“If he comes aboard and signs, I can tell you I’m going to be very excited to have him.”
That was LeBron James speaking at a "Welcome Home" rally in Akron Friday night, an event attended by more than 20,000 people excited about the return of the best basketball player in the world.
And who was the best basketball player in the world talking about? Timberwolves (for now) power forward Kevin Love.
The 26-year-old All-Star is reportedly being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for No. 1 draft picks Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, plus a 2015 first-round pick. It's just a matter of time, as Wiggins – taken in last month's draft – can't be traded until Aug. 23, per NBA rules.
So while LeBron talked openly at the rally about his love for Love, he was careful to tiptoe around the edges of confirming it's actually a done deal (which the teams have also done), ESPN reports.
"We can't get too far into it because of league rules, we don't know for sure," James reportedly said. "I'm not getting my hopes too high on it right now because you don't know what could happen between now and the 23rd."
The original report of a done deal – by Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski – also said Love had an agreement to opt out of his contract after next year, then re-sign with Cleveland on a five-year, $120 million-plus deal.
Which, as ESPN notes, is illegal. And if the league finds proof such an agreement exists, it could veto the trade altogether.
But that didn't stop James from heaping praise on Love, as the Akron Beacon Journal writes.
The two played together on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, which won the gold medal in London. And James dipped into their experience there.
“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, according to the Beacon Journal. “I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully it happens and everything is done right from a league-rules standard. He’s a great piece.”
James, Love, Irving – a Cavalier analysis
With a deal feeling more like a "when" than an "if," analysts and sports websites are beginning to break down how a team of James, Love and young point guard Kyrie Irving will play together – and what the expectations should be.
Dan Devine of Yahoo! Sports says Love is an "A+ pick-and-pop option," and his perimeter shooting will provide ample space for his new teammates to operate and thrive in.
A visual piece by ESPN breaks it down into six parts, from recognizing and taking advantage of the team's expected strength (offense, fast break scoring, rebounding) to being patient with the problems (no frontcourt defense).
Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight went with a statistical approach (as he's known to do), and ran new projections based on the rumored deal. His conclusion: The Cavs should be expected to win 65 games this upcoming season. He cautions it by saying it depends on health of course, and how well Love and James mesh as scorers. But either way, he says, the team should contend for a title.