NEW ORLEANS - It's a good thing Ricky Rubio is ready to return Saturday after nine months away, because the Timberwolves need fresh bodies just to keep up with their injuries.
Rubio is expected to make his season debut against Dallas provided everybody agrees the time is right at a meeting with management and medical staff earlier in the day.
He arrives just as shooting guard Malcolm Lee -- made a starter out of necessity -- has been declared out indefinitely because of a right knee injury.
Just-returned Josh Howard left Friday's game in the second quarter because of a hyperextended knee. And Kevin Love's injured thumb could also keep him out.
The team announced Friday that Lee has a "chrondal" injury -- a degenerative knee condition involving damaged cartilage -- that will be examined further to decide what's next. He had surgery twice on his left knee in 2011.
Russian rookie guard Alexey Shved made his first career NBA start Friday on a night when the Wolves played with just three healthy guards in New Orleans. Howard played some shooting guard before getting injured Friday while Rubio remained in Minnesota and worked out with medical personnel to prep for his return.
Coach Rick Adelman said Rubio has passed every evaluation needed for him to play.
"We just have to OK it, or he does, somebody does," Adelman said. "I don't know who it is. Obviously, he's been doing well. I would imagine [he plays] unless something happens. In our case, you never want to know. You just have to wait and see.
"He's very close, so we'll see."
Adelman brought Shved off the bench for the season's first 19 games and said he likes how Shved plays with reserve guard J.J. Barea. But Shved became a starter Friday for the first time out of necessity because of Lee's injury and because Adelman decided not to start his only two healthy point guards like he did with Barea and Luke Ridnour against Milwaukee two weeks ago.
Shved scored 13 points with eight assists in 35 minutes.
"You've got to think of the future, too," Adelman said. "If Malcolm's out, we're going to have to start somebody else. So I'm just trying to figure out what kind of rotation we can get."
Much of Lee's rookie season was lost because of that left knee. Now it's his right one, just when he was playing his way into Adelman's favor because of his defense and his offensive improvement.
"I feel really bad if he's out for a time," Adelman said. "He was playing better. We talked about him being very good defensively, and he's making some shots. It just seemed like he's been hurt all the time since we've had him. But we like him and just feel bad for him. Hopefully, it just won't be real serious."
Before hurting his knee, Howard returned Friday after missing Wednesday's game because he was too ill to play. He saw the team doctor before the Nuggets game, then went home and watched the game on television. "I wasn't even strong enough to run up and down the court the other night," Howard said.
Wolves forward Dante Cunningham and Hornets coach Monty Williams. The two were nearly inseparable when Portland drafted Cunningham in the second round and Williams was a assistant coach.
"He taught me everything," Cunningham said.
Good timing: The Wolves will be on national TV twice in three days next week after Internet-voting fans picked their Tuesday game at Miami for NBA-TV's Fan Night. Thursday's 6 p.m. home game against Oklahoma City will be on TNT.