Kevin Love returns to play for Cleveland for first time since December

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love
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Kevin Love played in just two games to start the season before straining his right calf, which cost him the next 33 games.

Friday night against New Orleans, Love returned to the rotation and starting lineup for the Cavaliers.

Coach J.B. Bickerstaff made the announcement pregame and confirmed Kevin Love would be on a minutes restriction.

“His role tonight is going to be limited. Want to put him in position to where he can build upwards,” Bickerstaff said, via the Associated Press. “We want him to play as many games as possible.”

Larry Nance Jr. also returned for Cleveland after missing a dozen games after fracturing the fourth metacarpal on his left hand, commonly known as a “boxer’s fracture.”

“He’s one of those guys that helps us tick on both ends of the floor,” Bickerstaff said. “You don’t have to call plays for him and he can go out and get you double figures.”

Nance was playing the best basketball of his career before the injury, averaging 9.3 points and 6.8 rebounds a game while shooting 38.1% from three. More importantly, he was giving the Cavaliers quality defense at the four.

Nance’s play had several teams looking for help at the four — Boston, Philadelphia, Minnesota, New Orleans, Miami, Dallas — all talking to Cleveland about a Nance trade. Nance is very popular in the locker room and the city — he wants to be in Cleveland — making Cavs GM Koby Altman hesitant to trade him.