Stephenson Returns from Ankle Injury

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – MARCH 8: Lance Stephenson #7 of the Minnesota Timberwolves goes up for a lay up against the LA Clippers on March 8, 2017 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Lance Stephenson knows the Minnesota Timberwolves could have moved on without him after he sprained his left ankle in a Feb. 14 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers

His initial 10-day contract expired shortly after that injury and he obviously needed time to rehab. That, coupled with the fact that the Timberwolves are locked in a dogfight for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference — they currently trail the Denver Nuggets by 2.5 games — left no guarantee they would wait around for Stephenson to get healthy. Not with the free-agent market full of other players that could immediately help with a playoff push.

Well, the Timberwolves waited, signing Stephenson to another 10-day contract on Wednesday. He played five games for the Wolves during his first 10-day stint, averaging 4.2 points in 13 minutes.

“It means a lot,” said Stephenson, a 26-year-old guard, of the Wolves signing him again. “It means they’ve got confidence in me. They see the work I’ve put in. They know that I can help this group. I’ve just got to stay healthy and keep pushing and getting better every day.”

Stephenson played 16 minutes in Wednesday’s 107-91 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, and finished with four points, three rebounds and two assists.

“He was very good in the first half,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought in the second half fatigue was a little bit of a factor, which is to be expected. Overall, I thought he did good things.”

Stephenson refuted the claim that he was tired, emphasizing most important thing was his ankle felt good.

“It gets a little swollen and it goes back down after we ice it,” he said. “I’ve just got to stay on it and keep getting stronger.”

When this 10-day contract expires, the Timberwolves will need to sign Stephenson for the rest of the season to retain his rights or release him for good.

Stephenson is intent on making sure they hold on to him for the stretch run.

“I’ve got to stay solid,” he said. “I can’t try too many tricks or anything like that. Just play professional ball. Just play great defense. Just try to help my teammates every day I’m out there.”

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