Jefferson should be ready for start of regular season

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Al Jefferson crumpled to the court and grabbed his knee, the Minnesota Timberwolves feared the worst.

"When you have a heart condition and your heart stops for a minute, it's not a good thing," said assistant GM Fred Hoiberg, who had to retire from the NBA because of an aorta problem. "It was a relief when we found out that it was just a mild sprain."

Jefferson injured his right knee during a pickup game with teammates. An MRI revealed a mildly sprained medial collateral ligament, and Jefferson is expected to miss only two to three weeks. Team doctors have told him he will be back well ahead of the Oct. 29 opener against Sacramento.

"It's always a concern when your best player goes down clutching his knee like he did," Hoiberg said Thursday at a gathering that marked the 20th anniversary of Wolves basketball in Minnesota. "He'll miss two weeks and we'll be careful with it and make sure he's 100 percent before he starts going again."

Losing him for any length of time would have been a crushing blow to a rebuilding young team coming off a miserable first season without Kevin Garnett.

Jefferson, acquired from Boston in the Garnett deal, was one of the few bright spots in a season in which the Wolves went 22-60, tied for the third-worst record in the league. He became one of only four players in the league to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

"I'm hoping for a speedy recovery from him because we're going to need him from the get-go in order to win some games," said rookie forward Kevin Love, who took Jefferson's place Thursday at the ceremony that honored season-ticket holders who have been with the team since its inception in 1989.

The Wolves most likely will have at least five new faces on the roster when the team breaks camp, and Jefferson is the new cornerstone.

"Could it affect our chemistry on the court?" Love asked. "It could, but it remains to be seen until it happens."

The plan is for Jefferson to be reevaluated after two weeks and eased onto the court if all goes well. Hoiberg said trainers already have noticed increased mobility in the knee since the injury.

"These guys have been together for over a month now working together," Hoiberg said. "I don't think it'll affect us too much. He'll be back for the last couple weeks of training camp and should be 100 percent and ready to go on opening night."