LeBron James once told Kevin Love he would be the piece to deliver Olympic gold to Team USA. Now he is speaking as if Love could be the final piece to end Cleveland's 50-year championship drought.
James was cautious to dance around league rules Friday during his "Welcome Home LeBron Celebration" at InfoCision Stadium, but made it clear he is in favor of the Cavs acquiring the three-time All-Star from the Minnesota Timberwolves. League rules prohibit the Cavs and Timberwolves from consummating the deal until Aug. 23.
"If he comes aboard and signs, I can tell you I'm going to be very excited to have him," James told reporters Friday in his first public comments since rejoining the Cavaliers last month. "I don't really care about the 26 1/8points3/8 and 12 1/8rebounds3/8. I care about the basketball IQ. His basketball IQ is very, very high."
James hedged his Love remarks by insisting he isn't getting his hopes up since the deal can't be completed for another two weeks. That's when the Cavs can trade rookie Andrew Wiggins, the centerpiece of the deal. Yahoo Sports reported this week a trade agreement is already in place, but both teams have remained silent because of league rules.
Love's arrival, however, appears imminent. And the move clearly has James' endorsement after the two spent a month together at the 2012 London Olympics.
"I always told him he was going to be the reason why we won the gold medal, and he played a huge role for us," James said. "I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully it happens and everything is done right from a league-rules standard. He's a great piece."
When he was asked about the current supporting players on the Cavs, James spoke glowingly about Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao, but he again neglected to mention Wiggins just as he omitted Wiggins from his Sports Illustrated essay announcing his decision to return.
James wrote in the essay he knew it wouldn't be easy and his patience would be tested, but the addition of Love alongside James and Kyrie Irving would certainly expedite the Cavs' learning curve.
Nate Silver, the numbers whiz who correctly predicted all 50 states in the 2012 presidential election, projected the Cavs to win 65 games next season if they acquire Love.
James remains cautious, however, in part because neither Love nor Irving has ever reached the postseason.
The only current Cavs to reach the playoffs and play significant roles are James, Varejao, Mike Miller and James Jones.
"I'm going to have to teach, lead and inspire those guys," James said of the Cavs' youngsters. "But my No. 1 goal is to win the championship here. I think it would be the greatest achievement in my life as far as on the court. Hopefully it will happen. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
James said he first considered returning home when he came back from his family vacation. He stayed away from his phone and let his Cleveland-based agent, Rich Paul, handle the meetings with prospective teams. Then he made his decision over his final two days in Las Vegas for his skills camp.
James met Cavs coach David Blatt for the first time recently while filming a movie in New York. Blatt flew to New York to meet with him and the two spoke briefly, although James still knows little about his new coach.
He said the first thing he did after deciding to return was read up on Blatt's offensive schemes, since he heard so much about Blatt being an offensive guru.
James structured his contract with the Cavs to allow him to again enter free agency after each of the next two seasons, but implied Friday that was a maneuver to take advantage of the league's next television contract, when max salaries could increase dramatically.
He seemed to make it clear he plans on ending his career with the Cavaliers, who have been operating under that assumption for the last month.
"I don't plan on going anywhere," James said. "I don't have the energy to do it again."
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