Love aiming to return to Cavaliers next week

Kevin Love and the Cavaliers now have a 1.5-game lead for the race for third place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Kevin Love has been in the gym, putting up shots, working on his game and finally, it seems, getting close to joining his newer teammates for the first time.

That’s the latest on the Cavaliers’ power forward, as Love told Cleveland.com he is hoping to return from his fractured left hand next week. Love suffered the injury Jan. 30 and as I wrote in my dribbles column Tuesday, he could debut at the end of the Cavs’ upcoming homestand — or more precisely, March 23 vs. the Phoenix Suns, according to Cleveland.com.

Love has yet to play since the Feb. 8 trades that shipped out six players and brought in George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. Hill, Hood and Nance Jr. have all been starters, and along with star LeBron James, each has the type of selfless game that should benefit Love.

In turn, he will become the consistent second scoring option the Cavs (39-28) could clearly use.

Love was expected to miss eight weeks at the time of the injury. Following Tuesday’s blowout win over Phoenix, the Cavs are 10-9 in his absence.

He is averaging 17.9 points and 9.4 rebounds and was named an All-Star reserve for the second straight season.

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