CLEVELAND — Rumors surrounding the possible departure of Kevin Love from the Cavaliers have been swirling for months (if not years), especially with the team once again near the bottom of the NBA standings.
On Saturday, things may have reached a breaking point.
According to The Athletic's Joe Vardon and Shams Charania, Love had an "emotional verbal outburst" during today's shootaround that was directed at Cleveland general manager Koby Altman. The five-time All-Star was apparently screaming in front of coaches and teammates, and expressed "his displeasure and disgust with the organization."
The exchange apparently stemmed from an incident during a New Year's Eve blowout loss to the Toronto Raptors. Video showed Love angrily slamming his hand on the bench during a timeout, and he reportedly asked a coach to take him out of the game so he could "cool down." When asked why he was upset, Love apparently said he felt the first-team unit was playing "selfish" basketball.
Sources told Vardon and Charania the Cavs fined Love $1,000 for his actions, and that the 31-year-old disagreed with the fine. That seemed to be the tipping point that led to Saturday's tirade, during which Love reportedly said there was "no feel here."
What's more, this is allegedly not the first time Love and Altman have visibly clashed: Vardon and Charania say Love raised his voice to Altman near the end of last season, but when the GM threatened to fine him, Love merely responded, "Go ahead. I have plenty of money." Love is currently in the first year of a four-year, $120 million contract extension with Cleveland.
Love, who was a key member of the Cavs teams that won four straight Eastern Conference championships and the 2016 NBA title, is in his sixth season with the club. The 6-foot-8 center/forward hybrid averaging 16.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, and after being sidelined by injuries for most of last year has missed just five contests.
However, these are not the same Cavaliers Love originally came to back in 2014: Following the departure of the legendary LeBron James for Los Angeles, the team finished tied for the second-worst record in the NBA last season at 19-63. They have improved slightly this year under new head coach John Beilein, but still boast a mark of just 10-24.
Amid the losing, Love is seen by league analysts as a viable trade option for a contending team, and the Cavs are reportedly listening to offers. Although he has not publicly asked to be dealt, Vardon and Charania claim Love would like to go to a better team. It is worth noting that he signed his lucrative extension even after James left Cleveland.
Last month, Vardon and Charania also reported several Cavs players were "unhappy" with Beilein, and were even ignoring his advice in favor of the assistant coaches. Although some members of the team apparently spoke to The Athletic for that story, none of them went on the record.
Despite the outburst, Love was still expected to play Saturday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and was indeed in the starting lineup when the two teams tipped off from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. During the second quarter, though, he was screaming at Collin Sexton to pass him the ball, and after receiving the rock fired it to Cedi Osman.
3News' Ben Axelrod confirms Love has had "a couple of emotional outbursts" during the game. This afternoon, Love also posted on Instagram a photo from the movie Joker of the titular character forcing a smile, only adding the caption "Mood."
CAVS DECADE IN REVIEW: Where they've been and where they're heading