Wolves’ Muhammad frustrated by season-ending ‘little injury’

Timberwolves forward Shabazz Muhammad was averaging 13.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Adding Shabazz Muhammad to the list of Timberwolves’ 2014-15 casualties at all was bad enough.

But when the second-year forward considers how far he’s come in the past year, and the trajectory he was on this season, it makes the ruptured ligament in his left middle finger — the one on his shooting hand — all the more agonizing.

"This is something that just sucks, because it’s a little injury that can hold you out for this long," Muhammad, who will miss the rest of the season, said Sunday after practice. "I thought I was really coming back strong . . . but stuff like this happens."

A year ago, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound slasher had played in 19 NBA games, riding the bench under coach Rick Adelman and even spending some time in the NBA Development league. This season, even though a strained outer oblique kept him out of 16 games before the All-Star break, Muhammad was scoring 13.5 points per game on 48.9 percent shooting and pulling down 4.1 rebounds a contest.

Until, that is, he caught his finger in teammate Andrew Wiggins’ jersey during practice Wednesday. The finger got yanked sideways, and he’ll undergo an operation to repair the damage Monday at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

The recovery time is estimated at a minimum of five weeks, Muhammad said. Five weeks from now, the Wolves will have 12 games left.

"It happened pretty much the first play of practice," said Muhammad, who played almost 13 minutes in Friday’s game. "It’s just something that’s bad luck. I’ve been playing well this whole season. It just sucks that I have to sit out the rest of these 20 games."

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After dropping nearly 20 pounds this offseason and coming back in much better shape, coach and president Flip Saunders says, Muhammad’s 2014-15 strides can’t be sullied.

Even though he’ll have to wait until next season to make any more.

"He’s done a lot this year. He he’s had a good year," said Saunders, who traded for Muhammad (picked 14th overall) in the 2013 draft. "The reason we’re doing (surgery) now is so he can build on this year for next year and get ready in the summer time to get done what he needs to get done."

Also Sunday, recently acquired guard Gary Neal limped off the practice floor with a sprained ankle. He’ll be evaluated further but will make Minnesota’s trip to Houston for Monday’s game against the Rockets.

If Neal misses any significant time, he’ll be added to the laundry list of injuries. Point guard Ricky Rubio missed 43 games with a sprained ankle, a fractured wrist kept shooting guard Kevin Martin out of 34 contests, and center Nikola Pekovic sat out 31 games with ankle and wrist soreness.

Guard Mo Williams, who was sent to Charlotte for Neal, missed 13 games. Center Ronny Turiaf, traded away earlier this campaign, had season-ending surgery on his right hip. Forward Robbie Hummel is out indefinitely with an injured hand. And just Sunday, Saunders said Anthony Bennett will miss at least two weeks with a sprained ankle of his own.

Now Muhammad.

"Shabazz was doing a great season for us and putting up big numbers," point guard Ricky Rubio said, "but now it’s time for other players to step up."

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