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Chris Murphy, Published August 15 2013

Budinger says on Wolves stop in Fargo that hopes are high if team stays healthy

Fargo - Minnesota Timberwolves fans are not the only ones frustrated with the team’s inability to stay healthy over the last two seasons.

“It’s very frustrating for us as players too, knowing how good our team could be if we do stay healthy,” Timberwolves forward Chase Budinger said at the Timberwolves Summer Caravan basketball clinic at the Family Wellness Center Thursday. “That is our main goal going into this year. The coaches and training staff are trying hard to do a better job keeping guys ready for the whole season.”

Last season the Timberwolves were plagued with injuries, losing Budinger, Brandon Roy, Malcolm Lee and Josh Howard to knee injuries. Ricky Rubio returned to the lineup after tearing his left ACL and LCL nine months earlier, but Kevin Love – who missed the first nine games of the season after fracturing his third and fourth metacarpals in his right hand in a preseason workout – reinjured his right hand shortly after Rubio’s return and missed the remaining 52 games of the season.

Despite all of the injuries, the Timberwolves won 31 games, making it the first time in franchise history the team won 30 games without Kevin Garnett on the roster. It also was the ninth consecutive season the Timberwolves missed the postseason, leaving them to wonder what kind of team they are when healthy. Budinger has the answer.

“We’re a very dangerous team,” Budinger said. “We should be looking at playoffs for sure with this squad. If everyone is healthy, we can definitely easily make the playoffs. Once you make the playoffs, anything can happen from there. That’s going to be our mindset going into training camp.”

Nikola Pekovic comes in with a new five-year deal for $60 million, Budinger has a new three-year deal worth $16 million, and Corey Brewer returns after a sign-and-trade deal that led to a three-year contract for about $15 million.

The Timberwolves also reunite Budinger and coach Rick Adelman with guard Kevin Martin, who comes to Minnesota in a sign-and-trade for Luke Ridnour. Martin received a four-year deal for $28 million. Adelman coached Budinger and Martin for two seasons with the Houston Rockets.

“The best part about it is the comfort level,” Budinger said. “I know the system very well. … (Adelman is) a coach you want to play for. The best part about him is he lets you play and make mistakes out there on the floor and he won’t penalize you for them.”

Budinger feels Martin will fit perfectly in Adelman’s system. It is the same system that Martin had arguably his best season. He averaged 23.5 points, shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from 3-point range, to go along with 3.2 assists per game under Adelman with the Rockets in the 2010-11 season.

“He’s the type of guy that fits Rick Adelman’s system perfectly,” Budinger said. “He’s a great shooter, he’s good at coming off of screens, good in transition and he’s a smart player.”

With so many multi-year contracts for the Timberwolves, Budinger pointed toward the San Antonio Spurs as an example of what players that know they will be able to build together can do.

“It’s good to be able to build with these guys on the team, start getting relationships and building that chemistry because that’s so important,” Budinger said. “Building chemistry and being able to play with a guy for a couple years is how the Spurs run things. They sign guys, they keep guys there for a long time, so they can build that chemistry. It feels great to know that I’m going to be playing with guys for a few years now.”

Even if it means learning a couple new languages to communicate better with Pekovic, who was born in Yugoslavia, and Rubio, who was born in Spain.

“The European guys are pretty good at keeping things in English,” Budinger said. “It’s funny at times, they’ll have their own conversations in different languages here and there, but they are pretty good at sticking to English, which is good for us.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548