MINNEAPOLIS — The only good news this time is that the world saw him do it.
There were just more than four minutes remaining in the third quarter of Thursday’s game in Dallas when Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love jammed his right hand, and the swelling was visible almost instantly.
When it hadn’t gone down two days later, the team decided it was time for an MRI, and that’s when they learned the news: Love had re-fractured the third metacarpal on his right (shooting) hand.
As of Saturday night, there is no prognosis on Love’s recovery time, and it’s uncertain whether he will have to undergo surgery. Andy Weiland, the hand specialist who treated Love’s previous break, will examine the power forward in New York later this week. More information about the treatment will be known then.
When Love arrived at the Timberwolves’ facility Saturday morning, his hand remained swollen, and that’s when the team decided to do more tests than just the X-ray that had been conducted Thursday. The team already knew it would be missing Love for a few games, and it expected that the finger was badly jammed, but the break came as something of a disappointing surprise.
“I never have been around anything like this, where there’s so many injuries and things like that,” said second-year forward Derrick Williams, who will again get a good share of Love’s minutes. “But it’s the NBA. There’s going to be injuries here and there, but I think it’s our team a little bit more than others.”
On Oct. 17, Love fractured the third and fourth metacarpals in his right hand when doing knuckle push-ups with his trainer at his home. He missed the first nine games of the season before returning Nov. 21, and in 18 games since, he’s averaged 18.3 points on 35.2 percent shooting and 14.0 rebounds.
That shooting mark is the lowest of his career, and Love has been battling inconsistent offense since his return. Still, though, he’s the Timberwolves’ leading scorer and rebounder, and his injury will create a huge hole for a team that’s clinging to its hope of breaking the longest playoff drought in the NBA.
“The whole thing shifts,” coach Rick Adelman said. “So we’re going to have to find a way. It’s not his position. Everybody on the team has to find a way to play at a high level every night. Our margin of error is slim.”
When asked if there’s a silver lining to all this in that the team has played without Love once before this season (and won), Adelman was quick with a resounding no. Although their time without Love at the beginning of this season might be a comfort to some of the players like Williams and Dante Cunningham who will be forced to eat up his minutes, it’s hardly comforting to the coach. Not now, in the midst of perhaps the most trying season of his career.
There is a certain resolve about his team, though, Adelman said, and he’s been pleased with how it’s responded with each injury and setback this season. He’s still trying to figure out how the team got to it’s 15-14 record, and though he laughed after saying so, you know he was dead serious.
“You hope you have enough talent and enough going on that you can win games,” Adelman said.
The coach also discounted the notion that Love returned from his initial injury too soon, and his reasoning is solid. On the day of Love’s re-injury, it had been more than 11 weeks since the initial break, far longer than any prognosis would have kept him out.
Love was cleared by his doctor, and the hand was healed, no matter that it still hadn’t returned to its pre-injury form. It’s a double-edged sword anyway, that decision; if he stays out longer, he’s taking his time, unconcerned about the team, and if he comes back quickly and struggles, he rushed himself.
When Love broke two metacarpals in his right hand in October, he was expected to be out for six to eight weeks and returned in five. The team can only hope that this recovery process will be as smooth and speedy as the last and that the hand will respond more effectively once he returns.
So for now, the Timberwolves wait and hope for the best possible prognosis, and in the meantime, they’ll be forced once again to win without their star.
“I guess it could be worse,” Adelman said, “but I’m not sure.”