Cleveland Cavaliers players speculated that last Friday's team meeting was called to announce Kevin Love had been traded. Instead, they received news that coach David Blatt had been fired.
However, rumors that Love will be traded won't go away. The Cavs' Big 3 of Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and Love have struggled to complement one another since joining forces last season.
Love, the former Timberwolves star for five seasons and three-time NBA All-Star, has seen his offensive numbers decline since guard Irving returned from a knee injury in December. Love is averaging 15.5 points per game, the lowest since his second season with the Wolves, and his 41.6 shooting percentage has dropped to the second-lowest mark of his career.
The Cavaliers still own the best record (31-12) in the Eastern Conference and have a 6.5-game lead over Chicago in the Central Division. But after the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors embarrassed the Cavs in Cleveland 132-98 last Tuesday, general manager David Griffin wasn't satisfied. Love scored three points in the loss.
Despite rumors of trading Love, Griffin instead fired Blatt and has since announced his intention to keep Love around, at least for now.
"You'd have to go a long way to convince me that we're a better team winning in the Finals without a player like Kevin on our team," Griffin told ESPN 850-AM in Cleveland. "We've never once put together an offer involving Kevin, nor have we taken a call on an offer for Kevin.
"We think very highly of Kevin, and we believe Kevin thinks very highly of this situation. ... But I can also tell you that we have been very clear from the beginning that there's no such thing as untouchables.
"You're either all the way in or all the way out in this process, and we believe our guys are all the way in. If it remains that way, then we are going to try and augment the group at the bottom and try to get some additional depth, and that's what we'll do. We're not going to be afraid to do what needs to be done if something more significant comes along."
Love signed a five-year contract worth $113 million last summer, but became eligible to be traded on Jan. 15. Love was traded to the Cavaliers in August 2014 as part of a three-team deal that sent No. 1 overall draft picks Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett to the Wolves.
Love averaged 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in his first year with Cleveland. His season ended in the first round of the playoffs when he dislocated his shoulder and would require surgery. The Cavaliers reached the NBA Finals before falling to Golden State.
Last month, Love averaged just 12.7 points a night and in January is averaging 12.8 while shooting 38.4 percent from the field. He was limited to 11 points, six rebounds, two assists and was 1-for-7 from 3-point range in the Cavs' 114-107 win against the Wolves on Monday.
Cleveland's new coach Tyronn Lue said he plans to get Love more elbow touches to facilitate the offense and more touches in the post to boost his scoring, areas where Love had success with the Wolves. This could mean Love spending more time on the second unit without Irving and James, Lue said.
"We want to get out and run with that first group, and especially with LeBron and Ky, we're always talking about playing downhill," Love told ESPN. "I think we're better when we do that.
"The second unit will be able to play some of that elbow action, and I think that will evolve over time right now. You didn't see it much tonight, but that's something we can continue to work on in practice, and as we get in shape, getting better with those two styles."
Love had become a spot-up 3-point shooter for the Cavs with 43.4 percent of his shots from 3-point range this season. Last season, 41.2 of his shots were 3-pointers, compared to his final year with Minnesota where 35.5 percent of his shots were 3s.
If the Cavs are going to succeed with stars James, Irving and Love, then Irving and Love need to stop thinking about their respective brands so much, Lue said, meaning they need to sacrifice more to build a better team built around James.
If Love and Irving can't do that, don't be surprised if Griffin makes another big move before the Feb. 18 trade deadline. If it's Love that goes, here are some possible scenarios courtesy of FANSIDED:
-- In exchange for Love, the Boston Celtics send Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson to Cleveland.
-- The Cavs send Love to Detroit for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ersan Ilysova and Marcus Morris, maybe even a draft pick.
-- Cleveland trades Love and maybe Richard Jefferson to the Hornets for Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams.
-- The Cavs deal Love in a straight swap for Atlanta's All-Star Paul Millsap.
-- Another straight up trade would send Love to Portland for C.J. McCollum.