The Cavaliers were flying high on New Year’s Eve, jetting home to Cleveland after winning at Charlotte.
Time for Kevin Love to choose from the inflight menu. Gee, that sea bass sounds good.
But his insides were about to hit some heavy turbulence.
“First of all, don’t order the sea bass,” Love joked about his bout with food poisoning before the Cavs’ Basketball City shootaround Friday morning to prep for their night game across the East River against the Nets at Barclays Center.
Love lost 10 pounds, but he finally was feeling much better and returned to action in Brooklyn. So did Kyrie Irving after missing three games with hamstring tightness.
The defending champs had been going through a difficult stretch of injury and illness, but Cleveland (27-8) is still leading the Eastern Conference. LeBron James scored 36 points, Irving contributed 32 and Love had 17 points and 13 rebounds in the Cavaliers’ 116-108 win.
They’re getting a little healthier and possibly even more talented. There’s word that they’re close to finalizing a trade with Atlanta that will bring them the eighth-best three-point shooter in NBA history to use off the bench in 35-year-old swingman Kyle Korver. “It does a lot for our depth,” coach Tyronn Lue said.
Shooting guard J.R. Smith was lost on Dec. 20 for at least three months with a right thumb fracture that required surgery. The Cavs have won seven of nine since he got hurt, and Korver can help offset that perimeter loss.
“We’ve got to give him the ball,” James said. “It’s another dynamic piece for our team. Hell of a sharpshooter and a great guy, a great professional, as we’ve seen over his career.”
The trade chatter has a 2019 first-round pick and swingman Mike Dunleavy Jr. headed out. Teams can’t part with No. 1 picks in back-to-back years, so Cleveland made a deal possible last night by trading its 2017 first-rounder to Portland and getting back the 2018 first-rounder the Cavs had dealt to the Trail Blazers in February.
But James isn’t ready to say his team is completely ready to defend its crown. There’s no veteran point guard to back up Irving, just rookie Kay Felder.
“We’ve got to get a point guard,” James said. “It’s my last time saying [it]. We need a point guard . . . I think that’s the next step.”