Practice Report | Dec. 19, 2013

Practice Report | Dec. 19, 2013

Wolves forward Chase Budinger returned to full-contact practice for the first time this season on Thursday before the team departed for a two-game road trip in Los Angeles. Budinger, who underwent left meniscus surgery at the end of September, has been recovering and rehabbing his knee over the past 2 ½ months in preparation for his return to the court.

Now, he’s able to rejoin the team in a practice setting. His return to game play is still unknown, but this is a major step in getting back into the team’s flow while also testing his knee in a basketball setting.

But it’s also a reminder he does have a little ways to go.

“I definitely get the urge, the itch, of wanting to get back and start playing, but I know I’ve got to take my time,” Budinger said. “Just being out here today I know I need to get through the wears and tears of getting back in shape.”

Budinger participated in 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 drills on Thursday, just one day after the team announced he was cleared for full contact practice. This comes after weeks of slowly working up to this point, starting with his water aerobics and additional rehab training in Florida and moving into his jumpshooting sessions with the team’s coaching staff after practices here in Minnesota. He recently began traveling with the team, another step in the process of fully returning to the court.

But it’s funny how when a player suffers a specific injury that sidelines him for significant time, the injured part of the body is often not the problem upon return. Budinger felt that on Thursday.

“It’s the rest of your body,” he said. “We’ll see tomorrow how the knee feels, how the rest of my body feels. But like I said, today the biggest thing I felt was the bottom of my feet. Halfway through out there my feet started to burn. It’s just something I have to get used to again.”

Budinger’s had a tough time keeping his left knee healthy during his tenure in Minnesota. He missed 59 games last year, his first with the Wolves, after suffering a lateral meniscus tear. This year, he seemed healthy returning to the Twin Cities in September but suffered a setback that required a different surgery on that same left meniscus right before Training Camp.

He’s been through the process before, so he knows what to expect and how he should feel at certain junctures.

He’s reached a point where he needs to continue building his conditioning and working on his game shape. But he’s also at a point where he knows some of the difficult rehab days with no basketball activities in sight are in his rearview mirror.

“It’s very frustrating. You have a lot of good days and you have a lot of bad days going through rehab,” Budinger said. “But definitely yesterday was a good day when I was able to be cleared for practice. The biggest thing is to be out there with your teammates, working with them, communicating with them. Just being out there on the floor is what I’m happy about, just being out there.”

It’s weird timing, because the Wolves have few practice days coming up. They have an off day in Los Angeles on Saturday where he can get some run with the team, but then the Wolves will play the Clippers on Sunday and are planning to take a few days off over Christmas. They’ll practice on the Dec. 26, but then they have back-to-backs on the 27th and 28th. That means no practice the next day on Dec. 29.

But that’s OK. Budinger is making progress and understands where his body is in the grand scheme of things. He knows he needs to take it in stride.

“It’s just a process,” Budinger said. “The only good thing is I’ve been through this process before, so I know what to expect.”

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.