Wolves Wednesday: Budinger nearing return

MINNEAPOLIS – The Timberwolves’ gym on Wednesday was a much more crowded than it’s been in weeks. Months, maybe, even. 
Chase Budinger returned to a full practice for the first time since his Nov. 10 injury, and Kevin Love was also participating in a limited fashion, shooting and participating in drills with the team after it finished with 5-on-5. 
Budinger was cleared to participate in full-contact practices March 12, but thanks to a depleted roster and an unforgiving schedule, the team was not able to hold a practice between then and Wednesday. Budinger has been traveling with the team and working out on his own, and so Wednesday’s practice may be enough to earn him some minutes in Thursday night’s game in Sacramento if his knee cooperates.
“He did fine,” coach Rick Adelman said of Budinger. “I think we’ll just have to see how he feels tomorrow and go from there. But he was able to move fine. I didn’t see any problems with him.”
Budinger said he’s dealt with constant soreness since ramping up his activity a week ago, but his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, told him that feeling is normal and will likely persist for the rest of the season. For his part, Budinger seemed encouraged by his first full practice and, though hesitant to commit to playing Thursday, he too left the possibility open.
Whenever Budinger returns – Thursday, Friday, perhaps Sunday back home against the Bulls – he’ll provide a boost to the team with his energy and shooting. He was sinking 3-pointers at an almost perfect percentage after practice, when he, Love, Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved and Mickael Gelabale competed in some kind of 3-point shooting contest. Having him back on the court, in however limited a role might be necessary, will certainly help the Timberwolves’ spacing, and Adelman also spoke highly of Budinger’s movement off the ball and the cuts he instinctively seems to know to make.
The Timberwolves have only 17 games remaining on their schedule, but Budinger hasn’t been at all tempted to sit out the rest of the season. He’ll be a free agent this summer, which plays into that mindset, but for a player who’s never dealt with an injury with the severity of this meniscus tear, it’s more than that.
“I just want to be playing again,” Budinger said. “This season has been very frustrating for me personally because I haven’t experienced anything like this before. Just sitting out all year, it’s been tough. It’s been mentally draining knowing that the summer is coming up. I just want to be out there to play these final games.”
Before tearing the meniscus in his left knee on Nov. 10, Budinger had played in six games, starting one. Over that short time, he averaged 11.8 points per game on 48.0 percent shooting.
Ricky’s fine, really: Rubio insisted that he could have returned to Monday’s game after leaving in the third quarter with something of a phantom injury, and on Tuesday, he confirmed that he is in no way hurt.
AK’s minutes limit: Andrei Kirilenko played just 16 minutes in Memphis after logging 25 in the team’s Sunday win over the Hornets, and he said Wednesday that that 16-minute cap might be the maximum he’s comfortable playing right now in his return from a calf strain.
“It’s about the time which I can play right now,” Kirilenko said. “I can play more, but it’s increasing the risk. I don’t want to get to the point of not controlling my body.”
Adelman on Miami’s winning streak: Adelman coached the 2007-08 Rockets team that until Monday held the mark for the second-longest winning streak in NBA history, which stood at 22 games. The Heat were tied with that team until they came back to beat Boston and push their streak to 23, but Adelman said that what LeBron and company are doing doesn’t make him think any less of what his team accomplished five years ago.
“They’re probably going to win 30,” Adelman said of the Heat. “Their schedule’s pretty good. I think that the group we had that year in Houston, with the injury to Yao (Ming) and the people we were playing, that was a special event for us. Miami’s really been on a roll, and they’ve got everybody healthy and everybody else. … We had a lot of journeyman players on that team who had an unbelievable experience, and basically with the injuries that was our playoffs. That was our championship.”
That season, Adelman’s team finished with a 55-27 record, but it lost Yao 12 games into the winning streak and for the remainder of the season, eventually losing in six games to the Jazz in the first round of the playoffs. Shane Battier, who played for Adelman’s Rockets and now for this year’s Heat, offered his thoughts to Yahoo! Sports on the two streaks:
“We knew back then that it was one of the most improbable runs in basketball history, maybe in sports history. We were journeymen, a bunch of role players. When we were healthy, with Yao Ming and Tracy (McGrady), that team was pretty good. But we could never stay healthy, so that (streak) was our championship.”
Adelman said he saw the above quote and that Battier was correct.

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