which hasn't amounted to many wins in Cleveland. The writing is on the wall for Love to either be traded or bought out of the remaining two years and $60 million left on his contract.
A trade seems more unlikely given his injury history, and this season he's been limited to just 18 games while averaging 11 points a night, the lowest since his rookie season. However, last season he managed to put up 17.6 points and 9.8 rebounds a game, which is a better indicator of what he can still provide for a championship-contending team. Perhaps this upcoming offseason will be the time that he joins another team, either through a trade or a buyout if he and Cleveland can come to an agreement.