By Rob Mahoney
One would think that the Minnesota Timberwolves would have respite from their rampant injuries at some point this season, but misfortune after misfortune seems to befall the NBA's unluckiest franchise. According to a press release, the latest calamity comes with high stakes: Star forward Kevin Love has re-fractured a bone in his right hand, and will visit a specialist with the possibility of surgery looming. From the release:
The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced that an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) taken this afternoon at TRIA Orthopadedic Center revealed that forward Kevin Love suffered a re-fracture of his third metacarpal in his right hand. The injury occurred during the third quarter of Thursday's game at Denver.
Love will be examined by Dr. Andy Weiland, a hand specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, later this week. An update to Love’s status will be provided after that examination.
As indicated by this release, there is not yet a timetable for Love's return. A potential surgery could significantly extend Love's recovery time, but even a more conservative treatment plan would likely still keep the Wolves' top per-game scorer and rebounder out of the lineup for weeks. This qualifies as miserable news even by Minnesota's unique, snakebitten standards; Love was still in the process of rebuilding his shooting release following his initial break, and now those efforts will need to be rebooted following more time away from the court.
To the Timberwolves' collective credit (and also to the credit of head coach Rick Adelman, who has done a fantastic job under the circumstances), they've posted a 6-5 record in games where Love was completely absent, and have actually fared slightly better overall when Love has been off the court according to NBA.com. But don't let that slice of data fool you; what the Wolves have been able to do without Love on the floor is an amazing achievement and a very temporary measure of success for a team still waiting to reach the height of its potential. Defense hasn't been a problem for a Minnesota team with good discipline and ample flexibility, but consistent scoring remains a serious problem for a squad that ranks 20th in points per possession — a mark depressed by significant injuries to Love, Ricky Rubio, Brandon Roy, and Chase Budinger. To make matters worse: Minnesota is currently stuck in a logjam at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff standings with the Blazers, Nuggets, Jazz, Lakers, and possibly the Mavericks all in play for the final two postseason berths. We can fully expect the adaptable Wolves to remain competitive regardless of how long Love sits, but their odds aren't aided by the horrid January schedule that awaits them and the prolonged recovery that likely lies ahead for Love.