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Updated: October 17th, 2012 7:34pm
Zulgad: Kevin Love's injury latest example of Wolves' lack of luck

Zulgad: Kevin Love's injury latest example of Wolves' lack of luck

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

Coach Rick Adelman was hoping to get a look at his projected starting five on Saturday, when the Minnesota Timberwolves hosted the Chicago Bulls in an exhibition game.

Luke Ridnour, slated to open the season in Ricky Rubio's place at point guard, had missed the first two games because of back spasms. But with Ridnour set to return, it was expected Adelman could allow Ridnour, Kevin Love, Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic and Brandon Roy to begin gaining chemistry.

The only problem was Kirilenko's hamstring began to give him problems and Love showed up at Target Center with a hyperextended elbow. Evidently, the latter injury was a result of the Wolves' All-Star forward having slept with his arm hanging out of the bed.

This had to cause some chuckles as Love described why he was unable to play. "Just a fluke thing," he said. "I'm pretty sure it's just a 24-hour deal."

It's unlikely anyone at Target Center was laughing on Wednesday afternoon.

That's when the Wolves issued a press release that Love had suffered a fracture of the third and fourth metacarpal in his shooting (right) hand while working out in the morning and will miss approximately six to eight weeks.

This came less than 24 hours after Adelman had finally gotten his starting five on the court together in a 114-81 exhibition victory over Israeli team Maccabi Haifa at Target Center. Love had a game-high 24 points and pulled down eight rebounds in 30 minutes.

Now, Love will join Rubio on the sideline as the Wolves prepare to open the regular season on Nov. 2 against Sacramento. Rubio also is expected to miss at least the first six weeks of the season as he recovers from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that he suffered in March.

Suddenly, all that enthusiasm and buzz surrounding the Wolves has come to at least a temporary halt. Rubio is the Wolves' flashiest and most marketable player, but Love is the glue to this team. He led the Wolves in points (26) and rebounds (13.3) last season, becoming one of the NBA's elite power forwards.

The NBA regular season is a grind. It runs for 82 games and is played out over five-plus months.

That means Love and Rubio should return in plenty of time to assume important roles in the Wolves' attempt to end a streak of non-playoff seasons that dates to 2004-05.

That's the optimistic view of things.

And that's the problem when it comes to this franchise.

The realistic question about the Wolves goes something like this: What incentive is there to be optimistic when you know bad news is just around the corner? Murphy's Law should be renamed Timberwolves' Law considering all that has gone wrong for this franchise.

Example A: The Wolves had gone from being a laughing stock on the Minnesota sports map to having Target Center be the fashionable place to be last season when Rubio and Love were on the court together.

It even appeared they would make a playoff push during the lockout shortened season. And then Rubio fell to the court in pain late in the fourth quarter of a March 9 loss against the Lakers while defending Kobe Bryant.

The defeat dropped the Wolves to a respectable 21-20, but the losses quickly began to pile up.

The Wolves won only one of 13 games in April, Love joined Rubio on the sidelines for the final seven games because of a concussion, and Adelman's club finished fifth in the Northwest Division with a 26-40 record.

The Wolves made some offseason additions that should help make such a free fall more difficult to accomplish. Kirilenko and Roy bring a veteran presence. Chase Budinger is familiar with Adelman's system and should be able to execute what his coach wants. Greg Stiemsma can eat up minutes in the middle off the bench.

But the Wolves aren't going to take a significant step in the Western Conference unless they can keep their top players healthy, and for whatever reason, that has been difficult for them to do.

Roy expressed confidence during an appearance on the "Judd & Phunn" show Wednesday on 1500 ESPN that his troublesome knees are far better now and won't limit him. But those same knees once caused Roy to have to retire, and he's banking that platelet-rich plasma therapy will enable him to make it through an entire season.

Meanwhile, Love and Rubio will sit in suits watching Roy, Kirilenko, Pekovic, Ridnour and whoever ends up at power forward attempt to help the Wolves keep their head above water for the first portion of the schedule.

Derrick Williams could be an option to replace Love, but keep in mind he spent the offseason reshaping his body in an attempt to play small forward. Kirilenko can play both forward positions and veteran Dante Cunningham is a guy Adelman seems to like.

As Phil Mackey points out, the Wolves' early season opponents aren't world beaters. Nine of the team's first 15 games are against team that did not make the playoffs in 2011-12.

That's the good news.

The bad news?

These are the Timberwolves and, thus, it seems like if you wait long enough, something is sure to go wrong.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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