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Updated: February 7th, 2013 3:30pm
Wessel: Kevin Love says he remains on track to return in mid-March

Wessel: Kevin Love says he remains on track to return in mid-March

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Love returned to the Minnesota Timberwolves this week for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair his broken hand and says he is still on track to be back on the court in mid-March.

Love, who was noticeably trimmer since his last appearance in Minnesota, was careful not to put any specific date on his return because he wants to ensure his right hand is fully healed after possibly coming back too early from the first break he suffered before the season.

Love re-fractured his third metacarpal in the hand in a Jan. 3 victory at Denver. He originally broke his hand on Oct. 17 and was out for the first three weeks of the season.

"I think it is going to, just because of the surgery, take a little bit longer than last time," Love said at practice Thursday. "I think this time it kind of allows me ... surgery is making me be patient and making me heal rather than trying to get out there the first day the doctor (clears me).

"I want to get back out there as soon as possible. With that said, I definitely want to heal and do things the right way this time around."

Love had been away from the team since undergoing surgery on Jan. 15 in New York. He stayed in New York so he could begin his rehab under the guidance of his surgeon Dr. Michelle Carson. Love's regimen included five days of rehab and five days of conditioning a week while meeting with Carson every Tuesday and Friday.

Most of Love's rehab consisted of getting the range of motion back in his hand, as well as massages to decrease the fluid buildup in his shooting hand. Love says there is still some fluid built up but that will decrease over time as the range of motion returns to his hand and he regains more functionality.

Love said his hand feels better roughly three weeks after breaking it than it did at this point the first time around.

"I don't know when I will be able to dribble and/or shoot," Love said, "but I can start gripping stuff more in the weight room and with that progressively I'll get my hand stronger and my legs back underneath me. But with that said, nothing can replace getting back out there on the court."

The extended rehab in New York was good for Love, but he admitted to getting bored. He watched as many games as he could on NBA League Pass, but said it was good to be back around the team.

"It feels great," he said. "I was gone for awhile but just to be back around the team it feels great. It feels like I never left."

To say it has been a nightmare season for Love would be an understatement. A pair of broken hands, poor play when healthy and another controversy surrounding his latest criticisms of the Wolves' brass led some fans to turn on the superstar.

"I think (the fans) need to realize that I love being here," he said. "I don't know where the misconception (that I don't want to be here) came along. I love this city, I love this organization, but somewhere along the line it went the other way. I think wholeheartedly they need to realize I want to be here."

Love pointed out there is a really simple way to get the fans back on his side

"Winning. Winning solves that," he said.

Unfortunately for the Wolves, that has been easier said than done this season. The wheels have completely come off since the Wolves lost Love for the second time this season.

They have gone 3-14 since Love was injured again and are 18-28 overall after a loss on Wednesday night to San Antonio. Despite sitting 12th in the Western Conference stadinings, Love still believes the Wolves can get something out of this once promising season.

"I think, as a team, we can really salvage it," he said. "Coach (Rick Adelman) mentioned today that we can't look at making the playoffs right now. We can just look at making the next game and next practice and what we can do to get better every single day."

Love will continue to rehab in Minnesota and be around the team, including going on road trips, while periodically checking in with Carson in New York. But for now, Love is just happy to be back around his teammates.

"Feels like family," he said.

In this story: Kevin Love