BOSTON -- As the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves mired at the bottom of the NBA standings, losers of 12 of their past 13 games heading into Monday night's game here against the Boston Celtics, All-Star forward Kevin Love finds himself waiting to find out if he'll be traded.
Love, though, says that's nothing new during his five-plus seasons with the Cavaliers.
"Nothing's changed," Love told ESPN after Cleveland's morning shootaround at TD Garden. "What I mean by that is, since I got here they've been ... since I f---ing got here, there's been talk of me being traded, so it's nothing different. If they decide to go that way, I've just got to know it's part of the business, or if we decide to go that way, it's part of the business.
"Truthfully, I don't know how it's going to play out, because I see both sides."
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday that the Cavaliers are "expressing a willingness to listen to offers" for Love, a five-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA selection, as the Dec. 15 deadline for many of the contracts signed this summer to become eligible to be traded approaches. That's typically the day that officially kicks the NBA's trade season into high gear.
As the lone player over 30 on a roster featuring six players under 25, four players in their first or second year and a first-year coach in John Beilein, Love's name stands out as Cleveland's most obvious trade candidate.
"I imagine, in a rebuild, it's easy to look at it, especially when it's down and out at this point, and say, 'Hey, we want to completely reset the deck and go young,'" Love told ESPN. "I understand that.
"But despite that, whether it's five months or five years, I'm always going to be able to come back to Cleveland no matter what, and I'll always love the fans, and be part of this organization, one way or another."
The question hanging over Love and the Cavaliers between now and the league's trade deadline at 3 p.m. on Feb. 6, however, is whether Love will remain a current part of the Cavaliers. Teams are interested in pursuing him, particularly in a season when there isn't a team dominating the league the way there has been for essentially the past decade -- first the Miami Heat of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and then the Golden State Warriors of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and, later, Kevin Durant.
Love could boost a team trying to make a playoff run. On the other hand, he is owed roughly $90 million over the next three years, through the 2022-23 season, when he'll make $28.9 million. With so many teams hoarding cap space for the next bumper crop of free agents in 2021, that long-term salary commitment will be a sticking point with teams hoping to straddle a line of contending now and staying flexible in the long term.
For Love, though, the immediate focus is surviving the recent onslaught of losses the Cavaliers have faced. Cleveland got off to a nice start, winning four of its first nine games. But since winning at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks on Nov. 10, the Cavaliers have just won once -- a 110-104 victory in Portland on Nov. 23.
In addition, they've lost by 24 points to the Heat, 33 to the Detroit Pistons, 41 to the Dallas Mavericks and 47 in Philadelphia to the 76ers on Saturday night. All of that is a far cry from earlier Cavaliers teams since he was acquired in the summer of 2014 to play alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Those Cavs made it to four straight NBA Finals and won a championship in 2016 before James left in free agency in 2018.
"It's tough to go from that level, and really playing for something, to this," Love told ESPN. "I think that's natural, to be really frustrated. I'm in my 12th year. I'm the oldest guy on the team at 31. I'm the vet, I still feel great ... [but] it's just different, not feeling that for a while, and expecting things to go different."
Love was visibly frustrated during Saturday's blowout loss, in which he came out with five minutes to go in the second half and didn't return. The Cavaliers had fallen behind by more than 40 points in the second quarter, and the game was already long over. That it came on the second half of a back-to-back, and four days after a 33-point loss at home to the Pistons, didn't help an already difficult situation -- especially for someone who already had spent the first seven years of his career missing the playoffs with Minnesota before the trade that brought him to Cleveland.
"People talk about frustration, or guys having bad body language, that's natural," Love told ESPN. "But it's on us, especially the players, to pick each other up. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. I've seen that before. But typically in life, as in basketball, things tend to unfold as they should. So the biggest thing I've said I was always going to do was keep doing right by my teammates, and especially with these young fellas, because it's not always like this. Having an intro like this to the NBA is tough.
"My first year, I think I won 23 games with the Timberwolves, but I was solo on the team in being the young guy. I had a ton of veterans, so they could take me under my wing and work with me. Here, it's kind of a little bit of a mix. Our identity isn't quite there. We're what, 23 games in? So it's tough to see that coming anytime soon, but we have to start taking steps in the right direction no matter how it plays out for me individually."
In the meantime, Love and the Cavaliers will try to find a way to turn things around. Doing so won't be easy, given the amount of youth on Cleveland's roster, and the lack of talent it has going up against many of its opponents.
But Love, as frustrated as he is by the losing, said the situation would be far worse for him if he hadn't taken the steps he has previously to work on his mental health.
"I think so," Love told ESPN, before adding with a smile, "Because I would have been really tripping out right now, had I not like, really set myself and allowed myself to be settled in."
Now Love will wait and see what happens between now and 3 p.m. on Feb. 6. Regardless of whether he gets traded or not, however, he said the desire to win remains.
"I think there's still that real push in the back, and that drive to win and be the best that I can be, and get the most out of myself," Love told ESPN. "But I think in times like this, it's really hard. And I think that's natural.
"But you just have to find ways to push through it. Because, if not, what the hell is the point?"