Kevin Love, talking with media for the first time since Jan. 15 surgery to repair two broken bones in his right hand, went to great lengths Thursday to say how much he likes the team, the city and the Timberwolves organization. As for when he will resume playing? Check back with him in mid-March.
"Just to be back around the team feels great," Love said, more than once. "It's like I never left."
He seemed intent on painting a rosy picture, of both of his recovery and his relationship with the organization, something he has devoted a lot of time to since a December Yahoo! Sports article quoted him questioning the franchise's direction.
While he is getting regular rehab work on his hand, and though the strength and flexibility has not yet returned, Love took pains to give a verbal thumbs-up.
"It was all smiles when I came back [Wednesday] night," Love said. "And it's going to continue to be that way."
Perhaps Love was trying to sound an optimistic note about his and the team's future at a time when the present is rather dark. Love was in New York for surgery and subsequent rehab, and he didn't return to Minnesota until Wednesday night, just in time to watch from behind the bench as the Wolves lost to San Antonio 104-94, their 13th loss in 15 games.
But while the season -- which has included two hand injuries for Love -- has been frustrating for both him and the Wolves, he said he will not rush back from injury.
"Surgery is making me patient, making me heal," he said. "Rather than trying to get out there the first time the doctor says, 'OK, maybe you can go out there and play.' I want to get out there as soon as possible. But with that said, I definitely want to heal and do things the right way this time around."
So does that mean he came back too quickly the first time? Love wouldn't say that, but he hinted that perhaps the injury didn't heal properly the first time around. Love's first injury, which he said came about while doing knuckle pushups, occurred Oct. 17. Love didn't have surgery, and he returned Nov. 21. He re-injured the hand Jan. 3 at Denver.
Love said his hand feels better, at the same point in recovery, than the first time around, crediting surgery. He started with range of motion work following surgery. He is getting regular massages on the hand to get the fluid out and the flexibility back. "I think we did the right thing with surgery," he said. "It's going to be a brand new hand. It's going to be great."
Love, who said he plans on getting in as many two-day workouts as he can during his recovery, appeared noticeably thinner. He said he didn't know when he would be able to start dribbling or shooting. The first priority is getting strength back to where he can do more in the weight room.
"I think it's important to have everybody here," coach Rick Adelman said. "[Love] has been in New York rehabbing and now he's back here. As a group, whether you're hurt or not hurt, we need to have everybody involved and have an attitude that we're going to turn this around."
Given the team's injuries, that could be easier said than done. The Wolves have won only three times since Love's latest injury. So can the season be salvaged?
Perhaps it depends on how you define the word.
"I think there's a lot of stuff that we can salvage," Love said. "We can continue to get the fans back on our side so they'll have something to root for. If we can close out this season in that way, especially getting fans on our side, getting season tickets renewed, things like that ... that's certainly going to help."
It appears Love is trying to rehab both his hand and his image with fans, which might explain why he seemed so eager to paint a happy picture.
"I think [fans] need to realize I love being here," He said. "I don't know where the misconception came along, but I love this team. I love this organization. ... I do want to be here."
Rubio to Houston, too
Point guard Ricky Rubio was added to next week's rookie-sophomore game in Houston. Charles Barkley chose Rubio for his team with the fifth pick in a draft televised on TNT. Alexey Shved was Barkley's final pick.