Budinger Says Hoping To Return In 2-3 Weeks

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Alex Conover
Web Editorial Associate

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As Timberwolves practice wraps up each day and the players filter out of the gym, injured wing Chase Budinger has been staying afterwards and working tirelessly on his jumpshot. Day after day, shot after shot.

And according to him, he’s starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Suffering a meniscus tear in his left knee on Nov. 10 against the Chicago Bulls, Budinger has been rehabilitating his knee step-by-step. By his estimation, he’s only two or three weeks away from returning to game action and hopes to be part of the final 15 games of the year.

“I’m feeling a heck of a lot better,” Budinger said after Wednesday’s morning shootaround. “It feels good to be out there with the teammates, going through 5-on-0 and being with the team again.”

Normally known for his high-flying ways—having participated in last year’s NBA All-Star Dunk Contest—Budinger just recently completed his first slam since surgery.

“A couple days ago I actually jumped off it and had a little dunk,” Budinger said, “so that was a good mental hurdle of mine. I’m able to get some explosion off of it, they really don’t want me doing too much dunking off of it yet. That will come next week. ”

Audio: Budinger Gives Injury Update

The Wolves’ medical staff is working together with Dr. James Andrews (the Florida surgeon who performed Budinger’s operation to repair his meniscus) to make sure all precautions are taken into consideration as the delicate process is reaching its conclusion. There is still no target return date, but Budinger said he will have a phone discussion likely on Tuesday next week and hopes to be cleared for practice at that point.

“Hopefully two or three weeks, somewhere around there,” Budinger said. “It’s too tough to really pinpoint an exact date. Right now we’re going through little phases week by week. Hopefully starting next week I can start doing contact practices and getting out there with the guys. From there I can see how it goes.”

Budinger watched Ricky Rubio make his return on Dec. 15 from his own devastating knee injury. He saw the point guard favor his knee initially, then gradually gain more confidence in the following months.

“You saw with Ricky too when he first came back,” Budinger recalled. “Sometimes he tried to take off on [his healed knee] and it wasn’t there for him. But now, you see that he doesn’t even notice it anymore. So it takes time, and that’s something I’m trying to get through right now.”

Rubio passed some advice along to his teammate going through some of the same challenges that he did just a few months ago.

“He expresses mostly just to take my time, focus on the rehab and get it strong,” Budinger said. “Take your time, because like he says, time heals all.”

Staying in close contact with Dr. Andrews, Budinger anticipates he will start full-contact practice very soon, hopefully within a week.

“No setbacks,” Budinger said. “Dr. Andrews is very happy of what he saw from me, he said I’m actually ahead of the schedule with strength in my leg and how I was progressing.”

After full-contact play resumes, there are only a few more stepping stones until the real thing.

“I was looking at the schedule, it should give me around 15 games,” Budinger said. “Hopefully by then we get everyone healthy and we can show what this team is really capable of.”

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.