Kevin Love 'happy with how things are progressing' in shoulder rehab

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Kevin Love expects to be back on the court for opening night of the 2015-16 season and says he will be wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey while doing so.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since undergoing season-ending surgery on his separated shoulder at the end of April, Love said he is "happy with how things are progressing" in his rehab.

"I truly haven't even thought about it, but as I mentioned, I expect to be suiting up by Game 1 of next year," Love said Sunday after taking a break from his rehab to update his status.

A reporter followed up by asking Love whether he meant he would be suiting up for the Cavs, and the All-Star forward quickly replied, "Yes, sir."

Love has one year remaining on his contract that would pay him $16.7 million for next season. He could decide to opt out by June 30 to either negotiate a new deal with Cleveland, which could offer him a five-year contract, or test the market as an unrestricted free agent, where the most he could fetch is a four-year deal per the terms of the league's collective bargaining agreement.

The power forward dislocated his shoulder in Game 4 of the first round against the Boston Celtics when Kelly Olynyk pulled down on Love's left arm and yanked it out of the socket. Olynyk received a one-game suspension, which he will serve at the start of next season, after the NBA reviewed the play.

Love called Olynyk's involvement a "bush-league play" immediately after the game but has since softened his stance.

"I initially was very emotional about the play," Love said. "I think everybody thinks, 'Oh, he's going to be able to come back, pop it right in,' but at the time when it happened, I kind of knew. And about a week went by, reached out to Kelly, sent him a text and said, 'Hey, it's all good. It was a tough play.' And we just move on from there."

The Cavs have gone 8-2 since Love went out, beating the Chicago Bulls in the conference semifinals before sweeping the Atlanta Hawks to earn the franchise's first trip to the Finals since 2007. Love was cleared to travel with the team during the Hawks series and expressed excitement about joining his teammates for Games 1 and 2 in Golden State beginning Thursday.

"Obviously I'd rather be out there playing, and that is, as a human being, from a human being aspect, is very tough," Love said. "But as far as being here and supporting the guys and now being able to travel, it's a lot of fun, and I still feel like I'm a big part of this."

Love's connection to the team was called into question at times during the regular season, but the seven-year veteran said he has kept in close contact with several teammates -- Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova in particular -- with the aid of FaceTime during the playoffs while he has been away from the team taking care of his shoulder.

"What's great about technology these days is, when you have that, you can keep in touch with family and teammates from afar," Love said. "But also we have the group texts that are kind of us all roasting each other, which is pretty fun."

Love said he has lost approximately 15 pounds since the surgery and has been limited to the exercise bike, treadmill and elliptical machine to stay in shape.

He is nearly five weeks into his training regimen, and everything has gone off without a hitch -- excluding a scare caused by celebrating the Cavs' sweep of Atlanta last week.

"It was great," Love said. "But I'll tell you why it was bad because the first moment I walk out there -- the teammate will remain nameless -- I go up and give him a big hug and say, 'Congratulations!' And he takes his arm and goes, 'Oh yeah, man,' and just hits me right on the shoulder. Some of the front-office staff that was out there with me kind of had to grab me and say, 'Are you OK?'

"I had one of those moments where I was like, 'I might have to go back to the locker room. How's that going to look? I'll have to sit down.' I just tried to take deep breaths, calm myself and got home and iced as quickly as I could."

"Obviously I'd rather be out there playing, and that is, as a human being, from a human being aspect, is very tough. But as far as being here and supporting the guys and now being able to travel, it's a lot of fun, and I still feel like I'm a big part of this."
Kevin Love, on following the Cavs' playoff run from the sideline

Love was in good spirits and was even able to chuckle at his own expense when a reporter asked him whether he thought LeBron James has been the MVP of the postseason, making a thinly veiled reference to Love naming Russell Westbrook as his choice for regular-season MVP over James during a radio interview in March.

"Well, how should I answer that?" Love said with a laugh. "Yes, I do."

Added Love: "I'll continue to work and try to get healthy over the summer and come back ready to play Game 1 [of next season]. But like I mentioned, I'm super happy for these guys, proud of these guys, and there's times where I've felt down because of my shoulder and they've been here to pick me back up, and that's kind of how it's been the whole year."