CLEVELAND — Kevin Love dodged surgery. The Cavaliers were hit hard.
The All-Star forward, who was recently at the center of some team turmoil, will miss two months because of a broken left hand. Love fractured the fifth metacarpal Tuesday night during a loss at Detroit, and his injury is just the latest mishap for the Cavs, who are coming off a sub-par January.
It was expected that Love would need an operation to repair the break, but after Cleveland’s medical staff consulted with doctors at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery, it was determined Love can recover without any procedure. He had surgery on his left hand in 2009 while with Minnesota and still has three screws in place.
The timetable for Love’s return means he’ll miss all but the final two weeks of the regular season. The team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder won’t have much time to get ready for the playoffs. But with the way the Cavs are playing, it’s questionable how far they can go.
Cleveland (30-20) is coming off a bumpy month in which the Eastern Conference champions went 6-8 and were blown out in several losses, leading to finger-pointing between teammates. During a recent team meeting, Love was questioned by some Cleveland players for leaving a loss against Oklahoma City and then missing practice the next day.
Love explained he was sick, the Cavs accepted his excuse and the team seemed to be coming together when he got injured. He’s averaging 17.9 points and 9.4 rebounds in his fourth season with Cleveland, which hosts Houston on Saturday.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue spoke to Love and said his “spirits are down.”
“He’s just disappointed that he got hurt and I told him to just take his time,” Lue said, “and we can hold the fort down until he gets back. So he was down, but it’s part of the game. Hate to see anyone go through it, but we just gotta hold it down until he gets back. There’s nothing you can do about it now. All he can do is just rehab and get himself healthy and when he comes back gotta be ready to play.”
The Cavs won their first game without Love after Lue started forward Jae Crowder on Wednesday against Miami. Last week, Lue dropped Crowder into the second unit and started Tristan Thompson at center with Love moving back to power forward.
Lue said his starting lineup could change on a game-to-game basis because of matchups.
Not only is Love missing the playoff push, but he’ll have to sit out the All-Star game for the second straight year. He sat out last season following a procedure on his knee. Miami’s Goran Dragic will replace him for the Feb. 18 game in Los Angeles.
Love’s loss will have a big impact on how the Cavs proceed as the Feb. 8 trading deadline approaches. Cleveland has had numerous conversations about potential deals, and now there is greater urgency to get something done.
Cleveland needs a big man and the club has two first-round picks, including Brooklyn’s, it could use to overhaul its roster.