Love sets goal to play in last 15-20 games

MINNEAPOLIS — Timberwolves forward Kevin Love has yet to resume basketball activities after having surgery in early January on his broken right hand, but the face of Minnesota’s franchise said Sunday that he remains hopeful he’ll return to the lineup in late March for the final stretch of the year.

Love met with reporters at Target Center prior to Sunday’s game against Golden State to give an update on his still noticeably swollen right hand. The 24-year-old Love has played in just 18 games this season and was last on the court on Jan. 3, when he re-fractured his hand against Denver. He missed the beginning of the season when he fractured his hand for the first time while doing knuckle pushups.

The goal, Love said Sunday, remains to return to action in late March and join his Timberwolves teammates for the final 15-20 games of the season.

“This is all going to depend on what the doctor says and where my healing is at and how I feel,” said Love, who will meet with a doctor for a check-up early next month. “I’d love to get back to the team. We play a lot of good teams the final 15-20 games. But I don’t know when that’s going to be when I’m going to be cleared. I’m just hopeful that I’m going to come back sooner than later.”

Love has yet to shoot a basketball or dribble since having his surgery in New York on Jan. 15. He has been able to lift weights and do other conditioning in the meantime.

Prior to his injury, Love was averaging 18.3 points and 14.0 rebounds per game, but was shooting just 21.7 percent from 3-point range and 35.2 percent from the field.

“Hopefully I will shoot the ball better when I get back,” Love said.

Love didn’t have surgery after initially breaking his hand prior to the season. He was asked Sunday if he wishes he had the surgery the first time around.

“I mean, in hindsight, yeah. But the doctor said I didn’t necessarily need it,” he said. “This time it was more of a clean break.”

Love’s injury is just one of many for the Timberwolves this season. Point guard Ricky Rubio needed time at the beginning of the year to recover from a torn ACL suffered during his rookie season last year. Newly acquired forward Chase Budinger played in just six games before tearing the lateral meniscus in his left knee. And guard Malcolm Lee injured his knee after playing in 16 games.

Rubio has returned but the other three have not, leaving Minnesota frequently shorthanded. While the Timberwolves are on the outside of the playoff picture, getting healthy and getting back to the court will be important for Love in the final weeks of the season.

“It’s very important just to get back with the full team, Chase included, because we’ve been working out every day together just hoping to get back. He’s a guy that’s been great, coming in, working his butt off,” Love said. “Malcolm’s a guy that won’t come back this year, but between me and Chase and just having a full roster, I think that’s the biggest thing for us.”

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