CHICAGO — When it snows, it blizzards. Or whatever the rains-pours parallel would be for the frosty Upper Midwest, where the Minnesota Timberwolves are getting buried by enough injuries to bring out the plows.
Chase Budinger, the hero 24 hours earlier for his cut-and-layup in the Wolves’ buzzer-beating defeat of Indiana, was the latest to fall, getting helped off the court early in the fourth quarter of their 87-80 loss to the Bulls at United Center. Budinger went down not far from the Chicago bench, given a little extra push according to Minnesota teammates who saw it. All the 6-foot-7 forward knew was that his foot got caught beneath him, putting torque on his left knee.
“It was one of those crazy plays where my foot got stuck,” Budinger said, pausing as he exited the visitors’ dressing room on crutches. “It got tangled up. I felt my leg twist.”
An X-ray was inconclusive, so the next step is a magnetic resonance imaging test Sunday in Dallas. The Wolves already were anticipating some word there on guard J.J. Barea’s availability for their game Monday against the Mavericks; the point guard suffered a left mid-foot sprain Wednesday against Orlando and didn’t travel to Chicago.
Shooting guard Brandon Roy also missed the Bulls game after developing soreness in his right knee Friday against the Pacers. Then there’s Kevin Love (broken right hand) and Ricky Rubio (rehab from knee surgery), putting five of Minnesota’s top seven players or so on the side or in the trainers’ room.
“It sucks,” Budinger said. “The injuries are tough. It’s frustrating because I’ve never had a knee problem [like this]. So getting all these questions about it, I don’t really know how to respond to ’em. I’ve never had it before. So we’ll just wait till tomorrow, see what the MRI says.”
At 4-2, Minnesota had started well in its goal to stay at or near .500 until the heavy lifters got back sometime after Thanksgiving (Love) or Christmas (Rubio). But that chore gets tougher as the herd gets thinned. Forget the luxury of having a “go-to guy” — through six games, five different players have led the Wolves in scoring. It’s rapidly become a whoever, whatever, whenever situation. This latest might have team president David Kahn reaching out to available free agent Mickael Pietrus or someone else ambulatory and with a pulse.
‘That’s something that, as a team, we didn’t sit and talk about but it’s just the feeling in the room,” forward Dante Cunningham said of holding it together. “We’re just doing our part. Injuries happen, obviously, but you have to continue to strive for your main goal. Just because we lose a couple people, we can’t lose heart on the season.”
Said coach Rick Adelman, who coached through the injury hells of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady: “I don’t understand it … I thought maybe it was just in Minnesota, but it’s on the road, too. Other guys have to step up. The league hasn’t given us a reprieve till we get those guys back.”