He said it again last month when the two former teammates got together in New York and Love got the chance to say it to James’ family as well. Love and James are in a good place, which hasn’t always been the case with teammates when James has left teams in the past. It absolutely wasn’t the case when he left Cleveland the first time around, when several friendships eroded quickly and publicly.
So last week I wasn’t sure what Love was going to say when I asked him this: “Let’s say next summer a star free agent calls you and asks what it’s like to play with LeBron James. What would you say?”
This is relevant for several reasons. One, the Los Angeles Lakers have constructed their game plan around landing another star in free agency next summer. Two, between Kyrie Irving asking out of Cleveland, Paul George not even taking a meeting with the Lakers and Jimmy Butler reportedly not having L.A. on his preferred trade list, there is some question as to the drawing power James has among stars at the moment. Three, perhaps no teammate ran the gauntlet of positive and negative consequences of being with James more than Love did over the last four years.
“Well, it depends on whether we’re talking about a perimeter player or a post player,” Love said, trying to demur and perhaps trying to inject a plug for Shock Doctor, a mouthpiece he believes saved his teeth last season when he got run over in a game in Miami and the supposed reason for this interview.
Finally, though, Love made the point.
“You have to follow. You have to learn a lot about that,” he said.
Love said that when he was in Minnesota he felt like he should have been more of a leader, that it was something expected of him. He worked on it, tried to study it, as the franchise player he thought it was his role. It didn’t exactly work out, as anyone will tell you. But he never really had someone to follow, either.
“It was hard to, that place was a revolving door. We didn’t have veterans, and there was no continuity,” Love said, perhaps with some irony, as that apparently continues to be an issue for the Timberwolves today. “I had some bad habits.”
Bottom line, Love wasn’t quite ready when he got to Cleveland and encountered the force that was James, who made sure everyone knew where he stood. On the first day of practice in Cleveland in 2014, James halted the proceedings and took everyone into the locker room to run a players-only meeting where he described the role each player on the team would be expected to play. Coach David Blatt waited on the practice court for James to dismiss the team.
James has mellowed somewhat and perhaps learned to use a softer hand. At his first practice with the Lakers he didn’t even address the team and afterward said that was coach Luke Walton’s job.
Nonetheless, Love’s point is well taken. Most of the time a star player is going to be the de facto voice o