Throughout NBA history, there have been several iterations of the prodigal son coming home to play or fulfill a front office role for the team he grew up watching. Occasionally it will be lucky enough to be a draft pick like LeBron James or Michael Jordan returning to Charlotte as part owner. It’s a narrative that has held its ground even as basketball has evolved and players have gained more and more agency in their contracts. Just in this off-season thus far, Jabari Parker signed a 2-year contract with his hometown of Chicago, but it only pales in comparison to the Kawhi-Los Angeles saga we were all subjected to for months. Klay Thompson’s upcoming free agency continues to fuel Lakers rumors, but I would imagine having his father on staff is also helpful.
In the afternoon of July 24, it was reported that Kevin Love would be signing a 4-year contract extension with the Cavaliers. In addition to the remaining year he has on his contract, this totals 5 years for $145 million, just shy of the maximum. While it’s not surprising Cleveland is trying to retain LeBron’s former number two and (still) current workout partner, it is surprising they’re doubling down so much on a guy who has never proved to be “the guy.” While his role as sidekick was satisfactory, the Timberwolves-edition of Kevin Love is sometimes talked about like we talk about the eclipse; incredible to witness but if you didn’t see it for yourself, it’s hard to muster enthusiasm for it
Kevin Love’s homecoming in Portland has long been discussed as a far-future prospect; when he’s entering the last leg of his NBA journey and wants to retire at home. It’s something I’ve wrestled with internally because I had to live through Kevin Love-Kyle Singler Mania in 2007; it was hard to be empathetic to a guy I knew to have gone to high school in a place where my high school would have been the equivalent to third-world pen pals for them. But as he made his way through the NBA, I had a difficult time not rooting for one of the few players to emerge out of Portland. Notably after him speaking out about mental health, following DeMar Derozan’s own moment concerning depression. With reliable numbers and positive attitude, I would be naive to say he wouldn’t make a wonderful addition to the Blazers, especially in a locker room sense. The question now is when, if ever, will it be good time for Love to return to Portland?
In this upcoming year, Love will be making his smallest paycheck of the next five years at $24.1 million. In the remaining four years, he will be making an average of $30 million, plateauing at years two and three and decreasing in the final 2022-2023 season. This makes Love an expensive option for the Blazers until his contract is complete and potentially not even feasible with current limited cap space. It would be atrocious to match this offer now, but by 2022 when Love is heading into his final year on his contract, it could be a viable option to a team that has been need of a third man since CJ was drafted. But my realist identity kicks in when I realize in 2022, Lillard will be 34, McCollom will be 31, and Love will be 33; not exactly the youthful team that the Blazers are trying to capitalize on in the moment, let alone if we still have the two guards by then. The idea of taking on a $30 million dollar contract for an elder Kevin Love would be radical, but nothing short of something Oshley would pull to fill seats.
I hope Kevin Love is able to make his way back to the Pacific Northwest eventually but more so, I hope Kevin Love’s name is associated with the Pacific Northwest in a positive light again. And not in a Lake Oswego High School student kind of way. After being LeBron’s sidekick for the last 4 years, it’s arguably been his biggest role but I think settling into red and black would compliment the salt and pepper look much more with a couple of killer guards next to him, instead of being surrounded by the ghosts of LeBron’s past.