Ric Bucher: Love Injury Doesn’t Change Anything For Cleveland

The Cleveland Cavaliers rejected a Carmelo-Anthony-for-Kevin-Love trade offer earlier this month, but might the Cavs change their tune now that Love will miss six weeks recovering from knee surgery?

Doug Gottlieb doesn’t think so. Neither does Bleacher Report NBA analyst Ric Bucher.

“I don’t think it changes anything at all,” Bucher said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I know that they want to get a playmaking point guard. That’s still their No. 1 objective, but any move at this point to try to shore up what you have in the short term for Kevin Love would be a very short-sighted move. The reality is that they don’t need home-court advantage. They don’t need to have the best record in the East. They need to have all hands on deck when they get to April, May and June – and they have that by virtue of once you come back from being down 3-1 in the NBA Finals, there is nothing that you collectively can’t overcome. And I still believe that if they have everybody, if Love is back, J.R. Smith is back – regardless of who they get as a backup point guard – that they’re capable of beating the Golden State Warriors.”

 

Make no mistake: the Cavs (37-16) will miss Love, who is averaging 20.0 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists this season. But with a two-game cushion in the standings – and without a serious playoff threat in the East – Cleveland needs to think big picture.

“Be cautious about playing LeBron a ton of minutes just to maintain your spot,” Bucher said. “They don’t need a particular seed. They don’t need home-court advantage. They just need to have everybody together when the time comes to play the stiffer competition. Even the first round, I say April, May and June, but it’s probably May because chances are whoever they face in the first round in the Eastern Conference, they could beat them right now.”

Case in point: if the playoffs started today, Cleveland would face Detroit (26-30).

Looking at the Knicks, meanwhile, Bucher doesn’t think Anthony will be dealt before the Feb. 23 deadline, but he does think an offseason deal is possible, if not likely.

“I don’t think Melo goes anywhere at the moment,” Bucher said. “I would expect that’s going to be an offseason change. What the Knicks have to get back, what they’re seeking – and I don’t know ultimately if they get it – but what they’re seeking is a 2017 first-round pick that might give them an opportunity at some of the franchise talent that is in this draft. Now that may be shooting very, very high and beyond what they’re capable of getting, but you don’t really know what you’re getting until the draft lottery – and if you’re not getting that, then what else are you getting? Phil Jackson poisoned the waters with Carmelo Anthony in the midst of the season at a time when they were firmly entrenched – it was early – but firmly entrenched in a playoff spot.”

Jackson called Anthony a ball-stopper, and the Knicks (23-33) – who started 16-13 – have lost 20 of their last 27 games.

“You can work on letting the guy know he’s not wanted, but don’t sacrifice this season in doing it,” Bucher said. “And now that you have, wherever this goes, I would say you’re going to make a short-sighted trade just to get him moved by the trade deadline. What, to salvage this season? I would rather wait until after the season and make a deal (once) the Clippers have a better sense of what Blake Griffin is doing, depending on what happens with them in the postseason. There’s a lot of things that could change the mood and the temperament of some of the people that you’re dealing with that might allow you to get back a little bit more for Carmelo. Carmelo might actually look like a savior for somebody in the offseason as opposed to right now where it’s almost like they’re doing the Knicks a favor by taking him off their hands.”

In other news, Orlando (21-36) traded Serge Ibaka to Toronto for Terrence Ross and a first-round draft pick Tuesday. Ibaka, who is averaging 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, signed with Orlando last offseason but has already been shown the door.

What are the Magic doing?

“They’re raising the white flag is what they’re doing,” Bucher said. “Serge was intending on staying in Orlando, I’ve been told. He wanted to stay there, but the team has gone sideways. I’m told that Frank Vogel has lost that locker room. They haven’t made the progress that was expected, so Ibaka was not going to stay – and that was not what the intention was by him or what the plan was for Orlando when they got him. But this is what happens when you have a bad team and you are underachieving.”

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