Robert Covington is back and healthy.
And we’re not just talking about the bone bruise in his knee that required surgery and forced him to the sideline after playing just 22 games for the Wolves.
We’re talking healthy and happy.
On an otherwise by-the-numbers Timberwolves media day Monday, Covington capped the day off with, frankly, a compelling flash of honesty into just how difficult last season was.
That included dealing with the first major injury of his career, a process that included seeing a therapist to help with the frustration that ensued.
The biggest problem was that, at first, Covington didn’t think his knee injury would be a big problem. But it was. He got hurt after playing in 11 games following the trade for Jimmy Butler that brought him here. He missed a game, then returned to play in 11 more but was shut down after a game against New Orleans on New Year’s Eve.
“It was the longest I’ve been out in my career,” he said. “I’d never experienced anything like that. It hindered me to be out that long. Something that’s so minor, so simple, that’s not. I couldn’t be battling with my teammates.”
It sent him into a funk. Covington said it affected him at home, at work. There was, he said, “so much cloudiness up there, not knowing why. I didn’t know how to figure it out.”
As it got worse, he sent his family away so they wouldn’t have to be around him. Ultimately, in a meeting with General Manager Scott Layden, coach Ryan Saunders and head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam, they talked it out. Covington talked about what he was going through. Saunders talked about how he got over the death of his father, Flip, and how seeing a therapist helped him.
So Covington did the same.
“I had a couple sessions with him, and I felt all the pressure, all the weight I was bearing, lifting off my shoulders,” he said. “It helped me with my recovery.”
It also helped forge a strong bond between Covington and Ryan Saunders.
Covington changed a lot of things. He changed his diet, trying to revamp his body. He did what was necessary to clear his mind. And now he’s been cleared for basketball activities.
He’ll take it slow. He needs to get into basketball shape, and he pledged Monday not to rush anything.
“I’ve done the perfect things to get back healthy,” he said. “I feel great. Only thing now is getting back to playing shape.”
Ready to go
A lot of things were new to Jeff Teague last year. He wasn’t used to not making the playoffs. And he certainly wasn’t used to being injured.
A combination of foot and ankle injuries limited Teague to a career-low 42 games; ultimately he had to have an April procedure done to clean out his left ankle.
Now he’s back. And while he doesn’t feel he has much to prove — at 31 he feels he has proved the kind of player he is — he can’t wait to play again.
“I just want to play basketball because I enjoy playing,” he said. “Sitting out wasn’t something I’m used to. I don’t feel I have anything to prove. I just want to help the team win.”
He thinks this Wolves team can. He loves the new vibe on a team that, for the most part, got to Minneapolis weeks before camp began. He loves the prospect of playing point guard for Saunders, who has pledged an up-tempo attack and a defense that switches more. That’s something Teague talked about a few times last season.
The Wolves were 23-19 with Teague last season, 13-27 without him. Teague exercised his $19 million player option. So he’ll be playing to help the team win and for his next contract.
“I’m the oldest guy on the team, and I’m still pretty young,” he said. “I’ll say, we’re going to play fast. I’m excited. This is a blank canvas. We can do whatever we want to do. We could shock people.”
After four years with the Gophers — which ended with him being the second-best rebounder in Big Ten history — Jordan Murphy is ready to chase his childhood dream.
Undrafted, Murphy — who averaged 13.5 points and 9.8 rebounds in 133 college games — had to decide whether to pursue a guaranteed contract overseas or sign a contract with an NBA team that may include time playing in the G League.
“I think it pretty much starts when you’re a little kid,” the 6-7 Murphy said. “When you’re a little kid you want to play in the NBA. It’s chasing the dream and not settling for anything less than that. I’m going to chase my dream.”