“It is odd,” Love said following the Cavaliers’ 116-106 loss versus Boston. “I know he’s been hurt, I know he’s been gearing up for the playoffs, as he should, and getting his body right and his mind right for that, but whenever he comes back I know for a fact that we and the whole city and the state of Ohio and everybody who remembers him from 2016, that big shot, it will be all love.”
Irving, 27, played for the Cavs for the first six seasons of his career. Although he acquired multiple awards, went to consecutive NBA Finals and played a huge part in capturing the team’s 2016 championship, the All-Star requested a trade from the team that drafted him.
In the summer of 2017, the Cavs dealt Irving to the Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a couple of draft picks, including one that turned into rookie standout Collin Sexton.
While the veteran made his return to Cleveland during the first regular season game of the 2017-18 season, Irving hasn’t returned since. Despite a lengthy seven-game series between the Cavs and Celtics during last year’s playoffs, Irving sat out with injury and never traveled to Cleveland.
“This is nothing against anybody not coming back, or Kyrie for that matter, but I know that as his former teammate and as a friend of his, I love him,” Love said. “Signing back on with the city of Cleveland, what, this is my fifth year now, will be heading into my sixth next year, like, this is a great city. The fans are going to support you. And when he does come back they’re going to embrace it and they’re going to support him.”
Love, on the other hand, has stuck it out in Ohio and has become a franchise favorite. The 6-foot-10 power forward is averaging 17.9 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists in his first full Cavs season without superstars Irving and LeBron James.
The Cavs and Celtics won’t face each other until again until the 2019-20 season.