The Timberwolves’ run of rotten injury luck just got a little bit longer.
With the team as close to full strength as they’ve been since the first week of November, a freak injury in Wednesday’s practice will keep Shabazz Muhammad for the remainder of the 2014-15 season. He caught his finger in Andrew Wiggins’ jersey during drills, and while he played through the pain on Friday night against the Phoenix Suns, team doctors have determined surgery is the best course of action. He’ll have the procedure done at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, per a team press release.
It’s a frustrating and abrupt end to a breakout season for Muhammad, whose hot month of December (18.1 points on 50% shooting in 15 games) solidified his place as a prospect to watch as the Wolves move forward. While he missed a month with an oblique injury, he returned in time to compete in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend, earning well-deserved recognition for the unparalleled energy he brought to the floor on a nightly basis.
As if Shabazz’s wasn’t enough, while Anthony Bennett was chasing after a rebound early in Friday’s victory over the Suns, he was rolled up on from behind and buckled backwards in a nasty-looking incident. Thankfully, there doesn’t appear to be any structural damage to either his knees or ankles, but he did suffer a leg contusion and will likely miss two weeks.
The timing couldn’t have been worse for Bennett. With Thad Young gone and the 38 year old Kevin Garnett likely on a loose 20-minute-per-game limit when he shows up, there are significant minutes at power forward available for the first time since Young’s early season hiatus. While it’s been an up-and-down campaign for the second-year man out of UNLV, closing it out on a positive note would’ve done wonders for both his psyche and the team’s confidence in him moving forward.
In the meantime, expect to see a whole lot of newcomer Adreian Payne, Gorgui Dieng sliding down to power forward, and beginning Wednesday night, The Big Ticket. It’ll be interesting to pay attention to what kind of mentorship K.G. is able to provide to young players; while everyone will surely key on his relationship with Andrew Wiggins, bringing along both Bazzy and A.B. is important as well. Both have the potential to be long-term contributors.
Muhammad and Bennett generated headlines in the offseason by reshaping their bodies, enduring “weeks of hell” together with an ex-Navy SEAL trainer in California. You can see the results above. There were big hopes for each of them in the preseason, and while Muhammad’s availability was spotty due to injuries, he lived up to or even exceeded all of them. It hasn’t been quite the same story for Bennett, but if he returns in early March, he’ll still have approximately a month to try to close his season on a positive note.