If a remodeled Target Center and a city changed since he left Minneapolis in 2014 weren’t enough to remind him, Kevin Love acknowledged time’s passing by brushing his hand through a few hairs graying at his temples.
At 31, the NBA champion now has spent as many seasons in Cleveland — six — as he did for a Timberwolves team that acquired him in a 2008 draft-night trade but never reached the playoffs with him as its star.
Love returned to Minnesota last weekend and spent game day showing girlfriend Kate Bock his old haunts after he was scratched from that night’s lineup because of a sore hip.
“We tried to get a big omelet at Key’s Café,” he said, “but they’re closed after 2 p.m.”
Now back on his home turf, Love is set to meet his former team — not one Wolves player remains from his time here — Sunday in Cleveland.
“It especially feels different now that this is my sixth year here [in Cleveland],” he said. “It’s like so much time has gone by.”
Love arrived 12 seasons ago a chubby, multiskilled player groomed for a changing pro game by a father who once played in the NBA himself. In time, he transformed his body and made three All-Star Games with the Wolves.
“Me and somebody else because I had about 40 extra pounds on me,” Love said about his rookie self.
Unhappy with a 2012 contract extension that didn’t include a max fifth season, Love forced a 2014 trade to a contender after he played for four coaches in six losing seasons.
Back in Minnesota two Saturdays ago, Love called himself older and wiser after he played not only with the great LeBron James in Cleveland but also savvy veterans Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson and James Jones.
He’s owner of a championship ring he always sought, won in 2016 during the first of three consecutive NBA Finals he played in.
But he’s also back in the unhappy position playing for a losing team after James left for Los Angeles two summers ago.
He had an emotional outburst at Cavaliers GM Koby Altman after a shootaround Saturday and expressed his “displeasure and disgust” with the organization, according to The Athletic.
Soon thereafter, he posted on social media a photo of actor Joaquin Phoenix feigning a smile as the Joker and captioned it “Mood.” Then in Saturday night’s home loss to Oklahoma City, he displayed his displeasure with young guard Collin Sexton’s dribbling while he had a mismatch with Chris Paul defending him.
Love told reporters afterward he felt his team could get a “good shot” out of that situation.
“But that’s not what we did,” he said. “Yeah, I was frustrated.”
Before a Cavs’ victory at Target Center last weekend, Love deemed himself matured.
“I know so much more now that I wish I could tell my younger self,” Love said. “I had veterans my first year in Minnesota, but the next four, five years I really didn’t. So I didn’t really have anybody to check me or tell me what it meant to sacrifice or teach me the nuances of being a veteran.
“All those guys in Cleveland were continuously in your ear, and they saw the bigger picture.”
Love spoke up two seasons ago on mental health, depression and anxiety after he suffered a panic attack during a November 2017 game and sought the help of a therapist.
In Cleveland with James, Love found the collective success for which he wasn’t prepared when he played with Ricky Rubio and many others. Now Rubio plays for Phoenix and Love remains in Cleveland after a career move he calls a “lifestyle” change.
“We’re two guys who have gone through it but also have grown in such a great way,” Love said. “All the stuff I had to look in the mirror and deal with, I wasn’t ready to admit and face that. It’s a shame. I didn’t even know how to do it. I didn’t even have that presence of mind until I was 27 or 28.
“When I came to Cleveland, I knew if we all wanted to win a championship, I had to look inward.”
Love now is the young Cavaliers’ oldest player on a team that said farewell to James two summers ago. He told teammate John Henson on Henson’s 29th birthday last week to just wait until he turns 30.
“Somehow you just settle in,” Love said. “The things that aren’t as important, you put them over there and compartmentalize the things that really matter.”
Despite his $28.9 million salary, Love is a candidate to be traded before February’s trade deadline by a Cavs team aimed at the future.
For now, he is the Cavaliers’ best — and best-paid — player and most veteran leader.
“I look back and I’m so thankful I went through all I have and have been to the mountaintop,” Love said last weekend, “so now I can be a better teammate, a better veteran for these guys.”