Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love on inbounds pass snafu: ‘The intent there wasn’t malicious’

Less than 24 hours had passed since Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love inadvertently swatted a ball inbounds late in Monday’s game against the Toronto Raptors that led to a turnover and a wide-open 3-pointer. Since then, Love seemed in a better mood with his tone and more contrite with his words.

"The intent there wasn’t malicious," Love told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. "It wasn’t against the team."

With 33 seconds left in the third quarter, Raptors guard Malachi Flynn drove past Love for a layup just before Raptors forward Freddie Gillipsie shoved Love from behind. After stopping his momentum at the stanchion, Love glared at official Courtney Kirkland. Earlier in the game, Love had also been shoved from behind without any call. So when official Brandon Schwab gave Love the ball for the inbounds pass, he swatted at the ball instead of passing it to Cavs guard Darius Garland. The ball incidentally went in-bounds, resulting in Raptors forward Stanley Johnson picking up the loose ball and finding Flynn for the open 3-pointer.

Kevin Love wyd? 😬

🎥: @Raptors

"Not to say too much that could get me fined, but it was the officiating," Love said. "When I snagged that ball, I didn’t realize it wasn’t even inbounds. I was a little thrown off. I was going to go grab it and throw back into passing the ball to DG and move on. I get the optics. That’s something I have to take on the chin and understand that was a very bad look."

So after sitting the entire fourth quarter, Love said he apologized to the team in the locker room where teammates, coaches and front office staff were present. Love said "they all understand it was a quick moment," and the Cavaliers are not expected to discipline him. He added that he and Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff "have a great relationship." But after an unnamed teammate showed Love video of the incident, he became more aware of the potential big-picture ramifications.

"It’s something that you handle internally," Love said. "Over the course of the season, these types of things happen. Now in the world that we live in, that becomes a viral video or a meme. Everybody starts to talk about it. But with the relationship I have with my teammates, coaches and front office, everybody will take these 24-48 hours and then move on."

Season-long challenges

This moment partly captured the season-long challenges Love has faced with helping the Cavaliers (21-40) as they sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Though Cleveland has a five-time All-Star (Love) and promising young talent (Garland, Collin Sexton, Larry Nance Jr.), the Cavaliers have missed a combined 212 games because of injuries. Love has missed 34 of those games after straining his right calf.

This moment also partly reflected Love’s ongoing process in dealing with mental health challenges, and finding ways to improve his wellness. Incidentally, the Kevin Love Fund has partnered with Coa to offer free virtual emotional fitness classes to 1,000 people through May in lieu of Mental Health Awareness Month. Love described Coa as "the world’s first mental health gym" that has therapist-led emotional fitness classes, therapist matchmaking and one-on-one therapy. Those classes will help participants master seven traits of emotional fitness, which Love said includes self awareness, empathy, mindfulness. curiosity, play, resilience and overcoming obstacles. Love added the classes will also center on "the community aspect" to help people deal with issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and predicted "the impact will be huge."

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