You can see Chase Budinger is getting close. Budinger, four months out from Nov. 13 surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee, stayed long after the end of the Timberwolves morning shoot at Target Center Tuesday dunking repeatedly off that repaired knee.
Afterward, he said he isn’t quite back to 100 percent, but is very close to playing.
In a Tuesday phone conversation with Dr. James Andrews — the Florida surgeon who performed his surgery — Budinger was cleared for full-contact practice.
“We told him what I’ve been doing lately, telling him I’ve been progressing well,” Budinger said. “No swelling. He was pleased with that and said I could go into the next phase of doing contact stuff.”
Good news, with a catch: Given the Wolves upcoming schedule, Budinger won’t have a whole lot of opportunity for a full five-on-five practice. When Minnesota played San Antonio Tuesday in the first half of a back-to-back, it was the first game in a stretch of seven games in 11 days; the team only has two full-contact practices scheduled in that time, the first on Saturday.
“Once we do five-on-five, see how it feels, see how my wind is, see how it responds the next day, we’ll just go from there,” Budinger said. “I’ve got to get through at least one practice to see how my legs do and how my knee does.”
Until then? Budinger will try to get in a lot of one-on-one and two-on-two work; he did some full-contact one-on-one drills with Wolves assistant Shawn Respert before Tuesday’s game.
“Hopefully Kevin [Love] can get cleared so we can start working out together,” Budinger said.
Love is scheduled to meet Wednesday with the doctor who performed surgery on his broken right hand on Jan. 15. Love hopes to be cleared for his return during the meeting.
As for Budinger, he said he didn’t think the leg would get all of its strength back until next season. But it should be good enough to play, and for him to contribute. “I’m close enough,” he said. “I’ve been in this league long enough now where I know how to be productive.”
After the Wolves morning shoot Tuesday, rookie guard Alexey Shved talked about dealing with the most difficult slump of his young basketball career. “I know I don’t like my game,” he said. Just before the game, Wolves coach Rick Adelman, acknowledging Shved’s struggles, said that sometimes all it takes is a breakout game. “That’s what we’re hoping will happen with him.”
Pretty adept observation. Because Shved went out and did just that against the Spurs.
Shved and J.J. Barea each hit two three pointers in a 12-0 run the Wolves used to start the second quarter. Shved hit his next two shots — both two-pointers — as that run grew to 21-6; Shved’s 17-footer made it 45-34. He turned Chris Johnson’s block on Danny Green into a fast-break layup later in the half.
This after Shved had shot 22 percent (13-for-59) in the eight games previous. That included 13-percent shooting on three-pointers.
Shved said he didn’t feel overly tired, but admitted the number of games — he has never played more than 45 in a season before — takes both a physical and mental toll. Opponents have become more physical with him, especially since injuries have forced Wolves coach Rick Adelman to play Shved occasionally at small forward.
Shved finished with 16 points and seven assists.
• Forward Andrei Kirilenko (left calf) missed his seventh consecutive game and center Nikola Pekovic (abdominal strain) his sixth.