Two knee operations later, Chase Budinger has returned to the Wolves
NOV 18, 2013 1:38p ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kick back on a Florida beach, read a book, grow a Fu Manchu.
Sounds great, doesn't it?
Maybe for a 65-year-old retiree or a college kid on fall break. Not for Chase Budinger while he tries to battle back from a second knee operation in the past calendar year.
The Timberwolves small forward was back working with teammates Monday for the first time since pre-training camp workouts. It was then that he reinjured the left meniscus that cost him most of last season, prompting a trip to Pensacola, Fla., to have a chunk of it surgically removed followed by 2 ½ months of rehab before he was cleared to rejoin the team in Minneapolis.
"I was kind of getting a little lonely down there in Florida," Budinger said after putting up some set jumpers during the team's post-practice shootaround.
After re-signing as an unrestricted free agent for three years and $15 million, Budinger spent the rest of the summer molding his knee back into full playing strength. He tore the meniscus in it Nov. 10 at Chicago and didn't return until March 21 -- a 59-game span -- and underwent reparative surgery shortly thereafter.
It still wasn't 100 percent when he returned, but Budinger said about a week before camp he was getting pretty close.
Then, at some point while preparing for the preseason, it flared up again. Budinger underwent an MRI that revealed another cartilage injury, then visited renowned sports medicine practitioner Dr. James Andrews, who determined it'd be more advantageous to remove part of the meniscus rather than repair it as he had before.
Andrews performed arthroscopic surgery Sept. 30 at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine and kept an eye on Budinger there until this past weekend.
Running on an aquatic treadmill more than 1,200 miles away from Minnesota instead of contending for a starting job was difficult, Budinger said, but at least he knew what to expect this time around.
"I kind of know the routine, I know what to feel in my leg and the process of when to be ready, when to start playing again," said Budinger, who was averaging 12.4 points per game before he got hurt a year ago. "So the second time is a little easier."
In his ample spare time, Budinger read close to 10 books about preparedness and the mental aspects of sport his uncle had sent him and worked on the bright, reddish-blonde mustache he's currently sporting as part of a team-wide no-shaving initiative.
The Gulf of Mexico sun was nice, too, Budinger said, but he was thrilled to return and witness Minnesota's blowout victory over Boston on Saturday in person.
"It’s always difficult watching your team play and not being able to help," Budinger said, "but our guys are doing a great job so far and I’m very proud of them, and hope when I do come back I can increase our winning percentage and help our team in any way."
Some 3-point shooting off the bench would be a nice addition. But first, Budinger has to regain a lot more strength and movement in his knee.
That means he can't do much more than shoot baskets during practice, perform glute and leg exercises and jog on a treadmill for the time being. He won't travel with the team for another two weeks, and neither he nor coach Rick Adelman have offered a timetable for his return.
"Our people are gonna start working with him, and we're gonna just kind of take it slow to see where he's at at this point," Adelman said. "He hasn't had any swelling or anything, so then he'll probably ease back into where he'll be with us, and they'll just make what they feel is best as far as progression goes."
When asked if he'd be ready by Christmas, Budinger laughed and said he's "going week by week. I can't pinpoint a date or anything like that."
But he can get up to speed on the nuances of Adelman's offensive and defensive schemes this season. Budinger's already pretty familiar with them from playing for Adelman in Houston two years ago and Minnesota last season, but just having him around his comrades is a positive step, the coach said.
The next milestone is to work Budinger into skeletal five-man sets and re-familiarize himself with Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and the rest of the Timberwolves. Offseason addition Corey Brewer has started every game on the wing, and Robbie Hummel is Adelman's favorite backup three at the moment.
"I think it's always good to see what we're doing and be around the team," said Adelman, whose 7-4 team travels to Washington on Tuesday. "(Budinger) got hurt before we even had training camp, so he really didn't see a lot of guys."
Said Budinger: "It feels great to be back."
Muhammad practices: After spraining his left ankle Wednesday against Cleveland and sitting out Minnesota's past two games, rookie forward Shabazz Muhammad worked out at a full-go Monday.
"He practiced today, but it's still a little tender," Adelman said. "But he was able to go through everything, so I think in the next couple of days, from my understanding, (head trainer Gregg Farnam) said that he doesn't have all of his explosiveness back, but he's running OK without any problems."
Muhammad has accumulated 20 minutes in four appearances and has gone 1-for-7 from the floor with two points and five rebounds.
Adelman didn't have any update on center Ronny Turiaf, who fractured his right arm in the Timberwolves' second game of the season and hasn't returned since.
Turiaf hasn't been able to practice in any capacity since colliding with Oklahoma City's Nick Collison and suffering a radial head fracture in his right elbow.
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