What was once a waiting game is looking more and more like a foregone conclusion.
The Timberwolves announced Friday afternoon that Kevin Love has not yet been cleared for full-contact practices and will be reevaluated early next week. For the second consecutive week, the Timberwolves' medical staff consulted with Love's surgeon in New York, Dr. Michelle Carlson, and the joint decision was made that more time would be necessary.
Love, who broke his right hand for the second time in four months on Jan. 3, had been hopeful to return to the court for the end of the season. However, since he announced in late February that he'd like to be return in time to play in 15-20 games, that number has been further and further reduced due to a longer than expected recovery process.
When Love spoke to the media on March 24 (a Sunday), he expected to be cleared by the end of that week, but that process was delayed another week, and now even further. At that time, he maintained that he'd like to suit up this season, but he admitted that if it took much longer than expected for him to be cleared, he'd have to reevaluate that decision.
This latest news officially pushes beyond Love's latest expectation, and so it calls into question whether he will and should play at all this spring.
At this point, if Love were to be cleared by, say, Tuesday, he likely wouldn't play until he could practice or engage in a one-on-one or two-on-two workout. That would mean he wouldn't likely be ready to return to the court until April 12 in Utah, leaving exactly four games in which he'd be able to compete. What was once a hope that Rick Adelman and company might be able to get a glimpse of their team as assembled and healthy at the end of the year is now looking like it might be impossible; just four games on the court will hardly even be enough for Love to even warm up before the season ends.
Until now, I'd maintained that to bring the power forward back for even eight or 10 games wouldn't be the worst idea in the world, at least if the team's medical staff were to approve which might have been a long shot. When Adelman spoke of the value of just getting the guys out on the court for a few nights, it made sense, not so much as cruel torture or to tempt with what could have been, but to get some sense, however vague, of where the team stands going into the offseason. Now, though, to bring the power forward back would just seem silly, like little more than a hope for some increased ticket sales and a bolster to Love's image.
With the process dragging out this long, officially shutting Love down for the season shouldn't be out of the realm of possibility. His return wouldn't bring much beyond a boost in morale and the ever-so-slight worry that something else might happen, and if it were to, the consequences would be disastrous.
It's been 11.5 weeks since Love's Jan. 15 surgery, when an 8-10 week recovery period was forecasted. That window is a week and a half in the past, and this is officially taking longer than expected. That's no one's fault, least of all Love's; after all, he was so anxious to return from his first hand injury this season that he suited up by surprise just hours after being cleared.
So maybe more time isn't the worst thing. Maybe Love has spent this season rushing through rehab in order to help his team a perfectly noble and respectable mistake and maybe he should just slow down.
Maybe having him back and healthy next October trumps a few games in April. No, not maybe. Probably. Definitely.
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