And then there were 12, for the first time since Dec. 7.
Timberwolves swingman Chase Budinger played in his first game since November on Thursday night in Sacramento, where the Timberwolves lost, 101-98. Budinger tore the meniscus in his right knee on Nov. 10 in Chicago, and his activation pushed Minnesota’s active roster back to 12 active players, normal for some teams but a luxury for this one.
Budinger was cleared to participate in full-contact practices on March 12, but due to the team’s schedule, he did not participate in his first such practice until Wednesday. After that workout, he said he’d play Thursday if his knee responded well to the increase in activity, which it did.
“It feels like the first practice,” Budinger said Wednesday. “Like I missed all summer and this is the first practice again … I was a little rusty out there just trying to get my legs underneath me, but all in all the knee felt great.”
In his comeback Thursday night, Budinger scored nine points in 18 minutes of play off the bench, going 3-of-7 from the field and making Minnesota’s lone 3-pointer. (The team shot 5.3 percent from long range, a season low.) Budinger also finished the night with four rebounds and a steal, and he looked confident in the limited minutes he played.
In six games with the Timberwolves before his injury, Budinger was averaging 11.8 points on 48.0 percent shooting, career highs in both categories. He also averaged 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in those six games.
The Timberwolves acquired Budinger from Houston in June, giving up their first-round draft pick in exchange. Budinger played under coach Rick Adelman for his first two seasons in the league in Houston, and he is a career 43.6 percent shooter known for his 3-point game, energy and ability to cut and move without the ball.
The last time the Timberwolves had 12 active players, Dec. 7, their roster looked dramatically different. Only eight of those 12 are still with the team and healthy today; Josh Howard was cut after tearing his ACL, Malcolm Lee is out for the season with a knee issue, Lou Amundson was waived and Kevin Love remains out with a broken right hand.