Cavaliers' Kevin Love carving niche

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- There was a widely held assumption heading into this season regarding the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers.

Before they even broke their first sweat as a group or touched the lines on their first sprints of training camp, many believed that out of all of Cleveland's talented pieces, Kevin Love would be the one to take a backseat.

Love would be the one to make the sacrifices from his gaudy averages of 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game last season, the thought went, because the other members of the Cavs' Big Three -- LeBron James and Kyrie Irving--- would always be controlling the basketball.

Love's touches would be at their whim.

Based on how Love has performed in the preseason, following up a 25-point performance against the Miami Heat with 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting (5-for-7 from 3) in a 106-100 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, the All-Star forward is rejecting that premise and creating his own paradigm.

"I'm comfortable and just not trying to, I guess, fit in so much," Love said after the game. "I had a talk with the guys on the plane ride over (to Brazil) and also at different practices off the floor and they told me to fit out. Just be myself.

"I kind of laughed and smirked at that. Off the court, I never have any problems with that. But on the court, it's just us having so many weapons and being able to fit together out there on the floor ... You always say check your egos at the door but we also need to bring our egos with us because that's what makes us so great. We wouldn't be here without them."

Love's performance against Milwaukee was unencumbered by James and Irving, however.

James had the night off to rest as the Cavs begin a stretch of three games in four nights this week. He will play in Wednesday's exhibition against the Indiana Pacers in Cincinnati.

Irving has been sidelined for more than a week as he recovers from a sprained right ankle.

Cleveland coach David Blatt acknowledged the balancing act that Love finds himself in.

"I am not now, nor was I ever really concerned with his numbers as far as last year was concerned," Blatt said. "I just thought, as we all in Cleveland thought, that this is one heck of a basketball player that can score, that can pass, that can rebound (and) that has experience even though he's only 25 years old and then is very hungry to succeed.

"I can't really say that I expect more or less from him because I expect a lot from him every day. His adjustment indeed was a particular one because when you start playing suddenly with players like LeBron and like Kyrie and other players that we have, you have to find you way in the team. But overall we're kind of a new team, so everybody is sort of trying to fit in and find out how they can bring their piece and at the same time impact positively on the rest. And that's what Kevin is doing."

After going just 2-for-6 from the field in the Cavs' preseason debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv with both James and Irving in the lineup, Love went 8-for-12 against the Heat (with Irving out) and followed that up with another big game against the Bucks as the lone member of the Big Three in the lineup.

Love, who bumped knees with Milwaukee's Jabari Parker in the third quarter and ended his night after just 21 minutes, says he will play against the Pacers.

It will be a chance for him and James to work on their two-man chemistry again. Cleveland hopes to have the entire trio back intact Friday against Dallas if Irving is feeling well enough to play. And they'll get another chance to mesh all of their games together without anybody getting lost in the mix.

"It will take time, but in our conversations that we had as a unit and as a group not only just us three, we're all unselfish by nature," Love said. "We all affect the game in different ways because obviously we play different positions. So, as Bron mentioned, this is going to be Kyrie's show because he has the ball in his hands so much. He's going to be predominately with the ball in his hands. LeBron is going to be the same way and then hopefully I can be, I'd love to be, just 'Mr. Reliable' out there. Be able to do anything out there on the court that this team needs and everybody else will fit in after that."

It's that combination of talent that brought Love to Cleveland in the first place, when it was reported he had interest in other teams in more glamorous locations such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago.

"That was always the thought that, not from myself but from other people - and I'd like to point the finger at you guys (in the media) -- that I was going to a bigger market," Love said. "And the thing that I had always stressed was that I just wanted to win and I wanted to be in an opportunity where I felt like I could do that and now I'm there. "