Kevin Love Injury: Star Forward's Absence Puts Spotlight on Roy and Pekovic
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While the Timberwolves knew that Rubio would be out with the injury until December (at the earliest), they were not prepared for the news they received on Wednesday that Kevin Love would miss four-to-six weeks with a broken hand (via The Huffington Post).
The fifth-year forward is coming off a career year (26.2 points per game, 13.3 rebounds per game) for the Timberwolves. In each of his first four seasons in the NBA, Love has been able to improve in almost every category while proving that he can be a player a team can build their franchise around.
The Wolves were widely considered to be a playoff contender this season with Love leading the way. With the face of the franchise slated to return about the same time as Rubio, the Timberwolves will have to turn to Brandon Roy and Nikola Pekovic to shoulder the load in November.
Pekovic seems like he's ready to shoulder that load. Coming into last year's lockout-shortened season, Pekovic was an afterthought on the Wolves bench after a lackluster rookie season.
However, when Darko Milicic underperformed, Pekovic blossomed into the powerful center the Wolves have been searching for over the franchise's existence.
Coming off career-highs across the board, Pekovic went home over the summer and made several moves to further improve his game and his body coming into his third season in the league.
Which Timberwolves player needs to step up in Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio's absence?
By the looks of his preseason performance (including 16 points and 17 rebounds against the Chicago Bulls on October 13), Pekovic looks like he's ready to break through as one of the top centers in the NBA.
The outlook on Roy is cloudier.
The Wolves signed Roy to be a supporting piece for Love and Rubio but with both out for the first month of the season, the Wolves will need to get more out of Roy than they were expecting.
Roy has said all the right things as he recovers from a one-year layoff due to chronic arthritis in his knees, but it's highly unlikely that he'll be able to log the 35.6 minutes a game he did in his first five seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Rick Adelman will have to be careful with how much he uses Roy as the Wolves navigate through the first month of the season. However, if Roy can come through November unscathed and be productive, the Timberwolves should be in good shape.
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