Love Confident Team Can Hold Its Own During His Recovery
Wolves forward Kevin Love wore a brace on his hand as he patrolled the LifeTime Fitness Training Center on Tuesday, marking the first time the All-Star had been present at practice since he suffered a broken right hand Oct. 17.
He spoke to the coaches and players earlier in the day, talking to them about missing time and where he was with his progress after spending the past week in Los Angeles rehabbing along with being with his family. Love, who broke the third and fourth metacarpals in his right hand doing knuckle pushups, said he spoke with his teammates and coaches on Wednesday letting them know where he’s at in the process.
“We’ll know more next week on where my hand is at, and I plan on being back sooner rather than later,” Love said. “I’m excited to be back, keep up on my conditioning, and it’s going to be a time for others to step up so I’m excited to see that.”
The Wolves went 2-1 in the three games Love missed during the preseason, and in his absence the team has shown signs of resiliency that weren’t visible in years past. They were exhibition games, so that is something to take into account, but the Wolves kept their intensity up, and their execution on both offense and defense during that stretch helped them wrap up the preseason with a 5-2 record overall.
That’s something that Love has noticed during his injury. Other team members are getting valuable experience in his absence and could help bolster the team’s depth when he returns.
Wolves center Nikola Pekovic said the team understands both he and guard Ricky Rubio want to be playing, but the team needs to continue to get through it and endure while they’re not available.
“In every game and practice we need to step up to keep pushing, because if you’re playing without them, I know they’re a part of the team but that’s the situation. We can’t cry now, ‘OK, we don’t have them.’ We just need to keep fighting, because when they come back I know that they want to come back when the team is in a good situation.”
Love said the play of Pekovic, Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko and point guards Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea have been big reasons for that, and at the power forward position both Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham have proven they’re able to bring different dynamics to the court. Williams has the athletic ability to produce points, and Cunningham brings energy and defensive intensity.
“I think guys stepping up and getting a chance to play significant roles [has helped],” Love said. “For instance, Derrick Williams and Chase Budinger have played extremely well this preseason. And I think those guys getting a chance to come out and play, and Lou Amundson and D.C., I think those guys really have had a chance to break through and help us win games early.”
Coach Rick Adelman said the team doesn’t have a choice. While Love is unavailable, the team needs to respond and step up. He had a similar situation with injuries to stars Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming in Houston, and the Rockets found a way to bounce back. The Wolves weren’t so fortunate at the end of last season, but with a new supporting cast around Rubio and Love the team feels better prepared to endure these early-season injuries.
“The guys have to be ready to play. We’ve been trying to figure out how we’re going to be as successful, as consistent as we can, but it’s a big hole in our lineup,” Adelman said. “But I think we have guys who are going to come in, they’re going to do their job, and we have to find a way to win. I mean, that’s the way it is. A lot of teams have faced the same thing in this league, so we’re no different.”
In the meantime, Love continues to watch from the sidelines and prepare his body for his return—something that comes along with the territory of recovering from injury.
He said he knew immediately on Oct. 17 that something was wrong. While working out with personal trainer Rob McClanahan at his apartment complex, Love said he was doing a set of knuckle pushups when he suffered the injury. He said he could tell based off his experience suffering a broken left hand in his second year with the Wolves.
As the hand continued to swell, he went to see Wolves athletic trainer Gregg Farnam at Target Center, who sent him on to see a doctor.
“It was a pretty freak accident,” Love said.
Though he was disappointed in hearing the expected duration of his recovery, he said the focus has switched to maintaining his body’s strength and conditioning so he is able to begin playing as soon as possible.
Since it is a shooting hand injury, how it will affect his mechanics is still to be determined. He said it’s important to keep his endurance up so even if it takes a little time to get re-acclimated to his shooting stroke, he’ll still be able to play and contribute immediately.
“I think the touch will come back pretty easily, and I think as long as I keep my weight down, keep in shape and keep my legs ready, if all that is intact and I stay mentally prepared it’s going to come back pretty easily,” he said. “And the good thing about it is when my hand heels and I’m cleared to go, whether or not my touch is back the first day, I’m going to be there and ready to go.”
In the meantime, he said he’ll be there to help his teammates however he can until he makes his return to the court.
“And still be a leader, still be as vocal as possible and be with the guys whether we’re on the road, whether we’re at home or we’re in practice,” he said. “In that regard, I’m excited I’m still with the team 100 percent. It’s bittersweet, but you have to find a way to prevail from this.”