Kevin Love’s status for the NBA Finals remains up in the air. There is no clear update from the Cleveland Cavaliers about when the forward will make his return and no indication of exactly what injury he suffered.
Love went down early in Game 6 after bumping heads with Jayson Tatum, and was reportedly placed into concussion protocol. He did not return and ended up missing Game 7 as well, but not until after what ESPN described as some confusion about his status.
The team announced that Love was experiencing concussion-like symptoms, though it was not clear if he was actually in concussion protocol. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had initially said that Love was in the league-mandated protocol for confirmed concussions, but later backtracked.
If Kevin Love is indeed in the concussion protocol, his return date would be uncertain. Though Love only missed one game in the 2016 NBA Finals after suffering a concussion, the severity and recovery time for head injuries can vary greatly.
As NBC Sports noted, there are a set of detailed steps that a player must progress through in order to be cleared to return from a concussion, starting with exhibiting no symptoms while at rest and then through a series of exercises. The player must then be evaluated by a physician and successfully complete the league’s return-to-participation exertion protocol. That means that Love could be in trouble of missing at least the start of the NBA Finals.
The Cavaliers did not miss much in Love’s absence in Game 7 thanks to a stellar performance from Danny Green. Starting in place of the All-Star forward, Green scored 19 points to go along with 8 rebounds, a steal, and a block in 42 minutes of action. But the team will likely need Kevin Love to return from injury as quickly as possible against either the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors.
While the signs from the team have been mixed, there was at least one positive sign after the Cavaliers defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 7. Love, wearing street clothes, showed up to celebrate with his teammates after the win and appeared to be no worse for the wear.
There is at least one more factor in the Cavaliers favor — an earlier schedule than the Western Conference. Game 7 between the Rockets and Warriors takes place on Monday, so the first game of the NBA Finals will not begin until Thursday. That will give Kevin Love more time to recover and pass the concussion protocol — if he is indeed in it.