MILWAUKEE — When Kevin Love left the Minnesota Timberwolves in the summer of 2014 for the Cavaliers, giving up his role as a franchise’s go-to option, he thought he had also left behind chances for individual accolades.
That’s part of the reason being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, beating out some high-profile names — including teammates Kyrie Irving and LeBron James — is so significant to him.
“It’s definitely a league-wide honor,” Love said Tuesday morning, prior to the team’s shootaround in Milwaukee. “Kyrie and Bron had, respectively, great weeks, had great months. It’s definitely something, especially with this franchise, with LeBron and Kyrie, very seldom seen. It’s tough to put into words, but it’s very cool and I just gotta keep this thing going.”
Love, who averaged 30.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals in 29.3 minutes during a 3-0 week, captured the award for the first time as a Cavalier. It’s just the third time he has won in his career.
“This is an award where it’s obviously a week-to-week basis,” he said. “In the short term, right now, this last week, LeBron you look up every third or fourth quarter you see he has a triple-double and Kyrie has a quiet 39 points last game. Those guys are going out every night and putting up huge numbers and willing us to victory. Just to be part of that and help that process, I knew I was going to have to sacrifice and have to find a way to still go about my business in the right way and help this team win.”
The Cavs have found the right blend. Off to a 13-2 start, each member of Cleveland’s talented Big Three is averaging at least 20 points. But Love’s leap is most surprising because he’s been asked to make the biggest sacrifice.
Now in his third season, things are different.
“I think comfort more than anything,” Love said. “We’ve talked about how I’ve been used, but even last game I was at the 3-point line most of the time. When we play a small lineup and Bron goes at the 4 but he’s still handling the ball, we’re able to stretch out guys like (Joel) Embiid at the 5 or whoever is playing out there at the 5. It opens up the floor for those guys.
“So whether I’m getting the ball or not, I think I’m very comfortable in this role. There will be, I’m guessing, some times where there’s going to be up and down-type games. But I’m finding different ways to be effective out there and watching a lot of film and doing so.”
As the players have stated repeatedly, any of them is capable of having that huge night. Last Wednesday, it was Love, a historic game that fueled his most recent honor.
He put up 34 points in the first quarter en route to his highest scoring game as a Cavalier with 40. It marked the second-most points in any quarter in NBA history (Klay Thompson, 37 points on 1/23/15). He also set the Cavaliers’ single quarter records for points, field goals made (11) and 3-pointers (8).
“It means a lot,” head coach Tyronn Lue said. “The way he’s been playing all season has been great for us. Giving us a post presence, knocking down shots and defensively he’s been great. And one thing about winning player of the week, it means your team is winning. So when you’re able to get an individual accolade and your team profits from that, it’s great.
“And I’m happy for Kevin. He deserves it. He’s been playing great for us all season, so hopefully he can continue to keep it going.”