February 03, 2017

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) Kevin Love's back spasms have vanished. Those trade rumors won't go away.

Cleveland's All-Star forward expects to play Saturday night in New York after missing the past two games with a lower back issue he said is now ''under control.'' The 28-year-old practiced Friday and said afterward that he's confident he won't miss any more time.

''We're hoping that we've got a pretty good handle on it now,'' Love said. ''It's always hard to kind of tell when you can't see it. It's not quite like a concussion in that way, but as far as not being able to see the injury and it spasmed, and having to deal with that for a week or maybe five days at a time, it's tough and it lingers. But I feel like we've got a pretty good handle on it now.''

But while Love's back trouble has eased, the speculation about his future persists.

For weeks, Love has been mentioned in trade speculation involving the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony. Although the teams have not publicly acknowledged any talks and a Love-for-Anthony swap straight up is highly unlikely, it remains a hot topic around the NBA as Feb. 23 trade deadline approaches.

Cavs general manager David Griffin would like to add some pieces - a backup point guard and rim-protecting big man - to Cleveland's roster and it's obvious that Love could bring the team multiple players in a trade. But Love's contract (an average salary of $22.6 million over the next four seasons) limits potential partners and the Cavs would need to replace his 19.9 points and 11 rebounds per game.

The Cavs could deal Love, but finding the right match isn't so simple.

Love laughed when the rumblings of him landing in New York were mentioned to him following practice.

''I predicted that,'' he said. ''I said it doesn't matter if I have an All-Star year or its one start or the other, it's always going to be there, right?''

But while fans and media members discuss the possibility of the NBA champions dealing one of their best players, Love doesn't think he'll be traded.

''I don't,'' he said. ''I expect to be here for a long time.''

Still, his presence on the floor at Madison Square Garden against Anthony will provide an interesting backdrop as the Cavs, who went 7-8 in January, open a four-game road trip in basketball's most famous arena.

Love has gotten used to his name being attached to potential trades. It's been that way since early in his career at Minnesota and it continues despite him being an integral part of Cleveland's title run last year.

''It's good to be wanted,'' said Love, who came to the Cavs in a blockbuster deal in 2014.

Love said he's better equipped to handle trade rumors and block them out than earlier in his career.

''With this being my ninth year in the league, I guess it's just part of the growth process,'' he said.

Part of what's driving the Love rumors is LeBron James' relationship with Anthony as the two have been close since they were high school stars. James would not say if he's had recent conversations with Anthony, who has been at odds with New York's front office and might welcome a change of scenery.

James has empathy for Anthony and his sticky situation.

''I just want the best for my friend, no matter what it is,'' he said. ''If he's there in New York or if he's not, I just want the best for him. I want him to be happy. That's all that matters. The game comes very easy to you when you're happy about where you're at, so if he's happy in New York or he wants to be elsewhere, not sure.

''But he's done a lot for that franchise and did a lot for the Denver franchise as well. See what happens.''

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