Love's Return An Important Part Of His Recovery, Team's Progress Moving Forward

by Mark Remme
Web Editor

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Kevin Love didn’t hold back his enthusiasm about returning to the Twin Cities after his stint in New York rehabbing his surgically-repaired right hand. Since getting back into town just before gametime last night, Love has been able to get his workouts in at Target Center, catch up with teammates and watch his team play from behind the bench—not from afar on NBA League Pass.

He’s enjoyed every second of it.

“Just being back in the huddle makes me happy,” Love said.

The feeling is mutual. In a season hampered by injury, Love’s return is an important symbol of the expectations and the talent that the Wolves do have on this roster. With him back in town, the Wolves now have the franchise’s cornerstone with them on a daily basis, working on his strength and consuming all the little things that go into being part of an NBA team.

Love said he missed it while he was away. He missed being able to joke around with his teammates. He missed being able to help this team succeed. Love underwent surgery on his right hand to repair his broken third and fourth metacarpal—the same bones he broke during the preseason—and has been working in concert with Dr. Michelle Carlson and rehabbing five times a week during his stint in New York.

He was expected to miss about 8-10 weeks initially, and Love said Thursday that estimate was still pretty accurate. He could return sometime in the middle of March, and he’s anxious to get back onto the court and help his team finish out 2012-13.

For him, being back feels like he’s rejoining family.

“You never like to miss time, you never like to be away from a good atmosphere like we’ve had all year long with these guys,” Love said. “I’d like to get out there as soon as possible, but at the same time I want to do things the right way this time around.”

Love surprised everyone on Nov. 21 when he returned to the lineup after his first broken hand, for which he didn’t undergo surgery, and played for six weeks before re-breaking the hand Jan. 3 against Denver.

This time around, he said the hand feels much better than it did the first time it healed. He continues to rehab it and while he’s back in Minnesota he’s working on gaining strength in his grip before he can return to basketball activities. Love said he isn’t sure when he’ll be able to get back on the court to practice, but that decision will be made together with himself, the team, the front office, the athletic training staff and his doctor all working together.

The goal is to come back and leave these injuries in the past.

From the team’s perspective, having him back is so important morale-wise. It’s been a tough stretch in January with injuries, and with Love back it helps reiterate that help is on the way.

“As a group we need, whether you’re hurt or not, we need to have everybody involved and have that attitude that we’re going to turn this thing around,” coach Rick Adelman said.

Center Greg Stiemsma agreed.

“We know these guys want to be back on the floor as bad as anybody, but the situation is as it seems,” Stiemsma said. “We have to deal with [injuries] right now, and worry about things we can control and we owe it to those guys that when they do come back to give ourselves an opportunity to make a run at it.”

Love said he loves being part of the Timberwolves’ team and the organization, and when he was able to return to Target Center and be behind the bench during the Portland game it helped him feel the energy inside the arena from the fans again.

This season has put a lot of things in perspective. He’s been in contact with Bulls guard Derrick Rose, an offseason workout buddy who is recovering from ACL surgery, and understands what he’s gone through and how difficult it is to miss time on the floor.

His focus now is to be with the team as much as possible while he works toward his own return. He said he’ll be on the bench for games, in practice and will take the road trips excluding some of the shorter stints away from home.

He’s just happy to be back. His teammates feel the same way.

“Obviously I was gone for a while, but just to be back around the team, it feels great,” Love said. “It’s like I never left. And whenever I come back, whether it’s J.J. or Pek or Dante, whoever it is, it’s family. It just feels good to be back.”

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