CLEVELAND — Kevin Love spoke from his heart. Over 13 minutes, he apologized, lectured and asked for forgiveness and understanding.
He regrets his fit of frustration but said it shouldn’t define him.
"That wasn’t me," Love said. "I apologize for that moment. It was an ugly one. It was one that was not ill-intentioned."
The five-time All-Star apologized Wednesday for his on-court tantrum two days earlier in a game against Toronto, saying his behaviour was out of line and out of character — but that it had nothing to do with any frustration toward his teammates or coaches.
Love did not take any questions from reporters after speaking passionately about the incident, using the Zoom call as what he called a "therapy session" to express his feelings about dealing with an injury this season, and his leadership role in Cleveland and continued struggle with mental health.
"I (messed) up," Love said, using an expletive to open his remarks. "Everyone knows that. My intent wasn’t to disrespect the game, my intent wasn’t even for the damn ball to go inbounds. It was a moment that I got caught up in."
Late in the third quarter against Toronto, a frustrated Love, who was upset with the officials for some non-calls, angrily tapped the ball back into play on an inbounds pass. The loose ball was grabbed by the Raptors, who made a 3-pointer and went on to win 112-96.
Video of the tantrum went viral on social media, and Love was blistered by fans and media for behaviour called "childish" and "unacceptable."
Love took exception to some of the criticism, saying he felt aspects of his behaviour were "a little blown out of proportion."
"I just hope that you judge my character, judge me as a man," said Love, who helped the Cavaliers win an NBA title in 2016 and signed a four-year, $120 million contract extension two years later. "I mean, the basketball stuff, you can crush me, you can kill me by any means. I’ll take that on the chin all day.
"I don’t care. I love this game. I’ll always love this game. I hope I can play as many years as I possibly can."
Coach J.B. Bickerstaff called Love’s actions a "lapse in judgment."
Before Wednesday’s game, Bickerstaff said he had spoken to Love, who is in his seventh season with Cleveland.
"He owned up to it. He held himself accountable," Bickerstaff said. "It’s what I expected from Kevin. I had a long conversation with Kevin this morning, and Kevin had a long conversation with his teammates this morning."
Love received a mixed reaction from fans in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse when he was introduced before facing the Magic. He missed all seven shots — including six 3-pointers — in the first half and was called for a technical foul late in the second quarter.
He finished with six points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field in Cleveland’s 109-104 loss. He added 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals in 35 minutes.
Love said he didn’t realize how bad the incident looked until after the game and he felt embarrassed and ashamed.
"I believe that we have to be better and especially me being a leader, I have to be better," he said. "But I know that I’m a good human being. I know in some cases that I’m misunderstood. And that’s fine."
The Cavaliers were missing seven players with injuries for the game, and Love’s outburst only compounded things for a young team stumbling to the season’s end. Cleveland is 21-40.
Love said he has only respect for Bickerstaff and his teammates. He believes they’ve accepted his apology knowing how hard he has worked this season to come back from a calf injury that sidelined him for two months.
"I’ll ride or die for J.B. and our coaching staff, and I’ll ride or die for our young guys, even when I’m giving 60%, 70% of myself up right now because I’m still getting over the hump with my injury. But, if you’re not in the arena, and getting your (behind) kicked a lot of the time, I don’t care about your opinion.
"I don’t care about how you feel about me, or what you see in me. What matters to me is the opinion of my teammates, and how they feel about me, and how everybody in this organization feels about me.
"So, I live at peace, knowing that they think highly of me, and I think highly of them."