Two knee operations later, Chase Budinger has returned to the Wolves

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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