Kevin Love itching for return but mindful of Cavs' new chemistry

CLEVELAND -- As Kevin Love nears a comeback from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, the Cleveland Cavaliers' All-Star forward says he is mindful of the ripple effects his return could cause after a month out.

"I think it will be pretty easy for me to come back in, and I just don't want to mess up any of the rhythm these guys have," Love told reporters Wednesday, one month to the day after undergoing the procedure to remove a loose body from the knee.

Love's original timeline for a return was six weeks, but the Cavs say their All-Star forward could play as soon as Saturday in Los Angeles as Cleveland embarks on a four-game road trip starting with a back-to-back against the Clippers and Lakers and continuing on through Denver and Charlotte.

He progressed from 3-on-3 drills earlier in the week to full participation in Cleveland's practice Wednesday, albeit a light one at about 20 minutes, according to coach Tyronn Lue.

"Whenever the medical staff clears him, he'll be ready to go," Lue said. "He reacted well. After the practice today he said he felt good. Hopefully continue to keep progressing as well. That's a good sign for us."

Love will return to a Cavs team that looks a little different than the group he last played with. Since his last game on Feb. 11, Cleveland has added Deron Williams and backup big man Larry Sanders (who was assigned to the Cavs' D-League affiliate on Wednesday), J.R. Smith has returned to the lineup following surgery on his right thumb and Kyle Korver and Derrick Williams have settled into consistent roles.

Not that Love's presence -- and his 20 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game -- weren't missed. The Cavs have gone just 7-6 since he went out and cling to a 2½-game lead over the Boston Celtics for first place in the Eastern Conference.

They've missed him on the boards, as their total rebounds per game have dropped from 44.1 to 41.8 per game since Love last played, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Cavs' total rebound percentage also dropped from 50 percent to 48 percent in that span and their opponents have dominated them on the offensive glass, 12.0 to 7.2 on average, in those 13 games.

Love said this absence, which started just days before he was to play in his first All-Star Game as a member of the Cavaliers, reminded him of missing the bulk of the 2015 playoffs after suffering a shoulder injury in Game 4 of Cleveland's first-round sweep of Boston.

"That was the hardest part about being out during that first year, that first run," Love said. "We went to six games in the Finals, but just knowing there were certain places I could help -- help space the floor, rebound both ends of the floor. It's no different than right now. It's just regular season and knowing that I can help out definitely from a rebounding perspective, defensively I can help out, offensively it just gives us another weapon. I've always said we're a lot better when we're healthy."

As far as the Cavs' overall health goes, Lue said Korver has been feeling better from the sore left foot that's caused him to miss the past four games. He added that Love would be on an unspecified minutes restriction when he returns, at which point Smith would join Love in the starting lineup so the Cavs could deploy the lineup that won them the championship last June.

"It's just a good energy," Love added. "We haven't played our best basketball lately, but there's a good energy around the team and wanting to get back. That's why I talk about the adrenaline. I'm 28 years old, I feel like I'm just coming into the league again because I'm so antsy to get back. It's good. You've got to trust the process, respect the process and give that leg time to heal, give injuries time to heal. But it's not for lack of wanting to be out there."