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Updated: December 18th, 2013 7:46pm
Budinger cleared for full-contact practice, 'excited' for next step

Budinger cleared for full-contact practice, 'excited' for next step

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Timberwolves forward Chase Budinger is one step closer towards his return from his second knee surgery in a year.

Budinger received the go-ahead Wednesday to participate at full speed in practice for the first time since mid-September. It's not time yet to mark your calendars for Budinger's first game back, but he expressed an obvious excitement to be in the final stage of his rehab.

"I'm very excited. That just means the next step for me," Budinger said in the locker room Wednesday prior to the Wolves' showdown with the Trailblazers. "We'll see how that goes and how good my wind is, which I feel is going to be pretty tough."

The 25-year-old Budinger, almost three months removed from surgery to repair lingering damage in his left meniscus, is staying away from giving any target date of when he hopes to be back in game shape.

For now, he intends to continue to be methodical and patient approach to his rehab, a trait cultivated out of having gone through the same process only months earlier.

Last season, Budinger made his return debut on March 21, about one week after he had been cleared for contact. It could be around the same time range or it could be longer. Regardless, he is better suited now to prevent himself from allowing unleashed anticipation with the end of his rehab in sight to cause him to do too much, too soon.

"I think I have a better understanding of where I need to be, being in game shape and playing an actual game," Budinger said. "I know I have to take my time and get back into basketball shape, get my legs back underneath before I can actually play."

After spending the first month of his rehab working with doctors in Pensacola, Fla., Budinger has been in Minneapolis for the last month, able to do light shooting work. Up to this point, he has experienced no setbacks. Budinger said the biggest key to his rehab has been the absence of any swelling around the knee, which was his doctor's initial concern.

Finally given the go-ahead, the next step for him starts with being on the floor for the Wolves' practice session Thursday afternoon.

At the very least, Budinger is just happy to be close to exchanging his dress suit for a jersey again.

"I don't have many left, man," Budinger joked. "I don't have enough combinations to keep wearing. I've got to get out of that suit quickly."

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
In this story: Chase Budinger
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