CHICAGO – After the Timberwolves’ 87-80 loss to the Bulls Saturday, the team announced that Chase Budinger suffered a twisted left knee and that his X-rays were normal. He will be evaluated further when the team arrives in Dallas on Sunday.
The injury occurred with six minutes remaining in the game and the Timberwolves down 78-70. Dante Cunningham shot a jumper, which Taj Gibson blocked. The Timberwolves got the offensive rebound, and the physical play that had characterized the second half resumed.
But this time, it might have gone too far. Budinger sprawled out of the scrum, away from the basket and toward the sideline, and when he tried to get up, he couldn’t. Luke Ridnour tried to help, but Budinger’s left leg was not weight-bearing, and he was eventually helped off the court by head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam and guard Will Conroy.
There was no consensus among players and coaches in the locker room as to the specifics of what happened, other than that Budinger was shoved from behind. After the game, he was on crutches with an ice bag strapped to his left knee as he entered the shower.
“It sucks,” Budinger told NBA.com. “The injuries are tough. It’s frustrating because I’ve never had a knee problem (like this). So getting all these questions about it, I don’t really know how to respond to them. I’ve never had it before. So we’ll just wait till tomorrow, see what the MRI says.”
He added that the injury stemmed from the fact that his foot got caught when he fell, wrenching his knee into a twisted position.
Budinger’s injury is the fourth that the 4-2 Timberwolves have sustained since the beginning of the preseason. First, there was Kevin Love’s broken hand, then J.J. Barea’s sprained foot, then Brandon Roy’s sore knee and now Budinger’s yet undetermined knee injury. And that’s all after Ricky Rubio’s torn ACL last March.
At this point, it would be hard not to be frustrated, and coach Rick Adelman was just that after the game. The coach has lost two shooting guards, Roy and now Budinger in two nights.
“I have no idea,” he said. “I really don’t.”
That was almost all there was to say short of blaming curses or luck or general hatred by some deity.
“I don’t understand it,” Adelman said. “I don’t know. I thought maybe it was just Minnesota, but it was on the road, too.”
And then he laughed, the laugh of a coach given a team that should win, that has been winning in spite of everything but that was just dealt yet another blow. Every night, it seems, the team is tempting fate, and with every injury, it’s so easy to say that this might be the one that breaks the whole thing.
There’s no way that wasn’t going through everyone’s minds in the Timberwolves locker room and on their flight to Dallas. When you’ve been playing like they’ve been playing under the circumstances, there’s of course a certain pride, a certain belief that winning is possible. But there also must be the sense of how fleeting all this is, a sense of helplessness. Like Adelman said after the game, it’s not as if the league is going to give them a reprieve.
And so now the Timberwolves must pick up the pieces. They did, to some extent, on Saturday, never quite giving up after Budinger’s injury. It was heartening to see, but not enough, and now, the waiting begins.
Now, they wait to learn how long Roy might be out. They wait to hear if Barea will be joining them in Dallas. They wait to find out what exactly is going on with the latest bad knee, Budinger’s, and for Rubio to take his next step. They wait for Love to go to the doctor and get a better timetable for his hand. They wait, but they also must play.
It’s time to see what kind of magic, if any, Adelman can drum up this time.