On Saturday morning, on a conference call from San Diego, still sleepy from just having awakened, Chase Budinger talked about how excited he was to be coming back to the Minnesota Timberwolves this fall.
For a number of reasons.
He likes the additions Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has made. The trades, the signings, the draft. He likes the fact that, from the start, the Timberwolves made it clear they wanted Budinger back. And, of course, he loves playing for Wolves coach Rick Adelman. Put that all together and Budinger – who signed a three-year, $16 million deal to come back to the team, said he chose opportunity over money to return.
“It really wasn’t that hard a decision for me,” Budinger said. “The only thing, though, is I did have an offer out there that was worth more money. I did give up money to come back to Minnesota. If anyone knows the type of guy I am, I’m a cheap kind of guy. So giving up money is always tough. But I knew, coming back to Minnesota was the best choice, the best opportunity for me. The best place to grow as a player, and for us to win. To make the playoffs. We’re a young team, and we can grow together.”
Budinger, the sharp-shooting forward acquired in a trade prior to last season, had a strong camp in preparation for the 2012-13 season, and started the season well. But a knee injury sustained in Chicago – a lateral meniscus tear that required surgery – ultimately limited him to 23 games. And, even when he returned, he was not 100 percent.
Budinger is very motivated to show everyone the kind of player he can be when healthy.
“It was extremely tough,” Budinger said of the injury. “I definitely felt last year was going to be my breakout year. … I felt my game would keep elevating, and I got hurt. It was very frustrating. And I do have a little animosity for that year. I want to come back and show everybody the kind of player I’m capable of being.”
And, in the process, perhaps that will help show fans the kind of team the Timberwolves can be. Saunders has addressed issues with perimeter scoring by acquiring Kevin Martin and resigning Budinger; the two are former teammates in Houston. The addition of Corey Brewer should help with perimeter defense. When Ronny Turiaf finalizes the two-year deal he agreed to this week, the Wolves will have depth and flexibility both inside and out.
“I’m really excited,” Budinger said. “Just from last year, of seeing the guys, when we were healthy, playing together. When we were healthy we were extremely good.’’
And now, with the additions? “I definitely think we should be a playoff team,” Budinger said. “We’re going to be an exciting team to watch, for sure. We added the necessary shooting for this year. I think with the way (coach) Rick Adelman’s system is, and the people we have, it will be tough for teams to guard us. Our biggest thing will be on the defensive end. We have to focus in on the team defense and try to take care of that end. I think we can be very good with the defense we added. It will help us in the long run.’’
Budinger said he is still working on his knee to make sure the strength is 100 percent back. But the knee feels good, he said. “The best thing this summer is I’m able to jump again, which I couldn’t do at the end of last season,” he said. “I’m happy to be able to jump and dunk again. ‘’
So, between now and training camp? Budinger will continue to work out; he and Martin have already worked out together in Minnesota. He expects good things from Martin. “He likes to be comfortable,” Budinger said. “And when he is, that’s when he’s playing his best. That’s what he’ll get with coach Adelman. He’ll be at his best playing for him.”
Budinger will stay in California until August, when he plans on returning to Tucson – he played at Arizona – and work out prior to camp. He hopes to hook up with Derrick Williams, another former Arizona player, while he’s there.
And then he’ll be back, 100 percent, for training camp.