As the Minnesota Timberwolves have found out over the past month or so, losing your best player is not good. In fact, it is actually bad. On Feb. 23, the Timberwolves sat comfortably in third place in the Western Conference, and looked poised to not only make their first playoff appearance since 2004, but to have home-court advantage in the first round as well.
Then, Jimmy Butler tore his meniscus against the Houston Rockets, and had to undergo surgery. Since then, the Timberwolves are just 4-5, and have tumbled all the way down to eighth place in the Western Conference. That is in part due to teams like the Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans going on absurd winning streaks, but it's also mostly due to the fact that the Wolves just aren't winning as much as they were with Butler.
There is a bit of good news for the Wolves, however. On Sunday, Butler, when speaking to reporters for the first time since the surgery, noted that he hopes to be back before the end of the regular season. Via ESPN:
Jimmy Butler could return to the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves before the end of the regular season, if he continues to stay on track with his rehabilitation from surgery on his right knee.
"I can't give you the exact date, but I want to come back and I want to help," said Butler, who sat courtside during the 129-120 loss Sunday to the Rockets in his first appearance on the bench since he was hurt.
"I have a little bit of time left, but I know my guys are going to stick this thing out and do what they've been doing, keep us in this race," Butler said. "And when I come back, we'll see what we have left in the tank."
Butler will soon reach the front end of his four-to-six-week timeline, but it seems likely the Wolves will be cautious with their franchise player. Of course, Tom Thibodeau is their head coach, but it still seems likely Butler would come back towards the back end of that timeline.
Which, even if he is out the entire six weeks, should still give him at least a few games at the end of the regular season. And with the Wolves facing the Nuggets -- currently in ninth place -- on the last day of the regular season, Butler returning even just for that game could give them a huge boost considering the very real possibility that game will determine who gets the final playoff spot.