As injuries go, Love's number comes up

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 13, 2012 - 6:46 AM

His concussion Wednesday night was the latest setback for the Wolves. No word if the team's best player will return this season.

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J.J. Barea shrugged, smiled. "We're used to this," he said.

A few stalls over in the Timberwolves locker room Michael Beasley agreed. "Kind of sums up our season," he said.

The Wolves' litany of injuries continues. As the team was preparing for Thursday night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Target Center -- a 95-82 loss -- Kevin Love was getting ready to fly home after spending the night in a Denver- area hospital.

Love sustained a mild concussion and a strained neck in the first quarter of Wednesday's game against the Nuggets when he got in the way of an inadvertent JaVale McGee elbow. Beasley was right behind Love when it happened. He didn't think it was that bad. That is, until Love hit the floor. "He said he blacked out," Beasley said. "His eyes were shaking. That's when I knew it was serious. He opened his eyes and they were shaking a million miles per hour."

It is the latest in a long line of injuries the Wolves have sustained this season. Ricky Rubio was lost for the season with a knee injury March 9 with the Wolves fighting for playoff position. Two months later, after a list of injuries longer than one of Rubio's crutches, the season has come off the tracks.

The Wolves have six remaining games. So the question: Will Love return?

"I have no idea," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "We haven't seen him since he left the court last night. I think he has to get back here and have our doctors look at him. ... [But] if he's out five days, he'll miss 3-4 games. This season is pretty well gone by then anyway."

Love will have to clear some hurdles before he returns, according to NBA policy. Every player takes a preseason baseline neurological test. Once a player is diagnosed with a concussion, he can't come back until he returns to that baseline and then completes a series of exertion tests that get progressively more difficult without a return of symptoms.

Rubio and Love are the big-name bookends in a season of injuries. But the team has lost more than 150 games to injuries, and most of the Wolves' other important players have been affected, including Barea, Luke Ridnour and Nikola Pekovic.

The Wolves have lost eight in a row and have won just four times since Rubio's injury.

And now they might have to make do without Love, perhaps the rest of the way.

"He's our best player," Barea said. "Been carrying us all year. Now somebody else will have to do it."

Adelman, meanwhile, wasn't ready to blame his team's late-season slump totally on the injuries.

"The hardest thing is we really felt we had turned a corner in a lot of areas," Adelman said. "I've been really kind of taken aback how quickly -- even with the injuries -- we slipped, how quickly we didn't have guys that seemed to be motivated to step in. We hope to see the last few games."

Still, even Adelman said he couldn't remember a time in his career when he's seen one of his teams sustain so many key injuries.

"When you lose four of your top six scorers, with a team that's not that deep anyway?" Adelman said. "I don't think people really understood how much Ricky meant to our group."

Still, Adelman sees games he felt his team should have won without Rubio. "I look at the first 40 games, saw the progress we made, and now I'm seeing it go the other direction quickly. We have to evaluate all that."

Much of that evaluation will occur over the final games. On Wednesday Anthony Randolph stepped up. Down the stretch Adelman and his staff will look to see if anyone else does.

"I feel we have a pretty nice core group here," Adelman said. "We just have to build around them and get a little better."

  • L.A. CLIPPERS 95, WOLVES 82 • Up next: 7 p.m. Saturday vs. Oklahoma City • Target Center • TV: FSN (830-AM)

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