LeBron: Love would be key piece

LeBron James and Kevin Love

AKRON, Ohio -- LeBron James is cautiously optimistic the Cleveland Cavaliers soon will acquire Kevin Love and believes he's a big piece in the chase for a title.

"If he comes aboard, I will be very excited to have him," James said in his first public comments since signing with the Cavs last month.

"I don't even really care about the 26 [points] and 12 [rebounds], I care about his basketball IQ. His basketball IQ is very, very high. I had the opportunity to spend 32 days with him in the 2012 Olympics. He was huge for us ... he's a great piece."

James was cautious to frame his comments about Love, saying he knew there were hurdles left to clear before the Cavs can complete a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Top draft pick Andrew Wiggins is included in the talks, and the rookie cannot be traded until Aug. 23 under league rules.

"We can't get too far into it because of league rules, we don't know for sure," James said. "I'm not getting my hopes too high on it right now because you don't know what could happen between now and the 23rd."

The Cavs and Wolves have been operating under the assumption for weeks that they soon will complete the blockbuster trade, but the teams have purposely tried to avoid confirming the deal to adhere to strict league rules on the matter, according to NBA front-office sources.

Sources nonetheless tell ESPN.com that the general framework of a Cavs deal for Love -- which would send Wiggins, 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick to Minnesota -- has actually been in place since mid-July.

Furthermore, sources said Friday that James has been anticipating Cleveland's trade pursuit of Love and is optimistic about its chances of getting him from the moment he agreed to re-sign with his home-state team on July 11.

But sources say the Cavs and Wolves, knowing that league officials are monitoring this transaction closely, have been careful not to make any public acknowledgments that trade details have already been agreed to. That's because Wiggins remains ineligible to be moved until 30 days pass from the signing of his rookie contract.

The Cavs were granted permission last month by Minnesota to speak to Love and his representatives in an introductory fashion, sources say, while James and Love have also been in direct contact in recent weeks about their long-term intentions of playing together.

On Thursday, Yahoo! Sports reported that the Cavs and Wolves have agreed to a trade in principle and that Love has an agreement to re-sign with the Cavs next summer for five years, $120 million after opting out of his contract.

But sources insist that no agreement for Love to sign an extension in Cleveland next summer -- when he can become a free agent -- is in place.

In addition, under NBA rules, such an agreement would be illegal, and, if proven, it potentially could be grounds for the league to block this trade and dole out punishment to both teams.

The Wolves were infamously sanctioned heavily in 2000 after it was discovered the club had promised a lucrative future contract -- in writing -- to Joe Smith, incurring a fine of $3.5 million and the loss of four first-round picks, as well as suspensions for owner Glen Taylor and then-GM Kevin McHale.

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