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Kevin Love says Tokyo Olympics could signal new phase in his career

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Kevin Love discussed his role with Team USA, as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Credit: AP
Kevin Love passes during training for USA Basketball, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from a previous story.

When Kevin Love accepted an invitation to play for the USA men's national basketball team in the Tokyo Olympics this summer, he knew he wouldn't be featured in a starring role.

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The same thing, however, could be said about the future of his NBA career.

Speaking to reporters from USA Basketball's training camp in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Tuesday, Love discussed what would be fair to call a crossroads of his career. A five-time All-Star, former NBA champion and two-time Olympian, Love is undoubtedly one of the league's most accomplished players. But the Cleveland Cavaliers forward acknowledged that after three consecutive injury-plagued seasons, his days of being the focal point of a team's offense are likely behind him.

"I think I understand going into my 14th season that probably being that No. 1 guy, playing 35 minutes, getting 20 touches a game, is probably in my rearview," the 32-year-old Love said. "But in how I can affect a team at my level now and feeling how I'm feeling now, I know that I can do it at a very high level. So I don't try to put a ceiling or limit on myself at all. So long as I'm feeling good, I know I'm going to play good."

Feeling good has been easier said than done for Love, who has appeared in just 102 of the Cavs' 219 games over the past three seasons. Suffice to say, that's hardly what Cleveland was expecting when it signed the UCLA product to a four-year, $120 million contract extension following LeBron James' free agency departure in 2018.

Love's availability -- or lack thereof -- coupled with his own frustration over the Cavs' ongoing rebuild has seemingly led to a natural breaking point for his time in Cleveland. The two years and $60 million remaining on Love's contract, however, has made him difficult to trade and has led to speculation that a contract buyout might be best for both parties.

Whether that will happen or if a strong showing in the Olympics can rejuvenate his trade value will be determined in the weeks and months ahead. What seems more certain is that Love's time in Tokyo, where he'll primarily be counted on to provide rebounding and three-point spacing, could serve as a preview of what's to come in his NBA career, whether it be in Cleveland or somewhere else.

"I do feel like on [the Cavs] or whichever team I end up on, this USA Team, this is something that I can continue to progress in the right way for anybody," Love said. "It doesn't matter who I'm out there with or who I'm playing with out there on the floor; I'm going to bring my style of basketball and do whatever I need to do to win."