By Ben Golliver
The Timberwolves announced Wednesday that All-Star forward Kevin Love will undergo surgery to repair the third and fourth metacarpal in his right hand and is expected to miss 8-to-10 weeks.
Love re-fractured his right hand during a game against the Nuggets last week after originally fracturing his right hand while doing "knuckle push-ups" in October. After the first fracture, Love was expected to be sidelined 6-to-8 weeks but wound up missing just four weeks.
An eight-week timeline would see him return in early March; a 10-week timeline would leave him sidelined until late-March. In a best-case scenario, he is expected to miss Minnesota's next 26 games. If he's sidelined the full 10 weeks, that number balloons to 34 games. Love missed nine games with his initial hand injury.
The Timberwolves are 9-9 with Love in the lineup this season and 7-6 without him. Minnesota is currently the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference and Basketball-Reference.com's playoff forecast gives them a 26.7 percent chance at making the playoffs.
Love, 24, is averaging 18.3 points, 14 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game this season. He is shooting just 35.2 percent from the field this season, a sharp dip from previous years generally attributed to him coming back quickly from his original injury. It's been a disappointing season all around for the two-time All-Star after being named to the All-NBA Second Team last season and finishing sixth in the 2012 MVP voting. Love arguably made bigger headlines by venting about how Timberwolves ownership and management handled his recent contract negotiations than by anything he's done on the court.
Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman has been forced to juggle his lineups all season with the injury bug striking up and down his roster: Ricky Rubio rejoined the team mid-season following knee surgery last year, Brandon Roy has not returned from arthroscopic knee surgery, Chase Budinger has not yet returned from knee surgery, Josh Howard was lost to season-ending knee surgery and Malcolm Lee has been sidelined with a knee injury as well.
Adelman has made due without Love by using two combo forwards, Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham. Williams, the No. 2 pick in the 2011 NBA draft, boasts some versatility and athleticism, but hasn't yet established himself as a go-to scorer. He spent most of last season coming off the bench. Cunningham, a 2009 second-round pick who was acquired from the Grizzlies in a trade last summer, lacks the bulk to hang with true power forwards. He's a hard-worker lunch pail guy who does all the little things, but it's no accident that Minnesota is his fourth team in four years. So far this season, Williams is averaging 8.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per game this season and Cunningham is averaging 7.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 23.1 minutes per game. Love also missed time during the 2009-10 season due to a broken bone in his left hand. He then missed time in 2010-11 with a groin injury and in 2011-12 with a concussion. The Timberwolves signed Love to a four-year contract extension worth $60 million in December 2011 which carries him through the 2015-16 season. Love can exercise a player option during the summer of 2015.