After scoring 24, Kevin Love says he’s not close to 100 percent

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If you just look at the raw numbers, Kevin Love had a good night in Portland: 24 points and 13 rebounds. Right at the kind of numbers he put up last year as an All-Star.

But this wasn’t an efficient Love leading his team (the Timberwolves lost to the Trail Blazers and a red hot Damian Lillard) — Love was 6-of-15 shooting overall and just 2-of-7 near the rim (according to NBA.com’s stats).

And after the game Love was the first to admit he’s not all the way back in an exclusive interview with Comcast Sportsnet Northwest via CSNNW.com.

“(I’m) not too close (to 100 percent). Still got a ways to go conditioning wise, still need to get my legs, and my hand back, too,” Love said. “I was originally scheduled for eight weeks and I came back in five, so the ball just doesn’t feel right in my hand yet and I mentioned being in shape, too, that goes a long way. There’s just nothing that can replicate getting out there and playing.”

About playing with the brace on his hand…

“It’s just not the same but more than anything just not getting the practice in and not being able to really get a rhythm out there and get into the flow of the offense with the guys that’s the toughest thing. It’s just a number of things that need to come together for myself and also the entire team, because we have the makings to be a pretty good team.”

They do have the makings, and getting Ricky Rubio back next month will help with that.

But in the short term the Timberwolves have lost four in a row and need more from Love, and particularly more from their guard play (remember Brandon Roy is out, too, so they are going with Luke Ridnour, Michael Lee, with J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved off the bench). They have to stay in the playoff hunt until they figure out how to be a pretty good team.

Are Bulls and Dwyane Wade moving toward a buyout?

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About a month ago, the Bulls said they hadn’t discussed a buyout with Dwyane Wade.

Have the two sides progressed since?

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Dwyane Wade isn’t long for the organization’s future and is expected to reach a buyout agreement at some point in the next few months.

Expected by whom?

People with direct knowledge of momentum toward a buyout?

Or everyone who can see that a 35-year-old earning $23.8 million fits poorly on a rebuilding team?

For the Bulls to now drop their biggest name and a large expiring contract that could prove useful in trades should require Wade surrendering a large portion of his salary. He doesn’t sound like someone inclined to do that yet.

A few months is a long time. As long as Wade gets bought out by March 1, he could join another team’s playoff roster. It’d surprise nobody if he gets bought out after the February trade deadline, which we already knew. I don’t see strong indication of something more imminent.

LeBron James’ camp already shooting down leaving-Cavaliers rumor

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LeBron James has done a terrible job shooting down rumors about him leaving the Cavaliers

Except this one from Chris Sheridan, who cited a source saying LeBron would “100 percent” leave Cleveland next summer due to a rift with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Sheridan’s source saying LeBron is leaving doesn’t make that true. But other anonymous sources denying it doesn’t make the denials true, either.

New Orleans Saints fire Pelicans’ team physician

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The Pelicans have been crushed by injuries the last few years.

Why? That’s an incredibly complex question.

But the New Orleans Saints – who share an owner (Tom Benson), a front-office leader (Mickey Loomis) and other staff with the Pelicans – have found culprits for their own injury woes.

Mike Triplett of ESPN:

The Saints have fired team orthopedists Deryk Jones and Misty Suri, per source, after it was discovered that CB Delvin Breaux has a fractured fibula and will require surgery expected to sidelined him for 4-6 weeks. Breaux was originally diagnosed with a contusion

Suri is a Pelicans team physician.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate:

Fairly or not, Suri – after the Saints deemed him unacceptable – will be in the crosshairs if he keeps his job with the the Pelicans and their injury woes continue.

Rumor: LeBron James ‘100 percent’ leaving Cavaliers next summer

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Chris Sheridan was ahead of the crowd in 2014, reporting LeBron James would likely leave the Heat for the Cavaliers – which obviously happened.

But Sheridan called it a “90 percent chance,” a small – but large enough – hedge. He also said LeBron would announce the decision on LeBron’s personal website. Of course, LeBron revealed his choice in a Sports Illustrated essay.

So, maybe Sheridan knows what he’s talking about. Maybe he doesn’t.

But the longtime NBA writer just fanned the flames of the already hot LeBron-leaving-Cleveland rumors.

Sheridan:

Of course, the denials came quickly.

There have already been plenty of warning signs about LeBron’s relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, which didn’t restart in a great place.

It’s entirely believable LeBron would leave Cleveland, in large part due to Gilbert.

But it’s also fun to speculate about that salacious storyline.

Maybe Sheridan or his source got carried away for that very reason. Or maybe they know something.

Neither possibility should be discounted.