The last thing the Cleveland Cavaliers needed right now, as they continue to slog through the on-court struggles and off-court dysfunction that have complicated their bid for a fourth straight Eastern Conference championship, was an injury to one of their most important players. So, naturally, that’s exactly what they got.
Kevin Love checked out of Tuesday’s nationally televised matchup with the Detroit Pistons with just over seven minutes to go in the opening quarter, after failing to corral an entry pass while defended by Detroit’s Anthony Tolliver and Reggie Bullock:
Love immediately grabbed his left hand and promptly raced right to the locker room for X-rays. The pictures told a heartbreaking story: Love has suffered a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal in his left hand, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com, as Murphy’s law continues to rule the day for these Cavs, who entered Tuesday having lost 10 of their last 15 to drop to 29-19, 5 1/2 games behind the Boston Celtics in the race for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference.
How long the broken bone will sideline the 29-year-old big man remains to be seen …
Re: Kevin Love: Time missed will be dictated by whether or not he needs surgery. He’s previously missed time w/ fractures to his left 4th metacarpal (2009-10) & his right 3rd & 4th metacarpals (2012-13).
— Jeff Stotts (@InStreetClothes) January 31, 2018
… but early — and, we stress, unofficial — estimates are not encouraging:
#Cavs will update Love’s status and timeline tomorrow. Imagine him missing at least a month.
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) January 31, 2018
Kevin Love likely out 6-8 weeks
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) January 31, 2018
For as much stick as he tends to get in Cleveland, Love’s been playing some of the best ball of his tenure as a Cav this season, averaging 18.2 points and 9.6 rebounds in 28.5 minutes per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from the 3-point arc while mostly playing out of position at center. His efforts in teaming with LeBron James to keep the Cavs’ offense afloat with Kyrie Irving shipped out to Boston and Isaiah Thomas alternately sidelined and not ready for prime time earned him a second straight All-Star selection, the fifth of his career; just like last year, though, a post-voting injury will see him placed on the shelf for the midseason exhibition.
Love is the third All-Star to be taken off the board due to injury in the last five nights, joining DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall on the sideline. After naming Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George to replace Cousins and Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond to step in for Wall, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will have to make a third selection to take Love’s place. Potential candidates include Philadelphia 76ers rookie Ben Simmons, Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker and Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic.
A six-to-eight-week timetable for Love would keep him on ice for between 18 and 26 games. Even for a team led by LeBron James, that’s an eternity to be without a premier rebounder, post threat, pick-and-pop shooter and complementary playmaker of Love’s caliber. It could also introduce extreme complications into the Cavs’ efforts to augment their rotation ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline for a playoff push — and potentially beyond, given what’s at stake for the Cavs after the end of this season:
Whoa. This could have so many ramifications, especially if the Cavs were working on any mega-deals to help convince LeBron to stay. https://t.co/kDu42zXEI1
— Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) January 31, 2018
Already struggling to maintain consistency despite a virtually unprecedented level of Year 15 production from LeBron, struggling to get stops with one of the NBA’s worst defenses, struggling to get Thomas back to health and up to full speed after seven months of hip rehab, and struggling to develop trust and cohesion as a unit, the Cavaliers will now have to try to solve all those problems without their second-best player. LeBron, Thomas, coach Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman already had their work cut out for them; now, their jobs all got that much harder.
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