The Cleveland Cavaliers offered a good news/bad news update on the status of Kevin Love on Friday morning. The silver lining? The All-Star power forward won’t need surgery to repair the broken bone in his left hand that he suffered during the Cavs’ Tuesday night loss to the Detroit Pistons.
The gray cloud inside? That doesn’t mean Love’s likely to return to the court any time soon.
According to the Cavs, after continued consultation with members of the Cavs medical team and doctors from the Cleveland Clinic and the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, Love will “undergo a non-surgical treatment and rehabilitation process to repair” the non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal in his left hand. He’s still expected to be out for “approximately eight weeks” — the far end of the initial timeline suggested on Tuesday — but he won’t have to go under the knife, which is good, since Love’s already had one surgical procedure on that left hand, back in 2009.
As expected, the injury knocks Love out of this month’s 2018 NBA All-Star Game, to which he’d been selected as a reserve. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver named Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic as Love’s replacement on Thursday.
The bigger issue in Cleveland, obviously, is what comes next. For as much stick as he tends to get in Cleveland, Love’s been playing some of the best ball of his tenure as a Cav this season, averaging 17.9 points and 9.4 rebounds in 28 minutes per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from the 3-point arc.
Love has produced while mostly playing out of position at center, as head coach Tyronn Lue looked to maximize floor spacing around LeBron James while integrating new pieces like Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose and waiting for point guard Isaiah Thomas to get healthy and back in rhythm after seven months on the shelf rehabilitating a hip injury. That’s led to some defensive issues — Love remains an underwhelming rim protector who can have trouble guarding pick-and-rolls in space — but quiet as it’s kept, Love has done yeoman’s work in helping keep Cleveland’s offense afloat. Now they’ll be without him for an extended period.
The average absence for players with this injury who don’t pursue surgical repair is 17 games, according to Jeff Stotts of injury-focused site In Street Clothes. Eight full weeks away would mean Love misses 26 more games, returning at the start of April with precious little time to get up to speed for the postseason. That’s an awfully long time for Cleveland to be without its second-best player, and an eternity for a team that’s struggled to find reliable scoring production this season not only from its second unit, but from pretty much anybody not named James or Love. So much already depended on James continuing to carry the load and Thomas finding his legs, and on general manager Koby Altman to try to find some reinforcements to bolster the Cavs’ chances of making a fourth straight run to the NBA Finals before next week’s Feb. 8 trade deadline. The pressure on all of them just increased dramatically.
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