The Lakers’ patience this summer may be showing its purpose after recent reports. One day removed from Ramona Shelburne of ESPN linking Rajon Rondo to the Lakers as a potential buyout candidate, another former star could be the next headed to Los Angeles.
Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer reported on Friday that big man Kevin Love was working on a buyout with the Cavaliers.
An NBA source told me the Cavs were making progress toward a buyout for Love, who has two years and $60 million left on his contract. But the Cavs and other NBA sources have strongly denied it. This likely just another Kevin Love rumor, and there have been so many over the years. At some point, a buyout for Love make sense for both parties. No clue when that will happen.
There’s no direct link with the Lakers in this report but, for a number of reasons, they would be far and away the favorites for Love. First and foremost, LeBron James still holds a close relationship with Love. The two, obviously, played together in Cleveland as they won the franchise a ring in 2016. Despite James leaving for Los Angeles some years later, their bond has remained strong.
If that bond wasn’t enough, then Russell Westbrook represents another strong friendship with Love. The two played one season together at UCLA, leading the Bruins to the Final Four. Off the court, the two were roommates and have kept a connection in the time since. Last year, Love congratulated Westbrook on his induction into the UCLA Hall of Fame.
The Lakers, then, would certainly be in pole position to sign Love. While Love is another big man, the Lakers certainly haven’t appeared to be thrilled at the idea of heading into next season with Marc Gasol on the roster. There were discussions of potentially trading him at the start of free agency and reports have suggested he’s “not a lock” to return to the Lakers this summer even though he committed to playing this year after the Olympics.
Love would represent a move toward more shooting and less defense, which seems to have been the focus of the front office this offseason. Alongside Anthony Davis, Love could flourish as a floor-spacer without having the same level of defensive responsibility he would in most lineups as the center.
While the Lakers have three open roster spots and would not have to pick between Gasol and Love, given Gasol’s reaction to not playing last year during the season, it’s unlikely he’s going to play along with that experience once more.
There are still a ton of hurdles to cross, though. Buyouts of $60 million and multiple seasons don’t typically happen. Love would likely need to surrender a fair bit of change in a buyout, which could be offset by a veteran’s minimum salary next season.
If the buyout happens, Love would almost certainly head to Los Angeles. But the Cavaliers and Love seem still have work to do on a buyout and the Lakers would still need to have interest in him. Again, there has not been anything linking Love directly to the Lakers or vice versa, which is more telling about how far the Cavaliers and Love have to go still.
All of this also is working on the assumption Love has anything left in the tank. He has played just 103 of a possible 219 games for the Cavs the last two seasons. He reportedly struggled in the Team USA camp this summer prior to the Olympics, as revealed in an article by Joe Vardon of The Athletic that prompted James’ tweet above.
There are serious questions about whether he can still contribute at a high level, but there are examples of players in similar situations getting a change of scenery and excelling. Blake Griffin looked dead in the water in Detroit and was an integral piece of a Nets team that nearly knocked off the Bucks in the playoffs. Same goes for Nicolas Batum, who traded a spot on the bench for a regular rotation role with the Clippers.
There are a lot of ifs about the situation on the court and off of it that will have to be cleared. But the end result could be the Lakers landing another impactful veteran signing this summer.