Sportress of Blogitude

Kevin Love embracing new bench role, ‘having a lot of fun’ with upstart Cavaliers

The up-and-coming Cleveland Cavaliers are among the biggest surprises of the NBA season with a 17-12 record, but the team perhaps wouldn’t be enjoying as much success if Kevin Love hadn’t embraced his new role as a bench player.

Love scored all of his 23 points in the second half of Monday’s 105-94 win over the Miami Heat while adding nine rebounds. The victory marked the Cavs’ fourth consecutive win and eighth in the team’s past 10 games.

Heading into Wednesday’s game against the Houston Rockets, Cleveland currently occupies the No. 4 slot in the Eastern Conference, without question one of the more unanticipated developments of the 2021-22 NBA campaign.

Given the team’s unexpected success so far this season, Love, a five-time All-Star and one-time NBA champion, was asked this week how it came to be that he accepted becoming a bench piece with open arms. In essence, Love has complete faith in Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

“I have trust in J.B. That’s just what it comes down to,” Love said, via Yahoo. “I’ve had a great relationship with him since I came into this league, and he was the first coach to really believe in me in this league.

“I listen to J.B. I see eye to eye with him. And for me, it was easy to buy in when I saw how hard these guys work, how they show up to work every single day and just chase the game. I love it. It’s infectious to be around.”

The reserve role has definitely paid dividends for the Cavaliers, as Love has posted solid numbers coming off the bench. In 21 games, the two-time All-NBA Second Team player is averaging 11.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists while posting a 41.9/40.4/96.2 shooting percentage clip across 20 minutes of court time. Certainly not the gaudy numbers Love put up in his prime, but more than enough off the bench while he defers to young stars Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.

Veteran point guard Ricky Rubio, it merits noting, is also picking up a lot of slack off the bench for the Cavaliers. Between the leadership exhibited by Rubio and Love in lesser roles (at least on the court), Cleveland’s younger roster is thriving.

Most of all, though, Love, now 33 and in his 14th NBA season, has embraced his new job as a reserve because he’s enjoying himself.

“I’m having a lot of fun. Really, it’s been a lot of fun watching this team grow,” Love said earlier this week, via Evan Dammarell of Meta. “It’s so fun I’m losing track of games, I don’t even know what game we’re at now. I think sacrifice gives back more than the cost. … It’s joyous.”