PHOENIX -- A day after saying star forward Kevin Love was "not a max player yet," Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt sought to clarify his remarks, explaining his intent was to avoid breaking any tampering rules rather than to disparage his player.
Following the Cavs' 103-84 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, Blatt got defensive when a reporter pointed out the Cavs' struggles despite still having two "max" players in the lineup in Love and Kyrie Irving.
"Well, Kev's not a max player yet, is he?" Blatt responded.
Blatt presumably was alluding to the fact that Love signed a four-year extension with Minnesota in 2012 instead of the maximum length of five years, but Love's yearly salary still was the maximum number allowed at the time. Love is expected to opt out of the final year of his current contract this summer to sign another max deal.
Blatt's comment quickly made the rounds on the Internet, making the coach a trending topic on Twitter, and garnering the public's attention amid the aftermath of the NFL playoffs and the Golden Globes on Sunday.
"I don't pay a lot of attention to social media but I think my comment was either misunderstood or misconstrued," Blatt said after Cavs practice Monday at Grand Canyon University. "I was simply saying that with our team, he does not have a max contract because we're not allowed to talk to him about anything until after this season is over. That was really where I was going with that. So I think that's very unfortunate the way that that turned out. That's the way of the world sometimes. I guess I got to be clearer in my thoughts."
Blatt said he talked to Love on Monday about what he had said.
"I did mention it to him just because what I heard [the reaction to it was], but he had no problem with it," Blatt said. "He understands as well as I do sometimes things get taken out of context or even maybe I just wasn't clear in what I meant. But I hope now you understand exactly what I meant. Kevin Love, for me, is a player of the highest order, and whether you want to define that by max contract or any other thing, he's one of the best players in the NBA, and that's the way we value him."
Added Blatt: "I just got to be clearer, that's all. You live and learn."
Love acknowledged that Blatt's comment created a stir but seemed to understand his coach's explanation.
"There was obviously a reaction," Love said. "Not from me. I wanted to get the context of it all. But once I got the context and what he was talking about, he's right. We can't talk about anything about this summer or contracts or anything of that nature. So I just let it roll off [my back]. We had a great practice today, and more than anything, I just think it's unfortunate that that's what we're talking about when we're what, 1-8 in our last nine [games]. So we need to win a basketball game or win basketball games here headed forward, so I'm not really trying to think about that too much."
Love seemed bemused by the hubbub, much the way he reacted earlier in the season when his postgame handshake with Irving was thought to involve the pair smoking an imaginary joint, when they were mimicking twisting the ends of their mustache whiskers.
"I had a short conversation with Coach Blatt," Love said. "I know that things can be misconstrued, but it's just the way of the world and it didn't bother me none."
Blatt also was asked whether his first year coaching in the NBA has been a more difficult job than he imagined it would be.
"No, it's just hard when you're in a tough period, but that has more to do with the professional side than anything else," he said. "But certainly coming to the NBA as a player, as a coach, it does require a particular mindset. There's a learning curve that's involved regardless of your experience level, regardless of your skill level. It's a different animal, the NBA, and I'm learning that and learning and will continue to do so."
Love said the team understands the transition Blatt is trying to make.
"As teammates out there on the floor, we're all new to each other so we can empathize with kind of what he's going through," Love said. "He's a first-time head coach in this league, so it's just been a little bit of an adjustment for him. Good thing is, we have a good coaching staff that can help him out. And we'll just continue to keep fighting with him, and we thought, especially today, if we're talking about the present, we had an awesome practice today. He was great, and I thought the entire team really brought it."