MANKATO – While peers Chase Budinger and Russell Westbrook returned to operating rooms this week for repair on knees previously operated upon, Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio demonstrated in a small way Thursday that his own recovery progresses.
It was a simple one-hander before the start of Thursday’s training camp practice, but it was a dunk nonetheless. It also is a sign of progress that had been more than a year coming since he underwent March 2012 surgery to repair two torn knee ligaments.
“I’ve been working this summer, finally I can dunk,” he said. “I could never jump too high, but at least I could dunk before the injury. This summer is the first time I dunked. It wasn’t easy, but I could.
“I’m dunking. But only in warm-ups, not in games yet.”
Regardless, it’s progress.
“I’m happy how it works after seeing a lot of guys going down after surgery, like Russell Westbrook or Chase,” Rubio said about his knee. “I’m happy where my injury is right now, where I completely forget about it. … I feel good. I feel tired, but I feel good.”
Wolves coach Rick Adelman missed Thursday’s practice to attend a family funeral but is expected to be back for Friday’s fourth and final practice in Mankato. Top assistant Terry Porter and the rest of Adelman’s staff, including son David Adelman, carried on during a 2 ½-hour practice that was scaled back after the team went more than three hours the first two days of camp.
The Wolves will return to the Twin Cities on Friday afternoon to prepare for Monday’s preseason opener against CSKA Moscow at Target Center.
Budinger will remain in Pensacola, Fla., for now after undergoing arthroscopic surgery Monday to remove part of the lateral meniscus cartilage in his left knee.
He has moved into a condo there and will have rehab therapy daily while the Wolves wait to see how long he will be sidelined this time after soreness and swelling developed in the same knee on which he had surgery to repair that meniscus last November.
The Wolves have listed him as out “indefinitely,” but Dr. James Andrews’ removal of part of the meniscus rather than repairing it again should shorten his recovery time to weeks — perhaps from four to eight — rather than the four months he missed last season.
It’s early — only three days into training camp — but Adelman and his coaches so far have been impressed with the play of free agents Lorenzo Brown, Robbie Hummel, Othyus Jeffers, A.J. Price, rookies Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng and second-year pro Chris Johnson, particularly after those guys comprised a second unit that thumped the Wolves’ top nine rotation players in a scrimmage Tuesday.
Veteran guard Kevin Martin noticed as well.
“They’re hungrier than us,” Martin said. “It reminds me of when I was in Sacramento. I was a young guy going up against Mike [Bibby] and Peja [Stojakovic] and C-Webb [Chris Webber]. Me and Bobby [Wolves development coach Bobby Jackson] were just talking about it: We used to put a licking on them a lot. But on game nights, it was completely opposite.”