MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves’ newfound depth at swingman is already being tested.
Martell Webster had back surgery on Monday and will miss the first four to six weeks of the season.
The Timberwolves acquired Webster from Portland on draft night in a trade for 16th overall pick Luke Babbitt. He averaged 12.3 points and 3.2 rebounds in the preseason and has pleased coach Kurt Rambis with his energy off the bench and his performance on both offense and defense.
“We’ll move forward with the guys that we’ve got,” Rambis said. “It’s unfortunate. He was playing so well on both ends of the court.”
Webster said he was first injured during a hard fall in the playoffs last year with the Blazers. As the preseason wore on this year, it flared up and Webster did not play in the final two exhibition games.
Dr. James Schwender performed a microdiscectomy in suburban Minneapolis to relieve a herniated disc in Webster’s back.
“He and the doctors felt this was going to be the best thing for him in the long run and for the long haul of the season,” Rambis said.
The Timberwolves were planning to rely on the sixth-year pro to give them a veteran presence in the locker room and stabilizing force off the bench for the youngest team in the league.
When they reported to training camp in September after another offseason overhaul, the Wolves beefed up the depth at all positions, particular for the shooting guard/small forward spots. They added Webster and Michael Beasley in trades and drafted Wes Johnson and Lazar Hayward to increase the competition with holdovers Corey Brewer and Wayne Ellington for playing time.
“It’s going to hurt because Martell provides that spark off the bench that we need,” Beasley said. “But we’ve got guys that can come off the bench and score 20-25 points. We’ve got guys that can make up for it.”
But Johnson has been bothered for most of the preseason by a strained hamstring and backup point guard Sebastian Telfair has a bruised shoulder, which has forced Rambis to play Ellington more at point guard than shooting guard in recent games.
“We still have other guys that are banged up,” Rambis said. “What was once may not be that way.”
They open the regular season against Sacramento on Wednesday night. Johnson, who missed the preseason finale at Milwaukee on Friday night, said he is improving and expects to be ready to play against the Kings.
“I’ve been learning a lot of different stuff about where I can be effective on the court on both offense and defense,” Johnson said. “I’m really trying to find my nice in the offense, but I feel like it’s coming along.”
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