CLEVELAND >> Kevin Love’s heart was questioned last week. The focus has switched to his broken left hand this week.
And so it goes for the Cleveland Cavaliers, a championship-chasing team plagued by as much malfunction as dysfunction.
Love fractured a bone in his left hand in the first half of an ugly loss on Tuesday night in Detroit, and the All-Star forward’s injury and status likely will have a major effect on the team’s plans to fix a season spiraling away.
The Cavaliers are expected to provide a further medical update today after Love, the team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder, is re-examined in Cleveland by team doctors.
Early indications are that he’ll miss as much as two months. Love’s absence complicates things for the Cavs, who are 5-8 in January heading into Wednesday’s game against Miami. The Heat can leap over Cleveland into third place in the Eastern Conference standings with a win.
Love previously had surgery on the hand in 2009 when he was with Minnesota.
“It’s a huge blow for our team, obviously,” LeBron James said late Tuesday following a 125-114 loss to the Detroit Pistons, who were short-handed following their trade for Blake Griffin. “Anytime you lose an All-Star or you lose anybody, part of your crew, it’s a tough blow. We’re already limited in our bigs anyway. We’ll be getting a lot smaller now.
“At the end of the day, we hope for a speedy recovery for Kev and he can get back on the floor as soon as he can. But it’s a tough blow for us.”
Love is the third All-Star to suffer a significant injury in the past few days. New Orleans big man DeMarcus Cousins tore his Achilles last week and is done for the season, and Washington guard John Wall will miss 6-to-8 weeks following a knee procedure.
Love’s injury comes on the heels of a drama-filled week for the Cavs. During a heated team meeting on Jan. 22, Love was questioned by teammates for leaving a loss against San Antonio and then missing a practice the next day because he was sick. After some details of the meeting were leaked, there appeared to be lingering tension between Love and some other Cavaliers players.
Point guard Isaiah Thomas came forward to deny there was any “bad blood” between him and Love, but it was clear the turmoil hadn’t totally subsided.
Beyond the bickering, the basketball hasn’t been good and Love’s loss will make things much tougher on the floor for coach Tyronn Lue, who has spent the season juggling lineups and rotations because of injuries and ineffectiveness.
“Guys have to step up and be ready to play,” Lue said after the Cavs were drilled in Detroit. “Everyone has to play better. I have to coach better. Everyone has to be better. Especially when you lose a significant piece like that. I’m sure the guys will be up for the challenge. It’s going to be a tough task but we can handle it.”
If there’s a positive with Love’s injury it’s that it could help Thomas, still finding his way back after missing seven months with a hip injury. Following the loss in Detroit, Thomas said he’s still at only “75, 80 percent.”
There’s another wrinkle to Love’s injury. Cavs general manager Koby Altman was already considering trades ahead of the Feb. 8 deadline and he may now be forced to make a major move to improve this underachieving team.
Cleveland’s best asset may be the first-round pick it obtained last summer in the deal that sent star guard Isaiah Thomas to Boston. But the Cavs have been reluctant to part with it because it provides protection in case James bolts as a free agent this summer.
Love’s name has been linked to potential trades for years, but any move involving him now seems unlikely.