Cavs notes: Kevin Love ready to play every night

Tristan Thompson returns to practice; Larry Drew trying to win, not tank

Daryl Ruiter
February 20, 2019 - 2:14 pm

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Independence, OH (92.3 The Fan) – If Kevin Love has his way, we’ll be seeing a lot more of him over the final 24 games of the season.

Starting with Thursday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns, Love expects to be on the floor every night from here on out.

“I don’t know where my minutes will be at, but I imagine they’ll be the same or a little more as that New York game, so I think you’ll see me more on a steady basis,” Love said. “Won’t miss games, especially after the break [I’m] hoping, so, just continuing to improve the minutes, make sure that I’m feeling good and go from there.”

In just under 16 minutes, Love scored 14 points to go with nine rebounds in the Cavs’ 107-105 win over the Knicks on Feb. 11.

Cavs head coach Larry Drew is hopeful Love will be able to play the remainder of the schedule, but he has no plans to push Love too hard.

“He’s moving in a really good direction right now but we’re still taking his situation slowly,” Drew said. “Obviously, with the playing time, he’s still under a minutes restriction and he’ll stay on that until I get the go ahead to bump him up.

“We’re not going to rush him. We’re going to allow him to come back and play extended minutes when he’s ready and able to.”

Love missed 50 games after undergoing left foot surgery in November and he returned on Feb. 8, but the Cavs had him play in just two of the final four games before the All-Star break, including having him sit out last Tuesday’s triple overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

“It’s hard,” Love said. “You have to continue to find motivation, know that there is a bigger picture involved. For me it is tough. It’s the longest I’ve missed consecutively in my whole career, but just gotta find the opportunity, find ways to get better and in a lot of ways my body feels really fresh so that’s the good thing in this.”

Drew appreciates how Love has remained engaged and set an example for young players despite missing so much time.

“I know it certainly can’t be easy after being a team that has played in The Finals the last four years and then you go through this type of a situation,” Drew said.

“He’s done a magnificent job in the way he has conducted himself. He stayed the course with his rehab through his injury. I know how bad he wants to be out there, but things happen. You have to push through them, which he has done, and now he’s able to play, gradually getting his legs under him.”

Thompson on the floor – Tristan Thompson returned to practice Wednesday, but he is not expected to play against the Suns Thursday night.

“It was really good to see Tristan out there, particularly because we did have contact today,” Drew said. “He was moving well. I could tell he was a little tired, a little winded.”

Thompson, who participated in the entire practice according to Drew, has missed the last 13 games with a left foot injury, his second of the season suffered Jan. 16 at Portland and the streak should hit 14.

“I don’t think he will play [Thursday],” Drew said.  

Thompson suffered a left ankle sprain at Milwaukee on Dec. 10, 2018 that cost him 10 games before returning Jan. 2 against Miami. He was averaging 12.0 points and 11.6 rebounds per game prior to the injury.

“At some point I definitely want to get both Tristan and Kevin back in the starting lineup together,” Drew said. “When that will happen, I can’t tell you.”

The Cavs have been besieged with injuries all season and getting Thompson back is a key step in allowing them to not only see and evaluate the roster at full strength, but potentially finish the season strong.

“It’s great for us that we’re getting healthy,” Love said. “We’re going to play a lot of really good teams the last [24 games] so it’ll be a good chance to test ourselves against them, see what lineups work for us.”

No tanks – Drew isn’t paying much attention to the standings – or the desire for fans (and probably the front office too) to finish with one of the worst three records in the league so they qualify with two other teams for the best odds to win the NBA Draft Lottery in May.

“I don’t really listen much about what people want, I just know what my job is,” Drew said. “I take every game as a game that we’re going out there to complete at a high level and win. Certainly people are looking at the future, me, personally, I have to look at the present.”

The Cavs have won the lottery four times – technically three because the rights to the 2011 No. 1 pick (Kyrie Irving) was acquired from the Clippers – since 2003 when they won the right to draft some kid from Akron named LeBron James.

After finishing with the worst record following James’ departure in 2010, the Cavs’ pick fell to No. 4 overall, which netted them Thompson. In 2013 they selected Anthony Bennett No. 1 overall and in 2014 Andrew Wiggins with the top pick prior to trading him to Minnesota along with Bennett for Love.