After all the speculation and intrigue surrounding Kevin Love’s foray into the free agent market, the star power forward ended up right where he said he would all along — in Cleveland.
Love announced in The Players Tribune on Wednesday that after his uneven first season ended with a serious shoulder injury, he is coming back to help LeBron James finish what they started together last season.
“We’re all on the same page and we’re all in,” Love wrote. “We have unfinished business and now it’s time to get back to work.”
Love agreed to terms on a maximum contract of five years that could be worth more than $110 million, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details have not been released. No NBA contract can be signed until July 9.
Love opted out of the final year of his existing contract to hit the open market, a financially motivated decision aimed at getting more security after suffering some significant injuries over the last few years.
The Lakers, Celtics and Suns were among the teams believed to be interested in Love, who was viewed by many across the league as gettable after he struggled at times to find his place with James and Kyrie Irving. He was spotted at a pool meeting with James and other teammates earlier this week, a meeting he alluded to in the piece he published on Wednesday.
“Yeah, of course I’ve heard the free agency rumors,” Love wrote. “But at the end of the day, and after meeting with my teammates (it turns out pools are great meeting places) and with the front office, it was clear Cleveland was the place for me.”
It wasn’t always that clear during a rocky beginning.
After James chose to return to Cleveland last summer, he targeted Love as a running mate with the new-look Cavaliers. Cleveland sent the previous two No. 1 overall selections — Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett — to Minnesota in the three-team deal to bring Love in and form new power trio aimed at ending the city’s 50-year championship drought.
But after being the face of the Timberwolves franchise for six seasons, Love had a difficult time in his new role as the third wheel in Cleveland. His averages of 17.5 points, 10.4 rebounds and 13.5 shots per game were all the lowest since he came off the bench as a rookie in Minnesota, and every tweet and quote between him and James was heavily scrutinized and dissected to try to decipher how the two All-Stars were getting along.
Love said all along that he just wanted to win, and the Cavs turned a worrisome 19-20 start into a blazing 34-9 finish to surge to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Just as Love was figuring out how best to play with James and Irving and his team entered the postseason for the first time in his seven-year career, it all came to an end.
Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk pulled Love’s shoulder out of its socket during their tense first-round series, ending Love’s season.
Irving was injured in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and James carried the Cavaliers the rest of the way, a six-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Watching from behind the bench made Love even more determined to return healthy and give James the help he needs.
“After Game 1 of the NBA Finals, that’s when it really struck me,” Love wrote. “Sitting on the sidelines, I never wanted to play in a game more than that one. I had dreamed of playing in the NBA Finals and I just wanted to help my guys win. I couldn’t have been prouder of them as they poured their blood, sweat and tears onto the court.”
Now that Love is back in the fold, the Cavaliers can turn their attention to Tristan Thompson, another free agent whom James wants to return.