The hand of misfortune has struck again for the Minnesota Timberwolves. This time it came in the waning days before training camp is set to open next Tuesday
The Wolves revealed Friday that small forward Chase Budinger has a cartilage injury in his left knee, the same knee that caused him to miss 59 games last season.
"He's worked extremely hard over the last year to get back and had a little bit of soreness in his knee," Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said in a news conference Friday. "So we had it checked out, had an MRI, and it came back that there was a little something in there."
"He's going down to see (orthopedic surgeon Dr. James) Andrews (in Alabama) on Monday. It's going to require some type of surgery, and we'll know more come Monday as far as where that's at."
Saunders declined from placing a timetable on Budinger's return, with the severity of the injury still unknown.
Budinger, 25, played just six games last season before tearing his left meniscus. He didn't return until March 21, ultimately averaging 9.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in 22.1 minutes per game in 23 outings last season.
With Budinger on track to be fully healthy by the start of training camp, the Wolves re-signed him to a three-year, $15 million deal in early July in the hopes that he would play a critical sixth man role at small forward in Saunders' revitalization of the Wolves' roster.
Budinger had been back in the Twin Cities for the last several weeks working out at the Wolves' training facility with rookies Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng. In a talk with reporters last week, Budinger said his knee was feeling back to normal, although he admitted the rehab process had been difficult and was still battling through soreness.
"It's an ongoing process," Budinger said Sept. 20. "It will still be sore after a practice like this or a workout. You still got to work out the kinks and go through a rehab and do a lot of icing, treatment, things like that. I'll probably have to do that all season."
When the Wolves went to finalize a contract extension in the offseason, Budinger was required to undergo an extensive physical. Saunders insisted that the 6-foot-7 wing checked out at 100 percent. Budinger started to notice swelling in the last week before undergoing an MRI.
For a Wolves squad that had its past season derailed by a rash of critical injuries, the latest on Budinger can't help but bring about a slight feeling of "Here we go again." But in what was supposed to be simply a pre-training camp news conference, Saunders was not deterred by what the injury could mean for the Wolves' roster this season.
"We might be disappointed, but it does not change where we're going," Saunders said. "What you try to do to minimize how injuries hurt you is to put a team together that has depth. That's what we tried to work on this summer in order to do that."
In an offseason filled with a variety of moves, including landing Kevin Martin and re-signing big man Nikola Pekovic, the Wolves focused on fortifying at the forward position. Budinger's injury opens the way for guys like Muhammad, the Wolves' top 2013 draft pick, third-year forward Derrick Williams and Corey Brewer, who is back in Minnesota after a three-year absence.
• For anyone still concerned about head coach Rick Adelman's status for the season ahead, the veteran coach has arrived in Minneapolis and was at the Wolves' offices Friday, Saunders confirmed.
• Guards Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea are the only Wolves players yet to make it back to town. Both Rubio and Barea are coming spending the last month locked into international play, with Rubio and Spain settling for a bronze medal at the EuroBasket Championships and Barea's Puerto Rico national team falling short in the FIBA AMERICAS title game.
Saunders said the duo will likely have their minutes limited during training camp.