Timberwolves forward Chase Budinger wants to return to the team next season if an agreement can be reached this summer, but as with any contractual agreement, there’s a bit of fine print.
That is, if Rick Adelman returns to coach.
Adelman is the reason the Wolves traded the 18th overall pick in last summer’s draft to Houston, where Adelman coached Budinger for three seasons before the pair was reunited in Minnesota.
He’s also the reason a California kid wants to remain on the frozen tundra when he becomes an unrestricted free agent free to sign with any team this summer.
“I would like to come back,” he said. “I like the organization. I like the staff. I love Adelman.”
He saved the most important part for last there.
“That’s a big part of it,” he said about the coach who taught a second-round draft pick in 2009 the NBA game. “Our relationship, he knows how I play. I work well in his system. It’s [Adelman’s decision] going to weigh big.”
Adelman said before Monday’s home finale against Utah that he hopes to decide his future in the few weeks after the season ends Wednesday night in San Antonio, and after he and his wife, Mary Kay, meet with more doctors about how to prevent her seizures.
“I think there are questions,” Budinger said when asked if he thinks Adelman will return. “He has always been family first and, with his wife it’s going to be family first. But knowing him, he loves to coach. He loves this team. So it’s a tough decision for him to leave.”
The Wolves have other summertime decisions to make with other, higher-profile, higher-paid players: Just how much is restricted free-agent center Nikola Pekovic worth, particularly if he gets to the open market? Will they commit the money for a longer-term deal if forward Andrei Kirilenko gambles and walks away from the final $10.2 million season in a two-year contract to become a free agent?
Adelman made it clear before Monday’s 96-80 loss to the Jazz that he wants Budinger back along with both Pekovic and Kirilenko.
Budinger missed four months and 59 games from November to March because of a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee before he returned to play the season’s final 17 games.
“It was good just to get back playing,” he said. “It showed me how much I really do love this game.”
He never fully regained his explosiveness in the season’s final month, but he played well enough to prove the Wolves are a different team with a threatening three-point shooter and a guy who knows how to make a backdoor cut to the basket on the floor.
“I think if he would have been there all year long, it would have been a different scenario,” Adelman said. “He does things. Right now, he’s kind of lost because we’re just playing pick-and-roll. We’re not using his skills like we can, but he’s not ready for that yet, either. He’s just trying to get back. He gets through the whole summer and he’ll be just fine next year. Hopefully, we can find a way to bring him back.”
Budinger, 24, will stay in Minneapolis for a few weeks after the season ends to continue the rehabilitation on his knee. He’ll spend most of the summer at home in San Diego or working out with teammate Derrick Williams in Tucson, Ariz.
“It’s a big summer for me personally, just getting my leg stronger, back to where it was,” he said. “It’s still not 100 percent. It’s still weak. I’ll do a lot of rehab, a lot of weightlifting to get my body back.”
His injury could help ensure his return to Minnesota if other teams have questions about investing millions in a guy coming off knee surgery. Budinger made just $942,000 this season and will be looking for a hefty raise.
“Like any injury with any person, it will affect your marketability,” he said, “but showing I came back healthy, that everything is looking good and up for me, that helps. I’m eager to get my body back to where I was and just get better this summer.”