Love’s return date remains uncertain

March 13, 2013

The wait for Kevin Love will continue.
The Timberwolves power forward, who has not played since re-breaking his right hand Jan. 3 and undergoing surgery Jan. 15, traveled to New York this week for a Wednesday visit with his surgeon, Dr. Michelle Carlson at the Hospital for Special Surgery. The visit confirmed that Love's hand is healing properly, but it was not the final clearance to begin practicing and eventually return to games that some expected.
Love will be reevaluated in two to three weeks, the team announced, and though he will continue to increase his conditioning program in the meantime, there's been no mention of his participating in full-contact practices. When Love spoke to the media on March 6, he indicated that Wednesday's checkup might be his last and said he hoped to play in games within three weeks, which this new timeline should render impossible. 
A week ago, Love's hand was still visibly swollen, and he admitted that though he wasn't feeling any pain, it was still stiff and had a limited range of motion. 
Two weeks from Wednesday is March 27, three weeks April 3. If Love isn't evaluated again until somewhere in that time frame, it seems doubtful he'd be able to return for any more than seven or eight games at the end of the season, far fewer than the 15 to 20 he hoped for in February. At some point, the team will have to question the rationale of bringing the forward back at all; though it would be nice to get a pressure-free glimpse of what could have been this season and could still be next, the more time that passes, the more value there is in holding Love out and allowing him a full offseason to heal.
The Timberwolves did receive word on Tuesday that swingman Chase Budinger, who's been out since tearing his meniscus Nov. 10, was cleared to practice, and he could be back on the court as soon as late next week. Both center Nikola Pekovic (abdominal strain) and small forward Andrei Kirilenko (left calf strain) remained in Minneapolis rather than traveling to Indianapolis for Wednesday's game, but both could be back on the court later this week.

Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.