Kevin Love to miss more time, but tests show no structural damage
Rest, rehabilitation to continue with return to be determined
Tom Withers | The Associated Press
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers will be down one All-Star for the time being.
Kevin Love will sit out at least another game — and possibly more — because of recurring back spasms. The forward underwent an MRI on Monday, and although the team said the tests showed no structural damage, he will miss Wednesday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Love, who was named an Eastern Conference reserve last week, has been bothered by spasms for several weeks. He left Sunday’s win over Oklahoma City in the first half, and did not travel with the NBA champions for their game in Dallas so he could get tests and further evaluation.
The Cavs continued to struggle, losing 104-97 to the Mavericks and dropping to 7-8 in January. The loss also trimmed Cleveland’s lead for the top spot in the Eastern Conference to 2 1/2 games over Boston.
Love is averaging 19.9 points and 11 rebounds in what to this point has been the best of his three seasons with Cleveland.
However, his back issues are a concern for the 28-year-old and the Cavs, who signed him to a five-year, $110 million contract in 2015.
The Cavs play five of their next six games on the road and likely will take their time making sure Love is healthy. There’s no urgency at this point other than to get him ready for the season’s final two months and the postseason.
“This has been our mantra since we all came together: Next man up,” said forward Tristan Thompson, who had 19 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and four steals in Sunday’s 107-91 win over the Thunder. “We talk about it every year. Next man up. We hope Kevin gets well, takes care of his body, because you know we’re going to need him for the long haul.
“So whatever he has to do to get 100 percent, that’s the most important. We need Kev for the long haul. Everyone wants to push it through, but if you’re hurt or you’re not feeling right, get right because we need the big fella.”
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue started Richard Jefferson on Monday against Dallas.
With Love out, Lue said he planned to stagger the playing time of All-Stars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, making sure one or both of them is always on the floor.
Love’s back issue isn’t new. He was kept out of the second half of a loss at Golden State on Jan. 16 with spasms and sat out a Jan. 18 home game against Phoenix. He’s been dealing with a back problem since he was came to Cleveland from Minnesota in a blockbuster trade in 2014. He scored one point and grabbed eight rebounds in 12 minutes Sunday before his back tightened up on him.
Love’s status could have a ripple effect over the coming weeks as the team looks to add frontcourt depth and a backup point guard. General manager David Griffin is expected to make some moves before the Feb. 23 trade deadline.
The Cavs have an open roster spot and it’s possible they could sign a big man to a 10-day contract while Love recovers.
Love’s back flared up just when things were starting to calm down for the Cavaliers, who entered Monday’s game at 32-14.
Cleveland has been dealing with some recent turbulence with ugly losses, and after James called the team’s roster “top heavy” and questioned whether the front office was satisfied with one title.
While being named an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve last week, Love’s name surfaced again in trade rumors, this time in a potential deal with the New York Knicks for Carmelo Anthony. Although the Cavs did not comment on a report the Knicks wanted to trade Carmelo Anthony for Love, James and Anthony are close friends and have talked in the past about playing together.