Kevin Love dismisses critics, says it 'just comes with the territory'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- NBA champion Kevin Love looks at the world just a little bit differently than regular old NBA player Kevin Love used to.

His last two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers were rife with speculation surrounding his fit next to two ball-dominant players in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Questions abounded about whether both Love and the Cavs would be better off trading him away.

Love says that noise still exists; he just has learned to block it out.

"They'll never be gone," Love said Friday when asked about the critics. "That's just something that you live with. We have so much hype and media and the good and the bad surrounding this team and it just comes with the territory.

"So, I love this team, love the coaching staff, my teammates, the organization. I mean, I don't think it will ever leave but frankly, I don't really give a s---."

Cavs fans last saw Love on the court locking up two-time MVP Stephen Curry on the perimeter in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, as Curry missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer with 30 seconds left had it gone down.

"The Stop," as it's affectionately been dubbed in Northeast Ohio, was followed in short order by Love becoming the first player to embrace James after the final buzzer, as tears ran down James' face.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, who Love credited for opening up his game with a well-timed speech in front of the team late in the regular season, said he's seen a shift in his power forward's mentality during camp.

"It looks like the monkey is off his back because we won a championship," Lue said. "Going through it last year, winning a championship and being a big part of what we do (was big for him). Those first three rounds he was unbelievable. I thought LeBron did a great job of letting Kyrie and Kevin really emerge in the playoffs those first three rounds. They got all the confidence in the world and it was big. Now we have to keep building from there."

James says any change in Love's demeanor is just the media's misperception.

"He's the same Kev to me," James said. "Maybe he's different to you guys because you guys bring up that notion (of how he fits in), no one wants to hear that right now. He's a huge piece to our team, he's one of our Big Three, and when we all perform well, you see what happens. You see in Game 7 when we all came to play, played at a high level, so we was able to bring that home.

"But, you know, he looks unbelievable, he's in shape. Not that he's ever been out of shape, but he's in great form shooting the ball extremely well, great command of what we're doing, he's a good leader for our team."

Love came into camp with a more sculpted physique than in the past, having spent the summer working out with Cavs training staff members in both Park City, Utah, and Los Angeles. While he was getting his body right for the season, trade rumors persisted.

Did he hear them?

"Trade rumors, you know, I don't know," an apoplectic Love said. "You lose a couple games ... No, I don't know how to answer that. No. I'm here, man. I plan on being here a very long time."

Despite the Cavs winning it all, Love's numbers did dip from 16 points and 9.9 rebounds in the regular season to 14.7 points and 8.8 rebounds in the postseason. He was benched in the fourth quarter of both Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference finals and missed Game 3 of the Finals completely because of a concussion.

Yet Lue says Love's impact was clear.

"Y'all keep asking the same question," Lue said. "It's sacrifice. When you have three great players, everybody is not going to have the ball and have the same numbers they had on other teams. It's like when Chris Bosh went to Miami. That's how we've got to treat Kevin. It's the same way. That don't mean he's not a great player, it means he's the one who's got to sacrifice. To win you have to do that."

Love wants to keep on winning. The championship might have steeled him, but it didn't satisfy.

"Of course hanging a banner is huge for us and I shook all of your guys' hands at the parade, it was an amazing time," Love said, "but now it's back to work and we'll do it all over again. So, let's go to work."