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If Kevin Love has his way, Cleveland Cavaliers fans will be seeing more of him during the team’s 24 games that remain in the 2018-19 season.
“I think you’ll see me more on a steady basis and not miss games after the break, I’m hoping,” Love said after practice Wednesday. “So just continue to improve the minutes and make sure that I’m feeling good and go from there.”
Love missed 50 games this season after foot surgery and returned to action Feb. 8, playing six minutes against the Washington Wizards, then spending the rest of the game working on his conditioning in the Cavaliers’ locker room.
The five-time All-Star forward did not play the next night against Indiana in the nightcap of a back-to-back, but returned and played 16 solid minutes against New York on Feb. 11, posting 14 points and nine rebounds. Love was held out of the Cavs’ final game before the All-Star break, a triple-overtime loss to the visiting Brooklyn Nets.
Cleveland coach Larry Drew said Love will still be on a minutes restriction until the team’s medical team says otherwise. The Cavaliers (12-46) get back into action against the Phoenix Suns (11-48) on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
“I think he has done a magnificent job in the way he has conducted himself and he has stayed the course with his rehab through his injury,” Drew said. “I know how bad he wants to be out there, but things happen and you have to push through them, which he has done.
“Now he’s able to play. He’s gradually getting his legs under him and gradually getting to the point where he can play extended minutes. I’m certain that once he is able to get out there and really play extended minutes he’s going to make the most of it.”
Love, who played 5-on-5 on Wednesday, said his conditioning level is still where it needs to be, but more importantly, he feels healthy. Tristan Thompson, who started alongside Love on Cleveland’s 2016 NBA championship team, is trying to work himself back from a sore foot, which has sidelined him since Jan. 18. Thompson practiced Wednesday but has been ruled out for the game against Phoenix on Thursday night.
“Hopefully, we’ll have everybody back,” Love said about the remainder of the season. “You just have to continue to find motivation and know that there’s a bigger picture involved and you know, for me, it is tough. It’s the longest I’ve missed consecutively in my whole career but I just gotta find opportunity, find ways to get better and in a lot of ways my body feels really fresh. I guess that’s the good thing in this and just continue to get better in my game.”
Despite Cleveland’s many struggles this season — the Cavaliers currently have the worst defensive rating in NBA history — Love remains upbeat about what comes the rest of the way and in the future for the franchise.
“I think it’s because we have guys that fight,” the 30-year-old said. “We have guys who play really, really hard, some veterans with five or six years in the league that have put in their time and have been around playoff basketball. Any team when you have bad luck like that you’re going to lose a lot of basketball games.
“The record indicates that obviously, we are at the bottom, but we feel like we have a team that can really compete with anybody on any given night. That’s the beauty of this game.”