Cleveland is headed for a Love-less postseason.
The Cavaliers announced Wednesday that power forward Kevin Love is expected to miss four to six months after undergoing surgery to repair his dislocated left shoulder. That timeline effectively rules out Love for the remainder of the 2015 playoffs, which will be completed over the next two months. A four-month timeline would put Love back on the court for training camp, while a six-month timeline would push his return date closer to the start of the regular season.
Love, 26, sustained the injury while grappling with Celtics center Kelly Olynyk during Game 4 of a first-round playoff series. Olynyk pinned Love's left arm with his right arm and then appeared to pull or twist Love's arm, causing the dislocation. While Love publicly called the play "bush league" and suggested that the NBA league office should intervene, Olynyk denied an intent to injure him. The NBA later suspended Olynyk for one game.
[daily_cut.NBA]Cleveland went on to win Game 4 to sweep the series with Boston and is currently awaiting the winner of a first-round series between Chicago and Milwaukee. The No. 3 Bulls hold a 3-2 series lead over the No. 6 Bucks with Game 6 set for Thursday. The Eastern Conference semifinals series will open at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday. Prior to the surgery, Love had already been ruled out for the second-round series.
Although Love was not selected to the All-Star team this season, he was a crucial piece in coach David Blatt's frontcourt. The three-time All-Star averaged 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds while shooting 36.7% on three-pointers. Blatt will look to fill Love's minutes by turning to reserve power forward Tristan Thompson, an offensive rebounding and second-chance scoring specialist, and veteran forwards Mike Miller, James Jones and Shawn Marion in small-ball lineups. Make no mistake, this is unchartered water for the Cavaliers, as Love was a member of every Cavaliers five-man lineup that played more than 75 minutes together this season. LeBron James will now be forced to continue his pursuit of the first title in Cavaliers franchise history without one of his "Big 3" teammates.
The diagnosis and recovery timetable casts doubt on whether Love has played his last game for the Cavaliers. Acquired by Cleveland from Minnesota in a blockbuster trade that also involved 2014 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, Love has the ability to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent this season. The Celtics and Lakers are among the teams interested in pursuing Love, who is expected to command a max salary offer despite his shoulder injury. Love can also pick up his $16.7 million option for next season or negotiate a new, short-term contract with the Cavaliers that allows him to return to Cleveland while also leaving the door open for free agency in 2016, when the NBA's salary cap is set to jump significantly.