This time, the Timberwolves had no surprise starter to spring on the Denver Nuggets.

Kevin Love made his stealthy season debut under the cover of darkness the last time these two teams played Nov. 21 at Target Center, and the Wolves used the element of surprise and Love's adrenaline to burst to a 17-point lead but lost eventually.

Ricky Rubio didn't make his season debut Wednesday, not that it would have been much of a surprise. It won't arrive now until Saturday against Dallas at the earliest.

Denver coach George Karl was prepared regardless.

"We talked about it, and I guess someone texted us guaranteeing he wasn't playing and that made us even more suspicious," Karl said before the game. "I hope he comes back. I want him to be back on the court. He's good for the game, good for the league. He's a great young player, and he plays the game the way I like it to be played.

"So I hope he gets back on the court. If it has to be tonight, we'll make that adjustment, too."

Waiting for Ricky

Rubio, Wolves management and medical staff met before Wednesday's game and targeted Saturday's game as the one most likely for Rubio to make his season debut.

Team owner Glen Taylor said that's the earliest Rubio will play -- the Wolves also play at New Orleans on Friday -- but added it isn't definitive. "He wants to see how he feels," Taylor said.

The Wolves on Wednesday began a stretch in which they now play five games in seven nights. That's probably one reason why Rubio will sit out until at least Saturday.

"The biggest thing is how's he going to feel when he gets out there," Adelman said. "Game and practice is going to be two different animals, and knowing him, he's going to want to really go all out."


• Forward Josh Howard sat at his locker 75 minutes before the game but did not make it to the bench because he was too ill to play.

• Shooting guard Malcolm Lee left the game late in the first half after hyperextending his right knee. He did not come out to start the second half and was replaced by Alexey Shved with the starters to begin the third quarter.