MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Chase Budinger was quickly blossoming into a reliable, and occasionally dynamic, swingman upon reuniting with coach Rick Adelman in Minnesota.
Just as fast, he was sidelined by a knee injury that will keep him out for quite a while. That’s just the way it goes for the hard-luck Timberwolves these days.
Budinger will schedule surgery this week to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, the Timberwolves announced Sunday night. The surgery will keep him out indefinitely, with a clear timetable being established shortly after he has the procedure.
It’s the latest in a slew of injuries to key players for the Wolves, who are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. All-Star forward Kevin Love is expected to miss at least the first month of the season with a broken right hand and electric point guard Ricky Rubio isn’t expected back until the middle of December as he continues rehabbing a torn ACL in his left knee suffered last March.
Budinger was injured Saturday night in Chicago when he landed awkwardly and twisted his left knee under the basket. He was filling in as a starter for Brandon Roy, who missed the game with a sore right knee. The Wolves are also missing backup point guard JJ Barea, who is out with a sprained left foot.
In a quest to add more veterans to a young team, the Timberwolves traded the 18th pick in the June draft to Houston for Budinger, who had played under Adelman with the Rockets two years ago. Adelman coveted his ability to move without the ball and shoot from the outside, and both skills were fully on display early in the season for the Wolves.
Budinger is averaging 11.8 points, and his heady cut to the basket from beyond the 3-point line as time was winding down against Indiana on Friday night resulted in a wide-open layup that won the game for the Wolves. His versatility to play both shooting guard and small forward helped mitigate Minnesota’s concerns when Roy tweaked his knee against the Pacers and helped the Wolves to a surprising 4-1 start without their two best players.
But now Budinger will be out for an extended period of time. Typical rehab for an injury of this kind can last two months or more, a tough blow for the Wolves and for Budinger, who is in a contract year.
Of course, the news could have been worse. When Budinger went down against the Bulls and was unable to put any weight on his left leg, many worried that he had torn the ACL and would miss the rest of the season. Now it’s possible he could be back before the All-Star break, though the Wolves won’t know how long it will take until doctors get a closer look at the extent of the damage during surgery.
How the Timberwolves will fill Budinger’s minutes remains to be seen. They play the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. If Roy is unable to play, Russian rookie Alexey Shved could get the start at shooting guard because Adelman simply does not have any other options.
Shved has impressed in his first six games in the NBA, but he is the last remaining healthy shooting guard on the roster. Starting point guard Luke Ridnour, second-year combo guard Malcolm Lee and little-used point guard Will Conroy are the only other healthy guards on the team.
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