Love promises to come back strong next season

  • Updated: April 14, 2013 - 11:35 AM

Kevin Love expects himself and the Wolves to both reach their potential next season.

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Wolves forward Kevin Love ended up playing only 18 games this season in what has turned out to be a “lost season for him.”

Photo: KYNDELL HARKNESS, Star Tribune file

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Kevin Love said he plans on responding to the most disappointing season of his career with the best offseason of his life.

At this point, days after surgery to remove a chunk of scar tissue from his left knee, with just a handful of days left in a lost season, Love struggled not to look back while talking with reporters before the Timberwolves’ 105-93 victory over Phoenix on Saturday night. But the Wolves forward pledged to come back next fall in great shape, ready to start fulfilling some of the potential he believes both he and the team have.

“You never want to have a season like this,” said Love, who suffered through two broken hands, hand surgery and, most recently, arthroscopic knee surgery to fix a knee that had started aching as he tried to work toward his return. In all, Love played in just 18 games this season, one that began with high hopes but ended with the Wolves in the draft lottery.

“Who would have thought coming into this that I would have two broken hands?” Love said. “And had to have surgery and now this? The best part about it is, I’ll have a clean bill of health and I’ll be ready to go in a month.’’

Love said the knee — on which he had a procedure done a decade ago — began to bother him four or five weeks after the hand surgery, when he began to ramp up his workouts for a possible return. When he started working on cutting and jumping, the pain got worse. After consulting with coach Rick Adelman, owner Glen Taylor and President of Basketball Operations David Kahn, Love decided on surgery, which was performed last week. “We all were on the same page,” Love said. “That if it was bothering me that much, with the time we had left in the season, that it was just a good thing to go ahead and get it done, and really work for the summer and for next season.’’

But while Love pledged to be in top shape when next season starts, he acknowledged that the Wolves might be a significantly different team next year than the one he spent so much time watching from behind the bench this season. There is a chance Adelman won’t be back, a situation that could affect Andrei Kirilenko’s decision on whether to exercise his $10 million player option for next season. It could also affect negotiations with Chase Budinger, who will be a free agent after this season.

Indeed, Love might have played his last game for Adelman.

“I’ll continue to say this: We need to have him back,” Love said. “We[’d] love to have him back. I know his family comes first, but hopefully we can sit down and talk to him. This year has given us a lot of perspective, and hopefully he can see we have the making of a very good team here. We can make a push and have a special year next year. …. I think he’ll come back.”

The good news is that Love said his hand — which bothered him throughout his return from the first break — feels fine. Actually Love said he felt completely pain-free. “I feel great,’’ he said. “The chunk that came out of there was pretty substantial. In four weeks I’ll be business as usual, back in the gym.’’

And every workout will be a process of forgetting about the past season and getting ready for the next one. Given what Love went through, that’s a lot of motivation.

“My thought process is always think it, say it, do it,” he said. “Speak things into existence, put it out there and people will have to hold you accountable. For me, that’s something I didn’t necessarily do this year. I’ve always prided myself on being a pretty ambitious kid.”

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