The Minnesota Timberwolves announced Tuesday that swingman Chase Budinger has been ruled out indefinitely after undergoing "successful arthroscopic surgery" on Monday to remove a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, likely leaving coach Rick Adelman without a key expected contributor throughout the duration of Minnesota's just-opened training camp and possibly well into the regular season.
The surgery took place three days after the Wolves announced that the 25-year-old guard/forward was "experiencing some discomfort and swelling in his left knee" that would require surgical repair. Wolves beat man Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has more:
It's the same injury — lateral meniscus — as last season [...] but this time Dr. James Andrews removed the lateral meniscus cartilage rather than repairing it.
That should speed up the recovery time, but a timetable won't be set — be it weeks or months — until the knee has some time (probably a couple weeks) to heal.
At the Wolves' Monday Media Day session, Adelman called Budinger "a tough loss at small forward to start the season," according to Timberwolves.com's Mark Remme:
[The] entire crew projected to play the 3 — Corey Brewer, Derrick Williams, Shabazz Muhammad — is either new to the team or to the position. Budinger was the most experienced player at that position within Adelman’s system. Brewer is the favorite for the starting nod.
“I just felt so bad for [Budinger],” Adelman said. “He’s the type of player who can really add to what we do offensively. I feel bad for him, and I really don’t want it to become a trend. With last year it really became a trend. We really want to see him get back as quick as possible.”
About last season: Budinger first tore the meniscus in the early going, during Minnesota's sixth game of the season, against the Chicago Bulls. He'd gotten off to a strong start to his first year in Minneapolis after an offseason trade from the Houston Rockets, averaging just under 12 points in 24 minutes per game off the Wolves' bench and looking like a sound fit in Adelman's corner offense (in which he played during his first two seasons with Houston) with his predilection toward off-ball movement, despite making just 30 percent of his 3-point shots before going down.
Budinger missed nearly 4 1/2 months recuperating from surgery before returning for the final 17 games of a depressing season, played largely without star power forward Kevin Love, who was limited to just 18 games after breaking bones in his shooting hand on two separate occasions. He finished with per-game averages right around his career marks in 23 appearances for the Wolves, but he, like the rest of the team, saw big preseason plans scuttled.
Wolves brass still very much saw Budinger as part of a revamped unit, however, making retaining his services a top priority in free agency and quickly agreeing to terms on a three-year, $15 million contract. This injury doesn't really change that — Budinger's still only 25 and, as Zgoda notes, the choice to remove rather than repair (the opposite of what Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook chose to do this past spring) should mean he's back on the floor sooner rather than later. Still, two surgeries on the same knee doesn't seem to bode well, and the loss of the lateral meniscus could lead to further (and quicker) degeneration of the knee joint itself, which might dampen the Arizona product's long-term prospects a bit.
For the time being, though, the Wolves will have to make do without Budinger, whose status will reportedly be updated "when appropriate," and we're going to find out whether fellow offseason (re-)addition Brewer, slimmed-down former No. 2 pick Williams and noted hotel guest Muhammad can pick up the slack and keep Minnesota moving toward competing for the Wolves' first playoff berth since the 2003-04 season.