MINNEAPOLIS — Just when the Timberwolves thought they were finally getting healthy after a rash of injuries to key players spoiled another season in Minnesota, Shabazz Muhammad and Anthony Bennett both went down.
Muhammad will have season-ending surgery on his left middle finger and Bennett will miss at least the next two weeks with an injured right ankle, the team announced on Saturday.
Muhammad was becoming a key cog off the bench for the Wolves in his second season. After averaging just 3.9 points as a seldom-used rookie, Muhammad slimmed down over the summer, refined his offensive game and was enjoying a most improved year before getting injured.
He was averaging 13.5 points per game and his aggressiveness was rubbing off on rookie Andrew Wiggins. Muhammad also had some time in the starting lineup when the Wolves lost starters Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic for most of the first three months of the season.
Muhammad had 30 points and seven rebounds in a loss to Utah on Dec. 30, and topped 20 points eight times in a 21-game stretch before he went out with an abdominal injury last month. He missed 16 games with the injury, returned shortly before the All-Star break and played in the Rising Stars Challenge in Brooklyn before getting injured in his first practice back from the break.
Bennett started on Friday night against Phoenix, but played just nine minutes before getting injured and now will miss out on a big opportunity for the consistent playing time he has been wanting. It's been a second straight uneven year for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft. Bennett suffered through an injury plagued rookie season before getting traded to the Wolves in the Kevin Love deal.
In Minnesota, he has been bothered by nagging bumps and bruises while trying to find his role in the rebuilding team's offense.
The injuries to Bennett and Muhammad mean rookie Adreian Payne, who was recently acquired from Atlanta for a lottery-protected first-round draft pick, will get even more playing time.
Payne made his Wolves debut on Friday night and blocked two shots in almost 14 minutes. Previous to that game, Payne had played a total of 18 minutes with the Hawks.
Garnett is scheduled to make his Timberwolves debut on Wednesday night at home against Washington. Coach Flip Saunders said the 38-year-old will likely play from 10-20 minutes a game for the rest of the season.