Notebook: Wolves return to practice, Chase Budinger making progress
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNNEAPOLIS -- Granted a three-day Christmas break after a disappointing road trip to Los Angeles, the Minnesota Timberwolves were back at practice Thursday night to prep for the next stretch of their season.
Trying to shake off a bit of the holiday rust, the Wolves went nearly two hours, scrimmaging for a large chunk of the session.
A match-up with the Washington Wizards (12-13) Friday night at Target Center kicks off a crucial juncture of the Wolves' season. Losses to the Lakers and Clippers dropped Minnesota to 13-15 on the year and still in search of some upward consistency.
If the Wolves are going to mount a turnaround, this is time to do it. Only four of their next 13 games are against opponents with winning records. Eight of the games in that stretch will come at home - a welcomed reprieve after a travel-heavy December.
"This is where we definitely need to make our push," forward Kevin Love said. "We had a very tough schedule that first month and a half, but now we really need to start winning. Hopefully we can make that happen."
Budinger making 'gradual' progress
Cleared last week to return fully in practice, Chase Budinger is working his way back into game shape, but it will likely still be a little while longer before he gets the go-ahead for his season debut.
"It's just a gradual thing," coach Rick Adelman said. "He says he feels fine, but he's going through training camp basically. His whole body is kind of sore. But he's moving OK, so hopefully he'll gradually get better."
Budinger, who underwent his second surgery in a year on his left meniscus on Sept. 30, has been cautious not to rush his rehab. He has been able to do light shooting work for about a month, but wasn't allowed to start scrimmaging again with the team until recently.
Budinger said last week he has had no problems with his knee, admitting he was more focused on getting the rest of his body back into shape.
Love noted Budinger is still trying to find his groove again in practice, but the progress he has made is obvious.
"From when he first started a couple weeks ago getting back on the floor, he's had a little more bounce in his step," Love said. "That's only going to get better in the next couple of weeks."
The addition of another outside threat to the lineup could be a key step forward for the Wolves. When back at full strength, Budinger has the ability to offer Minnesota's rotation a minor, but needed refresh.
"He just gives us another dynamic, another guy who can shoot the ball," Love said. "When Pek and I are double teamed or drawing some different guys out on the fastbreak, he's a guy we can kick it out to. He's one of those guys in the league that it's a flick of the wrist and more often than not it's going to go in."
Center Ronny Turiaf seems to be closing in on the final stretch of his rehab from an injured right elbow.
Adelman said he expects Turiaf to be cleared for contact in practice at some point in the next few days. There is still no projection of when he could return to game action, but his comeback is rounding into view.
Turiaf has been out since Nov. 1, when he suffered a radial head fracture in his elbow against the Oklahoma City in the Wolves' second game of the season.