OAKLAND, Calif. -- Kevin Love can only watch and experience these NBA Finals from the sidelines, but even at a distance, he said he has seen enough to know he wants to be back on this stage next year.
"I had so much fun watching it because I want to be in a moment like that," Love told ESPN after the Cleveland Cavaliers' 108-100 overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors. "I'd rather be out there helping those guys, and I saw a lot of places where I could help.
"I've never wanted to be in a game more than that one," said Love, who had never been on a playoff team in his six prior NBA seasons.
Asked specifically whether that meant he wanted to be back in Cleveland next season, Love said, "Yes. I want to win."
Love has never wavered from that stance in his lone season with the Cavaliers, but speculation has remained that he could leave as a free agent this summer if he opts out of the final season and $16.7 million remaining on his contract.
Asked why that speculation remains, Love said, "It's just the way the world works now. People talk so much and might tell themselves a lie so much they start to believe it. From there, the narrative starts to change. I haven't changed my narrative. I'm going to keep supporting these guys, and we'll be talking to Cleveland after the season."
Love could decide to opt out by June 30 to either negotiate a new deal with Cleveland, which could offer him a five-year contract, or test the market as an unrestricted free agent. As such, the most he could fetch is a four-year deal, per the terms of the league's collective bargaining agreement.
Love didn't say Thursday night whether he planned to test free agency this summer by opting out of the final season of his contract, but he reiterated several times that his intention to return to Cleveland has been only enhanced by the experience of being on a Finals team.
The power forward dislocated his shoulder in Game 4 of the first round against the Boston Celtics when Kelly Olynyk pulled down on Love's left arm and yanked it out of the socket. Olynyk received a one-game suspension, which he will serve at the start of next season, after the NBA reviewed the play. Love said he has been reluctant to speak much about himself or his future since the injury because he doesn't want to distract from the Cavaliers' run. He only recently has been cleared to travel with the team.
Five weeks after surgery on his left shoulder, Love says he'll soon be able to do a lot more with it. On Thursday night, he wished he could be on the court with his teammates.
"I just texted a couple friends of mine saying I've never been so into a game," Love said. "That was fun to watch, besides the final score."