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Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) works against Dallas Mavericks forward Luka Doncic (77) for a shot opportunity in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Friday, Nov. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Kevin Love knows change could be coming.
A couple of years ago, uncertainty might have been something that stressed him out, triggered the sorts of feelings like the ones that manifested themselves in the form of an in-game panic attack in 2017, rendered him unable to compete as efficiently as he wanted.
Not this time.
Even though he has three full years and about $90 million left on his contract after this season, it’s no secret that Love could be traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Plenty of teams even make sense for such a move — Portland, Dallas, Denver, Miami among others.
But going public with the details of his panic attack — and his ongoing involvement in the conversation about the need to take care of mental health — has not left Love feeling vulnerable. He’s more at peace than anything else, and that’s why the rumors that are out there aren’t gnawing at him.
“I’m just going to let the chips fall,” Love said. “I know that this is a young team. I think I can help them. I’m going to do right by Cleveland, the organization. This is a league where teams want to rebuild, teams want to go young but certain teams are looking for a piece, a guy who’s played in the finals, a guy who has playoff experience. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think it definitely lessens the burden and the anxiety.”
Cleveland is 5-12 and Love missed Monday’s game against Brooklyn with back issues. Now in his 11th season, the five-time All-Star can still play — he’s averaging 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds, is a 36% shooter from 3-point range and won a ring with the Cavs in 2016.
Even with him, the Cavs are likely a long shot for a playoff spot in the East. But Love insists that he isn’t forcing a change.
“I’ve been committed to Cleveland since Day 1,” Love said. “I know it’s been a little shaky at some points. It’s been really great at some points. But now I’ve found some semblance of balance in my life, not only on the court but away from it.”
Love also doesn’t shy away from the mental health questions.
Players like Love and DeMar DeRozan helped bring the conversation into the NBA mainstream by opening up about their own private and personal issues.
“I kind of played all my cards and spoke my truth,” Love said. “I just feel like there’s not a lot out there that could really hurt me. I feel like, not only for other people but selfishly for myself, it’s been very therapeutic.”
The Spurs are in trouble.
Monday’s loss to the Lakers dropped San Antonio to 6-12, and seeing that is all anyone would probably need to realize that the Spurs’ record-tying 22-year streak of postseason appearances is in major jeopardy.
But the numbers really hammer the point home.
Over the last 14 seasons, not including this one, there have been 103 instances of teams starting 6-12 or worse. Of those, only four have made the postseason — and none of those four came from the Western Conference.
And the last time the Spurs were under the .500 mark 18 games into a season was 1995-96, when they started 3-15. That’s the point where they fired Bob Hill for a guy named Gregg Popovich.
“They’re going to be OK,” said Charlotte coach James Borrego, a former longtime Spurs assistant, who crossed paths with Popovich in Washington recently. “At the end of the day, he’s coaching his team, I’m coaching my team. I know what they’re going through. But they’ve been in this territory before. I don’t know if they’ve lost as much as they’ve lost this early, but they’ll bounce back. There’s high character there. They know what they’re doing.”
The last West team to start 6-12 or worse and get into the playoffs was the 2004-05 Memphis Grizzlies, who began 5-11, went through two different coaches before bringing in Mike Fratello. He fashioned a 40-26 finish, the Grizzlies sneaked into the playoffs at 45-37 and as the eighth seed. They got swept in the first round.
The NBA champions that year? San Antonio.
Boston guard Kemba Walker took a scary hit last week when he collided with teammate Semi Ojeleye during the Celtics’ game at Denver.
The way Walker fell, and how he had to leave the game on a stretcher, understandably raised plenty of concern. He was diagnosed with a sprained neck, which was probably about the best possible outcome given how bad the play looked in real time.
Perhaps overlooked is this: The sprain is Walker’s second neck issue in less than three months.
He played some games for USA Basketball at the FIBA World Cup in China in September while dealing with neck pain, which intensified to the point that he sat out the Americans’ finale there — the seventh-place game in Beijing against Poland.
With MVP candidate Luka Doncic leading the way, Dallas is flying.
The Mavericks have scored 137 points or more in each of their last three games. Only two teams in league history have gone on longer such streaks — Denver in November 1988 and Portland in November 1990, both of those being four-game runs.
The Mavs have reached the 125-point mark five times already this season. That matches their total from all of last season.
THE WEEK AHEAD
A game to watch each day in the coming week:
Tuesday, L.A. Clippers at Dallas: Doncic is rolling right now. Here comes a very big test.
Wednesday, L.A. Lakers at New Orleans: Welcome back to New Orleans, Anthony Davis.
Thursday, Happy Thanksgiving: It’s one of the days the NBA has no games on the schedule.
Friday, Boston at Brooklyn: A noon start time. Could it be Kyrie Irving versus the Celtics?
Saturday, Charlotte at Milwaukee: For some reason, few seem to be talking about the Bucks.
Sunday, Memphis at Minnesota: Through Monday, Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant averaged 19 ppg.
Monday, Utah at Philadelphia: A matchup of really good teams that usually put defense first.
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