Wolves’ Love to undergo surgery on left knee

After nearly six months of worrying about a right hand, the Kevin Love injury saga has shifted to a left knee.

The Timberwolves announced Monday evening that their star power forward, who has missed all but 18 games this season with a broken right hand, will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee later this week to remove a buildup of scar tissue. Dr. David Altchek will perform the procedure, likely on Wednesday, at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, where Love also underwent hand surgery in January.

The surgery, which the team described as minor, will effectively end Love’s season, although hopes of him returning from the broken hand have decreased as the season has progressed.

“It’s disappointing, but it’s probably the only course of action we could take,” Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn said on a conference call Monday evening.

“Kevin tried very hard these last few weeks to get back and try to finish the season.”

After Love was cleared to return from the first hand injury, he began experiencing pain in his left knee, which eventually affected his hip. He visited with Dr. Altchek about that pain about 3-4 weeks after his Jan. 15 hand surgery, and at the time, all parties elected to delay treatment in hopes that the forward might be able to recover from his hand injury in time to play through the pain and help his team at the end of the season. At no point, Kahn said, was pushing back the procedure a cause to worry about the issue escalating from a minor health problem to a major one.

As to the timing of the announcement, Kahn said that Love has recently reported the knee pain as significant, which led the team to elect to go forward with the arthroscopy now rather than at season’s end.

“As time went on, and as he began ramping up his workout with the intent of playing, the knee started to hurt more,” Kahn said.

Kahn hopes that Love will be cleared to practice in full on or around June 1 and that the procedure will have little to no effect on his offseason or readiness for training camp next fall.

This is the first major knee issue of Love’s five-year career; he was listed as day-to-day with a left knee problem in February 2010, but he did not miss a game.

Kahn described Love’s season this year as a lost one, and his words couldn’t be closer to the truth. The power forward broke the third and fourth metacarpals in his right (shooting) hand in training camp in October and missed a month of play before returning on Nov. 21, playing in 18 games and struggling, at least by his standards. Love then re-broke that same hand on Jan. 3 in Denver, underwent surgery 12 days later and has been barred from full-contact practice ever since. He has been traveling with the team since late February, though, and began shooting on Feb. 27 when the Timberwolves were on a road trip in Los Angeles.

As disappointing as the news might be to the Timberwolves, Monday night yielded one silver lining: Kahn said that Love will have the plate removed from his right hand on Wednesday while in New York and that he expects that the hand is fully healed to the point that absent the knee injury, Love would have been cleared this week. In fact, Love suffered from flu-like symptoms for much of last week, Kahn said, and had he not, the team could have pushed the hand clearance up.

Monday’s announcement certainly wasn’t what the Timberwolves wanted, but it went a long way in explaining the often confusing and seemingly obfuscated manner in which the team has treated Love’s recovery process of late. More than that, it did at last offer some finality – however surprising in nature – to the “will he or won’t he” Kevin Love debate.

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