Budinger Cleared Cleared For Contact Practice
Wolves forward Chase Budinger said after Tuesday’s morning shootaround that he has been cleared for full contact practice, which was the final hurdle between him and his return to the court. Budinger, who has been sidelined since Nov. 10 with a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee, will begin practicing as early as tonight’s pregame workouts before the Wolves take on the San Antonio Spurs.
The catch is Budinger hopes to get a couple full practices under his belt before he returns to the court, and with the Wolves’ upcoming schedule that could take some time. Minnesota won’t practice Thursday after back-to-back games tonight and Wednesday, and the team plays Friday in Houston. The first open date for Budinger to practice with his teammates is Saturday.
He did not specify a return date but has maintained throughout his recovery that he’d like to be back for at least the final 15 games of the season. That would allow Budinger the possibility of two practices before March 24 at home against Chicago.
Budinger wouldn’t put a timetable on his exact return, but the fact that he’s cleared to make that decision is a big step. He’s been working post-practice on his jumpshot as well as his agility and conditioning with the Wolves’ training staff, and at this point he is even able to test out his leaping ability and see how he feels being able to attack the rim.
He said he was able to dunk without pain, but the full recovery in that department might not be immediate.
“It’s coming back—just me being able to dunk again and jump off of it and still have some balance, I think it’s coming back,” Budinger said. “It won’t be at full strength. I don’t think it will be full strength until next year. Even my jumping, I can tell I’m not jumping like I used to. But it’s coming along, which is good to see.”
Budinger is currently participating in 5-on-0 drills, but that’s a big step away from full contact in the NBA. He said when he does get a chance to practice it’s going to be imperative he gets as much work done as he can.
“In the next 10 days or so we only have I think two practices, so those two days I really have to get after it,” he said. “The coaches have to do a real good job with me in simulating live stuff—2-on-2, 1-on-1 and stuff.”
The Wolves certainly could use his presence. Budinger is a career 36 percent 3-point shooter and shot a career-best 40.2 percent last year in Houston. The Wolves brought in him to be a sharpshooter off the bench who could drain the corner 3s necessary to really make the offense flow, but he played in just six games before going down with that knee injury in Chicago.
With the Wolves shooting 29 percent as a team this season from behind the arc, Budinger’s return would be a big boost to this team’s perimeter shooting.
No doubt he’s ready, even if nerves need to help his body along the way.
“I think adrenaline will take over,” Budinger said. “The goal is for me not to even think about the knee, so that’s what I’m striving for.”
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