Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett traded to Timberwolves
Power forward Love joins LeBron James in Cleveland
Olympic champions together, Kevin Love and LeBron James spent the last 30 days waiting to become teammates again.
Cleveland has craved a NBA championship for 50 years.
One drought over. One to go.
On the first day they were able to complete the long-discussed blockbuster trade, the Minnesota Timberwolves sent Love to the Cavaliers, who capped a spectacular summer on Saturday by acquiring the all-star power forward as another running mate for James and becoming instant title contenders.
James didn't waste any time in making Love feel at home.
"Welcome to the Land (at)kevinlove!" the four-time league MVP posted on his Twitter account.
Yes, Cleveland, a city without a major sports championship since 1964, has a new superstar.
The Timberwolves receive a bountiful return for parting with Love, the disgruntled face of their franchise. They acquired 2014 No. 1 overall draft choice Andrew Wiggins and former top pick Anthony Bennett, also from Canada, from the Cavs and veteran forward Thaddeus Young from the Philadelphia 76ers in the three-team deal.
The Sixers received a 2015 first-round draft choice from Cleveland — ironically, one of the ones the Cavs got from Miami for James in 2010 — and guard AlexeyShved and forward LucMbah a Moute from the Timberwolves.
The Cavs and Timberwolves had discussed a trade involving Love for months, long before James decided to end his magnificent run with the Heat and come back home to Ohio. The deal dragged through the summer, first because of Cleveland's unwillingness to include Wiggins, and then due to a rarely used league rule that prohibited it from being completed until 30 days after Wiggins signed his rookie contract.
That bit of fine print in the collective bargaining agreement triggered an agonizing wait in both cities, more so in championship-starved Cleveland where generations of fans have longed for the Cavs, Indians or Browns to win it all.
But once the teams completed a conference call with the league, there was nothing to prevent the planet's best player from aligning with the league's best power forward. Add in all-star point guard Kyrie Irving and James is the ringleader of a trio as potentially devastating as the one with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh he broke up last month.
"Kevin joining the Cavaliers represents a very special and unique opportunity for our team," Cavs general manager David Griffin said. "At only 25, Kevin has already firmly established himself as one the NBA's elite players and his talent, versatility and fit are major parts of our team's vision for success."
Wiggins becomes just the second No. 1 overall draft pick to be traded without playing a game for the team that drafted him since the ABA and NBA merged in 1976.
The only other time it happened was in 1993 when the Orlando Magic traded Chris Webber to the Golden State Warriors for a package headlined by Penny Hardaway.
The Webber-Hardaway trade occurred on draft night, allowing both players and both teams involved to leave the venue that night with a clear picture of their respective futures.
Wiggins, on the other hand, has endured a much longer, more awkward process. He suited up for the Cavaliers at the Las Vegas summer league even as the rumours of his trade started to swirl. As the summer dragged on, the 19-year-old Canadian who spent one year at the University of Kansas even wore the Cleveland colours in a rookie photo shoot at the start of August.
Through it all, he side-stepped questions about where he was headed and steadfastly maintained the rumours didn't bother him.
"Anywhere, any team," he said earlier this month when asked about it at a promotional appearance. "I can play anywhere."
But Jayhawks coach Bill Self said that he thinks Wiggins has used the Cavaliers' decision to trade him as fuel.
"I think he's handled everything great. He's excited," Self said at a basketball camp earlier this month. "I think the whole thing that's been blown out of proportion a bit is that he's been in limbo. He's known since the summer that he'd be traded. It's OK. In some ways he's looking forward to going to Minnesota."
Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick in 2013 who is headed from Cleveland to Minnesota with Wiggins, is unique in his own right in getting traded after just one year with the team that drafted him. He joins Pervis Ellison, who was traded from Sacramento to Washington after his rookie season in 1990, and Webber, who was traded from Golden State to Washington after one year, as the only No. 1s to be dealt that quickly.
Love's arrival caps a stunning two-month turnaround for the Cavs, who won just 33 games last season and haven't been to the playoffs since James left in 2010.
Cleveland locked up Irving, last year's All-Star Game MVP, to a maximum contract extension on the first day of free agency and then James rocked the league by announcing his return to bring a title to Northeast Ohio. Beyond that, Cleveland signed free agents Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and James Jones, veteran players with NBA titles on their resumes.
Love is the biggest piece. He's coming off of his best season, averaging career highs in points (26.1) and assists (4.4) while grabbing 12.5 rebounds per game and shooting 37.6 per cent on 3-pointers. Despite his play, the Wolves finished 40-42, well out of the playoff chase in the demanding Western Conference, and a disenchanted Love wanted out.
He watched the Timberwolves make mistakes which kept the franchise out of the playoffs for the last 10 years. He was infuriated when former team president David Kahn declined to give him a full, five-year max contract two years ago and also grew distant from teammates last season as the team faded.
"I want to personally thank Kevin Love for his six seasons with the Wolves," Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. "On the floor, Kevin has worked hard to make himself a great player in the NBA. He also made it a priority to give back to the community … we wish him nothing but the best in Cleveland."
The Cavs were initially reluctant to deal Wiggins, the super-athletic small forward who spent one year at Kansas. The Timberwolves entertained offers from several other teams for Love, who can opt out of his contract next summer. But they stayed patient, and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Taylor agreed last month in Las Vegas that Wiggins had to be included.
The Timberwolves can rebuild quickly.
Young is an energetic, 26-year-old veteran who will immediately step in and start in Love's spot. He's not as versatile as Love, but he averaged a career-high 17.9 points and 6.0 rebounds for the woeful Sixers last year.
Bennett struggled mightily in Cleveland last year after being the No. 1 pick out of UNLV. Shoulder surgery caused him to show up to camp out of shape and he spent his entire rookie season looking overmatched. He had surgery to address sleep apnea and showed up to summer league in great shape.
Adding Wiggins, Bennett and Young along with first-round draft pick Zach LaVine transforms the Wolves into a far more dynamic team around pass-happy point guard Ricky Rubio.
For Cleveland, Love could cure years of frustration.
The city's pained wait to celebrate a title may be nearing an end.
James and Love are together again, and the hope of ending so much sports heartbreak rests on their shoulders.