Cavaliers forward Kevin Love had surgery Wednesday in New York to repair his dislocated shoulder and will miss the rest of the postseason. His estimated recovery time is 4 to 6 months.
Love had the procedure at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. It was performed by Dr. David Altchek, who is not affiliated with the Cavs medical team or the Cleveland Clinic. Love’s follow-up care will be provided by the Cavs’ medical staff and head team physician Dr. Richard Parker.
While Love chose to have the surgery done outside of the Cavs’ organization, Altchek is the medical director for the New York Mets and is well known throughout the NBA surgical community. He is also well known in the professional tennis community, according to his bio.
The given timeline makes it possible recovery could interfere with training camp and the start of next season, which typically begins around the end of October. Love has a player option on his contract and can become a free agent this summer.
Love suffered a dislocated shoulder, torn ligaments and a torn labrum when he was injured by the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk during the first quarter of Sunday’s victory, which completed a first-round sweep, at Boston.
He waited seven years to reach the postseason, then was injured after playing in three full games. Love called Olynyk’s play “bush league” and believes he did it intentionally. Olynyk denied any such claims to the Boston Globe.
Now the Cavs are busy figuring ways to replace Love. General Manager David Griffin, who all but ruled out Love for this postseason on Tuesday, said he believes this team still has enough to succeed in the playoffs.
“He’s a part of this family. He’s a part of our team. So every day he struggles, everyday that he has to face it, we face it,” James Jones said of Love Wednesday after practice. “The best way we can pick him up is to play and win. And that’s what we plan to do.”
Cavs try to move on
Jones, a 12-year NBA veteran, said the disappointment of losing one of their Big Three for the rest of the playoffs will never go away. Presumably, he meant not until they’ve played their last game of the season.
But after practice Tuesday at the Cleveland Clinic Courts, there was also a sense that the Cavs had started to accept reality and are moving on.
“We’ve got to keep the ship moving,” Tristan Thompson said. “There’s going to be some bumps in the road. This is obviously a huge bump for us, but we’ve still got to play on.
“No one’s going to feel sorry for us or lay down for us. They’re going to be licking their chops and be even more excited to play us thinking because we lost one of our key players we might be wounded or not as good. We’ve got to play hard and show what we’re capable of doing.”
The Cavs still don’t know who their opponent will be Monday night in the Eastern Conference semifinals at Quicken Loans Arena as they await the completion of the Chicago Bulls-Milwaukee Bucks series. The Cavs will also be without J.R. Smith for two games after a league suspension.
But as they finished Day Two without Love, Kyrie Irving joined LeBron James in a post-practice shooting drill and their mood was upbeat.
Asked if the team was confident, Jones said: “Always. We’ve been doing this our entire lives. Now we just get a chance to do it on a grand stage. Every guy on this team has been proven, and they’re competitive. We’ll get a chance to have some fun out here.”
That’s not to say everyone is over the disappointment of what happened to Love.
Thompson echoed Jones’ sentiment about playing for Love.
“He’s been in the league for so long and being in his first playoffs, I know he was excited about it,” Thompson said of Love, a seven-year veteran. “It’s definitely disappointing he’s not going to be able to finish it out with us. That’s why we have to go out there and play hard and make him proud on the sideline.”
Cavs coach David Blatt said his team has experienced such a significant injury a few times during his 20-year international career, but declined to say how those turned out. He described the Cavs as “locked in” during Tuesday’s session.
As tough of a blow as they took Sunday, Jones said the Cavs still believe they have enough to win the NBA title.
“From Day One we knew we’d face adversity,” Jones said. “You don’t know in what form or fashion. For us it just happened to be a devastating injury. But the games will still be played. The guys in here still have the same goal. We’re another man down. A very key part has been subtracted.
“But I think we have enough and we know we have enough. We’ll give it our best and hopefully our best will be enough.”
Jones sees similarities
As the news regarding Love sank in for the team, Jones, who will likely get more playing time in Love’s absence, was asked about similarities between what the Cavs face and what the Miami Heat endured losing Chris Bosh during the 2012 playoffs.
“No doubt,” he said when asked if they were similar situations.
But Jones said the Cavs are not alone now, either.
“You look at the every team in the playoffs. Every team in the playoffs is dealing with something. A key guy is banged up for a game or for a long period of time,” he said. “You just have to make adjustments. That’s why you build your team 15 deep and that’s why you try to build some continuity.”
Jones doesn’t recall what James, who averaged 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game, did to elevate his game after Bosh was injured in the 2012 semifinals, but he expects it will happen again.
“You don’t get a chance to see how special he is until he’s needed,” Jones said. “That’s usually what happens in the playoffs. So I expect him to raise his level. I expect all the guys to. But that’s the beauty of this game. You get a chance to compete and show your best.”
The end result that year was a championship for the Heat.
James wasn’t hedging his bets in practice Wednesday when speaking about the physical nature of the series against the Boston Celtics and that he expects it to continue in the next round whether the opponent is the Chicago Bulls or the Milwaukee Bucks.
After all, it’s playoff basketball.
“I’ve been in so many physical battles before — Detroit, Indiana, Boston, Chicago. These are teams that are physical in the postseason. You like that type of play. It is what it is,” James said. “Both Chicago and Milwaukee are playing physical basketball. Both teams rebound extremely well. You have to be ready for that.”
How the Cavs deal with Love’s loss remains to be seen. Blatt hasn’t been one to tip his hand.
“We’re just sort of building up this week,” he said. “We have a long week and we’re looking at many different things, and testing different lineups is not something we’ve really gotten to right now, but we will.”