CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Kevin Love’s return came even earlier than anticipated.
Love not only played but started Thursday night’s 91-83 win over the Utah Jazz at Quicken Loans Arena. Head coach Tyronn Lue made the announcement of Love’s return nearly 90 minutes before tip off.
“He worked hard every day,” Lue said. “He’s ready to go. That’s good for us being back two weeks early.”
Love scored 10 points and had 9 rebounds in the 91-83 win over the Jazz.
Love went through a 3-on-3 session prior to the Cavs’ blowout win over the Pistons Tuesday and had a full-contact practice on Wednesday.
“The medical staff just said he was great,” Lue said. “He felt great after the few practices that we had and the couple 3-on-3s that they had. So they said he was ready to go tonight and that’s a good sign for us and hopefully he’ll continue to stay this way, stay healthy.”
Love, who is averaging 20 points and 11.1 rebounds per game this season, had been out since Feb. 11 and his return comes 4 weeks and 2 days since he underwent surgery on Feb. 14 to remove loose bodies from his left knee. The original timeline for his return was 6 weeks, or around March 27 or 30th.
Lue added that Love will be on an undisclosed minutes restriction for the foreseeable future.
“It’s going to take him some time,” Lue said. “We expect that. Anytime you come off an injury, I think mentally it’s going to take some time to know he can do some of the things he’s capable of doing, timing-wise, conditioning-wise. We’re going to be patient. We’re happy he’s there.”
Cleveland went 7-6 in the 13 games that he was sidelined and Lue is glad to have him back for a few reasons.
“His defensive rebounding, for one,” Lue said. “Second thing is, just when we get those leads and get jump shot happy, we’re able to throw the ball in the post and slow the game down. Either he’s going to score or get to the free throw line.”
Lue and general manager David Griffin said earlier this week that he hoped that Love would return this weekend when they play a back-to-back in L.A. with the Clippers and Lakers.
“I’m excited to finally start getting our guys back,” Lue said. “To still be No. 1 in the East after going through all the injuries, we’re in good shape.”
Even with the return of Love, the Cavs remain shorthanded.
Kyle Korver remains out with soreness in his left foot and Derrick Williams did not play due to a right quadriceps contusion.