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Timberwolves’ Love won’t need surgery as team prepares alternate gameplan

By Kent Youngblood, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

MINNEAPOLIS — Maybe because he’s been through this before, Wolves coach Rick Adelman came prepared with some dark humor Thursday.

He suggested that knuckle pushups — the cause of two broken bones in Kevin Love’s right hand — be banned.

“Out of the repertoire for sure,” he deadpanned. “In fact, all pushups. Anything with the hand.”

He expressed his shock at hearing the news on Love, then wondered whether the coach himself was to blame for the team having to start the regular season without either Love or Ricky Rubio.

“I’ve had so many injuries to good players, I’m starting to think maybe it’s me,” Adelman said. “Houston, we didn’t have very good luck, and now we have the same thing here.”

It is that Houston experience that Adelman hopes to use now.

Love, the Wolves’ all-star forward, sustained two broken metacarpals in his right hand doing knuckle pushups — done to strengthen wrists and shoulders — Wednesday. A visit with a specialist in New York on Thursday morning determined that no surgery was necessary, and a six- to eight-week recovery timeline — one that is likely conservative — is in place.

Adelman — who coached through injuries to stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady while in Houston — has to figure out how to get the Wolves through at least the first month of the season without both Love and Ricky Rubio (knee surgery).

Adelman made one thing clear. He expects his team to win while waiting for Love to return.

“We’ve got to be prepared to be successful,” Adelman said. “We have to come out strong in that first month.”

How? That is the question Adelman will spend the final three preseason games figuring out. But, he said, the offseason moves that brought Andrei Kirilenko, Dante Cunningham, Chase Budinger, Lou Amundson and Brandon Roy to Minnesota were done with the idea of giving the roster the depth to cope.

“That’s one reason we made a lot of changes,” he said. “Because we didn’t do that last year, that last month (of the season), we got hammered.”

So it’s time to see how deep the roster is. Adelman is going to look at a number of combinations, though guard Luke Ridnour (sore back) didn’t go with the team to Chicago for Friday’s game.

Derrick Williams and Cunningham will figure heavily into the mix at Love’s power forward position. But it won’t stop there. Kirilenko could get some time there, with Budinger playing some small forward. Amundson also will fit into the mix.

Love, meanwhile, returned from New York on Thursday.

“Although I’m disappointed that this injury happened,” he said in a statement released by the team, “I will work extremely hard to stay in shape and return to the court as quickly as possible. … I have complete confidence in my teammates and coaching staff that they will step up and be successful during this time.”

For that to happen, Adelman said, everyone will have to play better.

“It’s not just at (Love’s) spot,” Adelman said. “It means our point guards have to take up more. Brandon will maybe have to take up more because we don’t have Kevin. (Nikola) Pekovic’s going to have to pick up more. Everybody’s going to have to do more to make up for that loss. That’s how the guys in Houston approached it.”

In 2009, the Rockets made the playoffs despite an injury to McGrady before the playoffs began. The team advanced to the Western Conference semifinals, where it lost to the Lakers in seven games after losing Yao to injury in Game 3. In subsequent seasons, Adelman was able to keep Houston above .500 despite injuries.

On Thursday, the Wolves seemed upbeat. Kirilenko said the players “would not put their heads down.” Williams acknowledged the loss, but also saw an opportunity.

“I think it’s my time,” said the second-year player.

Cunningham said it was a challenge “I’m ready for with open arms.”

Adelman said Williams needed to be more consistent and more aggressive.

Williams agreed: “I think sometimes I find myself being more passive.”

For Adelman, it will be a juggling act. Much of the scoring might fall on Roy, though Adelman doesn’t want to overload the veteran. But everyone will have to do more.

“Derrick can be very good offensively, Dante is terrific defensively, Lou can be very physical at that spot,” Adelman said. “And Andrei gives you another dimension.”

But one goal: “We all want to make the playoffs,” Williams said.

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