Wolves Friday: Budinger back, working on getting legs, body in shape

Chase Budinger is on a minutes limit for the first couple of weeks in his return to the court.

MINNEAPOLIS — Six points, one rebound and one 3-pointer in 11 minutes.

It’s a stat line that’s as modest as modest can be. But Chase Budinger says he’s thankful for that which he didn’t have Wednesday in his first game back from injury.

Tentativeness.

"The best part about last game was that I wasn’t thinking about my knee," the Timberwolves small forward said. "I was out there playing. I wasn’t favoring it or thinking of ‘I don’t want to drive, because I don’t want to get hurt again.’ I didn’t have that in my mind at all. I was just out there playing."

And for Budinger, playing is quite the improvement.

His return Wednesday marked the Arizona product’s first game action since April 17 of last year. Since then, he’s had a second surgery on the damaged meniscus in his left knee, 2 ½ months of rehab in Pensacola, Fla., and nearly two more months in the Twin Cities before being activated ahead of Wednesday’s loss to Phoenix. At the urging of athletic training guru Dr. James Andrews, who performed both of Budinger’s surgeries, he’ll be on an 18 minutes-per-game restriction for at least the next couple weeks.

The knee hasn’t experienced any swelling, nor does it feel sore, Budinger said. But after missing training camp and being thrown back into the grind of NBA life, the rest of his body is a different story.

"I’ve got to get my legs, I’ve got to get body back," said Budinger, who missed 59 games last season when he first tore the meniscus. "I’ve got to get used the pounding and the pushing for my body to adjust, to get used to it. That’s where I’m at right now."

He also must readjust to working within coach Rick Adelman’s schemes. Budinger played for Adelman in Houston for two years and was reunited with him via trade in the summer of 2012, but the coach’s varied and complex corner sets aren’t always the easiest to get back into.

"Very rusty," Budinger said. "The biggest thing last game I was telling people was that my feet felt weird out there on the court. Making reads, I’m a little slow still. But that’s going to take time."

Full strength: Forward Luc Mbah a Moute returned from a strained groin for Friday’s contest against Charlotte, giving Minnesota a fully active roster under Adelman for the first time since March 3, 2012.

Mbah a Moute, whom the Timberwolves traded Derrick Williams for earlier this season, had missed the past three games. In 15 outings with Minnesota, he’s averaging 17.7 minutes, four points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

In addition to Mbah a Moute and Budinger, backup center Ronny Turiaf (elbow fracture) came back to the lineup Monday after a 31-game absence.

Rookie Shabazz Muhammad is currently with the Iowa Energy of the D-League, meaning Adelman has to deactivate only one healthy player at the moment. Robbie Hummel received that designation Friday.

Shabazz honored: It sure didn’t take Muhammad long to make an impact in the NBA Developmental League.

The Timberwolves rookie was named to the NBADLeague.com All-Showcase team after tabulating 46 points, 18 rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block and shooting 62.5 percent from the floor in the Iowa Energy’s two wins this week. Minnesota assigned Muhammad to the affiliate organization last week in time for him to play in the D-League Showcase in his home state of Nevada.

The No. 14 overall pick in last summer’s draft grew up in Las Vegas. The D-League event was held in Reno.

"It’s a good experience for him," Adelman said. "He’s doing a good job. He’s aggressive. Getting a chance to play, getting some confidence, I think it’s gonna be good to have him down there."

Muhammad’s assignment continues Saturday night as the Energy travel to Fort Wayne. They’ll be back in Des Moines for Sunday’s game against Rio Grande Valley, which Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders is expected to attend.

Price, Hummel contracts now guaranteed: It’s a mere formality, but because the Timberwolves decided not to waive forward Robbie Hummel or guard A.J. Price earlier this week, the two reserves’ contracts are now guaranteed for the rest of the season.

The base salary in all NBA contracts became guaranteed Friday, and players must clear waivers before they’re off a team’s books. In order to avoid paying Hummel or Price, Minnesota would have had to release them before 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Price is set to make $947,907 this year, and Hummel is due $490,180.

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