A talented but troubled team with championship aspirations got a temporary boost from a coaching change, but it proved to be short-lived as that team fell back into its inconsistent ways.
Don’t worry: this isn’t another piece about the Wild, even if that description fits the local NHL team.
Instead, let’s focus in on the NBA’s Cavaliers and the player forever linked to Minnesota: Kevin Love.
Cleveland, one will recall, fired David Blatt in late January and replaced him with Tyronn Lue. The Cavaliers got an immediate boost, rattling off a five-game winning streak.
There were all sorts of feel-good stories about how the move had sparked Cleveland and particularly Love, who in the middle three games of that streak — the final three games of January — averaged nearly 24 points while shooting 11-for-21 from three-point range.
SBNation.com had a piece right after that three-game stretch that carried the headline, “Tyronn Lue is helping Kevin Love remember just how good a player he really is.” In it, LeBron James was quoted as saying, “I think right now [Love]’s finally getting comfortable in his role.”
It was short-lived. Cleveland is only 7-5 since that streak after beating Indiana 100-96 at home Monday night. Love, in the month of February, is back where he has been for most of the season: making us all wonder what happened to a player who was so dominant with the Wolves before helping to orchestrate a trade in the summer of 2014.
Love’s averages for the month, following Monday’s Leap Day finale: 15.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, 38.7 percent shooting from the field.
Love will have stretches where he contributes — such as the first three games after the All-Star break, when he scored a combined 68 points — followed by stretches where he disappears, such as the Cavaliers’ past four games (53 points and 24 rebounds, total).
Love is averaging 15.9 points and 10.1 rebounds — similar to last year’s marks of 16.4 and 9.7 in his first year in Cleveland. It’s a far cry, though, from the 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds he averaged in 2013-14 for the Wolves, his last year with the team.
As I’ve concluded before, Love leveraged himself into a place where he was traded at peak value, and his opt-out threat and subsequent trade for Andrew Wiggins might prove to be one of the best things to happen to the Wolves. Without it, they obviously don’t get Wiggins and they probably don’t bottom out enough to get Karl-Anthony Towns.
Nearly two seasons later, Love is still struggling to find his form and role in Cleveland, while the Cavs look destined for no better than a return trip to the NBA Finals and another dispatching at the hands of a better Western Conference foe.
That’s a level of struggle the Wolves would gladly take, of course. But it’s not the one the Cavaliers thought they had signed up for, and it might not be something a quick coaching change can fix.