MIAMI – Just when he seemed to really find his way, Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica will miss the rest of the season because of a foot injury sustained Wednesday at Boston.
He was injured in the second quarter of a 117-104 loss after he had played less than 12 minutes. An MRI taken Thursday morning revealed an injury to his left foot, but the team did not specify its nature or extent other than to say it is season-ending.
Bjelica will seek opinions from specialists to decide treatment options, the team said in a statement.
He wore a protective boot on his left foot and left TD Garden on crutches after Wednesday’s game.
Until then, Bjelica had four double-doubles in his past seven games. He averaged 9.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 28.9 minutes in those seven games and particularly seemed to be building chemistry with point guard Ricky Rubio, who found him with throw-ahead passes for two nifty scores in Monday’s home victory over Washington.
Both Bjelica and Rubio looked glum when Bjelica stopped by Rubio’s locker on his way out on those crutches Wednesday. The Wolves were outscored 59-44 in the second half after Bjelica left the game and both Rubio and starting forward Gorgui Dieng got into third-quarter foul trouble.
“It’s big,” Rubio said then about Bjelica’s absence. “He has been giving us a lot of great minutes, and I hope he can continue playing. But we saw it tonight how our options went with him when he went down.”
Bjelica has one more season left on a three-year contract signed in July 2015 that will pay him a very team-friendly $3.95 million next season.
He and Rubio are the only two players left on the team who were obtained by former president of basketball operations David Kahn. The Wolves under Kahn’s direction drafted Bjelica 35th overall in 2010 and Flip Saunders signed him after he played five more seasons in Europe and won the Euroleague MVP award in 2015.
Bjelica played 30 or more minutes in four of those last seven games before Wednesday’s loss in Boston.
After Monday’s game, he talked about how comfortable he had grown in a new, expanded role.
“I think a lot of things changed because of my playing time,” Bjelica said. “I had a lot of playing time, so I can show lots of things.”
Without him, Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau can increase playing time for such players as Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, Cole Aldrich and Lance Stephenson, who on Wednesday aggravated an ankle injury. His second 10-day contract ends after Friday’s game in Miami.
Or he could call upon seldom-played Jordan Hill or Adreian Payne, who missed 13 games while he was being treated for thrombocytopenia and hasn’t played since January.