Rubio's return will spur new chemistry test

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 12, 2012 - 6:51 AM

Fellow guards' roles will change when he comes back, a month after Kevin Love's return shuffled the frontcourt.

Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio's season debut is near. And whether it arrives Wednesday night against Denver or perhaps Saturday against Dallas, it might actually outshine for a moment teammate Kevin Love's latest incendiary comments concerning his future in Minnesota.

Rubio's long-awaited return from March knee surgery also will affect coach Rick Adelman's backcourt rotation the way Love's return from a broken hand last month has left former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams now affixed to the team's bench.

"That's something I've got to figure out. There's not enough minutes for all of them," Adelman said. "It just depends on when Ricky comes back and how many minutes he plays. I don't really have an answer until I find out what Ricky's status is, when he comes back and what our game schedule is when he does."

The Wolves play five games in seven days starting Wednesday, the price they pay for having four days off in which Rubio continued to practice with his teammates and strengthen his left leg and endurance.

His presence -- when it arrives -- will affect the playing time of point guards Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea, although Adelman for most of the season has looked for ways to limit Ridnour's load and minutes to protect the 31-year-old's iffy back.

It also eventually could transform Malcolm Lee from starting shooting guard to a seat next to Williams many nights even though he has impressed Adelman with his on-the-ball defense and growing offensive confidence.

"It's going to affect everybody," Adelman said."Malcolm will be one of them."

The Wolves started the season 5-4 without Love. They've gone 4-5 since Love's return while learning to play together with their leading scorer and rebounder.

And now they must adapt all over again once Rubio -- their most creative playmaker and spiritual leader -- comes back.

Love suggests that the process should be simpler welcoming back a point guard who distributes the ball than it was integrating what he called a "volume" shooter such as himself into the team's style of play.

"The offense ran a lot through me. With Ricky it's playing off of him," Love said Tuesday before a Yahoo!Sports story that re-emphasized his unhappiness with the franchise hit the Internet and made national headlines. "I think it's a lot easier to adjust to a guy like Ricky than me.

"But I'm still not going to put that pressure on him. He's got to be himself when he comes back."

As to when exactly that will be, Love said even he doesn't have inside information.

"We don't know, Ricky hasn't said anything to me," Love said. "He has been keeping it pretty close to his chest, but he looks good in practice. We'll just have to wait and see. I'm pretty sure it will be soon here, in the next five games.

"I never like to put a time frame on it. Whenever he's ready, he'll play."

So far, Rubio has impressed teammates in practices.

"He looks good," forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "I think he is ready to go, but with his kind of injury, I would wait until it's completely 100 percent ready.

"He's one of those kind of guys who can make a difference in the game. In practice you see that every attack, every possession offensively and defensively. Those guys are pretty rare."

The Wolves had three consecutive days of practice before Wednesday's game to adjust to Rubio's presence, and vice versa.

"It's going to be a process," Kirilenko said. "That's why we have practice right now. We have a lot of scrimmages with Ricky. We don't have any problems. It's pretty much the same style we played before.

"He's just adding some more something to the game. He can run the ball, he can really create that up-tempo and his passes are unbelievable."

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