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Timberwolves’ Covington will be out ‘a while’

New Orleans Pelicans guard Elfrid Payton (4) drives past Minnesota Timberwolves forward Robert Covington (33) during the second half of their game Dec. 31, 2018, at the Smoothie King Center in New orleand. Derick E. Hingle / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- The hits just keep on coming for a Minnesota Timberwolves team gasping for air in the Western Conference standings.

A team ravaged by injuries the past couple of weeks, Minnesota will now be without defensive ace Robert Covington for “a while” after an MRI revealed a bone bruise on his right knee, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said Friday, Jan. 4.

Thibodeau said the injury isn’t expected to need surgery, but when Covington might return is a bit of an unknown.

“Those things are hard to predict in terms of how long, so I don’t want to just guess with it,” Thibodeau said. “But he’s out, for right now.”

The injury appeared to occur with about a minute left in the Timberwolves’ loss in New Orleans on Monday, Dec. 31, 2018, when Karl-Anthony Towns pushed Darius Miller and Miller fell into Covington’s knee. Covington played the next few possessions before leaving.

Friday’s game against Orlando at Target Center marked his second straight absence after the All-NBA defender miss Minnesota’s loss in Boston on Wednesday, Jan. 2.

“This is an opportunity for someone else to step in, so that’s the way you have to look at it,” Thibodeau said. “We have more than enough, we just have to get it done.”

Still, Covington sparked Minnesota’s short-term defensive resurgence earlier in the season upon his arrival from Philadelphia. His absence will be felt.

“It’s a big blow for our team,” Towns said. “He’s a great defensive player, obviously, but the energy and the character and just the pure passion he brings to the game, for us it’s contagious. It’s just more of us having to pick up his load and spreading it around the team.”

Minnesota is now without two of its top wings with the timing of Derrick Rose’s return still in question. Rose said his right ankle sprain is still sore and he isn’t going 100 percent or cutting off of it.

The Wolves were set to get another piece back Friday: point guard Jeff Teague returns to the lineup after an extended absence because of left ankle inflammation.

Teague admitted he’s battled “the injury bug” all season, from his knee to his ankle.

“Ever since then it’s been a struggle,” he said. “Hopefully I can get back on the right track, get a feel for the game and get a flow.”

Teague said he currently feels “probably the best I’m going to get” during the season.

“Feels good just to have a chance to play again,” he said. “I’m excited.”