A Timberwolves team so beleaguered by injuries last season already has lost newly re-signed forward Chase Budinger before even rolling out the basketballs on Tuesday in Mankato to start another season.
Budinger needs arthroscopic surgery on the same left knee that sidelined him for four months last season because of pain and swelling that has developed recently.
He will return to see famed sports doctor James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday and perhaps will visit Ricky Rubio’s knee doctor in Vail, Colo., as well.
Andrews performed surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in Budinger’s knee last November after he was injured in Chicago in the season’s sixth game. He returned in March after rehabilitating the knee and played the final 17 games.
The Wolves signed Budinger to a three-year, $15 million contract in July for his three-point shooting on a team that — without Budinger and All-Star Kevin Love for most of last season — was last in the league in three-point shooting a year ago.
His relationship with coach Rick Adelman, for whom he played in Houston and says, “I just fit perfectly in his system,” was a factor for both sides as well.
President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders said a examination conducted then and a checkup with Andrews a month ago both showed no issues.
But Budinger experienced soreness and swelling recently, and a magnetic resonance imaging exam this week revealed, according to Saunders, “a little something in there.”
Arthroscopic surgery will explore what that little something is.
“It’s a setback,” Saunders said. “He has worked extremely hard over the last year to get back. He really progressed. The main thing with Chase is we want to get it right.”
Saunders said the team wouldn’t set a timetable — “Most of the time in these situations it’s six to eight weeks, but I’m not going to speculate” — on Budinger’s return until Andrews looks inside that knee.
Budinger last week declared his knee “way better” than how it felt when he ended last season.
“I felt like I had a brick on that foot,” he said then. “I’m starting to get my hops back a little bit now. I’m able to take off on it and land on it and not even think about it.”
But he also talked about his recovery being an “ongoing process” and said his knee still felt sore after playing pickup games and after working out.
“I still have to work out the kinks and go through icing and rehab and all that,” he said. “I’ll probably have to do that all season.”
He felt enough soreness and experienced enough swelling that an MRI was ordered this week.
And just like that, a Wolves team that lost 341 man-games to injuries last season already has an injury report before the season begins.