Wolves injured center Nikola Pekovic talked about this morning's shootaround about his road back from April surgery on that Achilles/ankle injury that has bothered him so these last few years and said he is optimistic he can return to being an everyday player.

"Yeah, hopefully with this surgery I've solved all my problems," he said. "What I had before, you can never tell if those things are going to come back or no or if you're going to feel something different. If you're going to hurt again you can never tell but with this progress, how I feel right now, I really feel I can come back and play I like I used to play before."

Pekovic spoke before tonight's game against Orlando at Target Center, in which starting point guard Ricky Rubio is expected back after missing two games because of ankle soreness.

(UPDATE BEFORE TONIGHT'S GAME: Sam Mitchell confirmed Rubio will play.)

Pekovic has been doing some running and one-and-one work with Rubio and others. He didn't go so far as to say he is pain free -- as Wolves VP for Sports Performance Arnie Kander has said he is -- but he said he is feeling good and hopes to run harder and join the team for 5-on-0 work within two weeks.

After that, he could be just another couple weeks away from playing in a game.

"December 23rd, at 7 o'clock," he said playfully, jokingly when asked when he might play again.

For the record, the Wolves play the Spurs at home that night.

"Right now, I don't want to really push it," he said.

When he returns, it'll be to a team that already has centers Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng playing productively. Towns and Dieng both can play some power forward with Pekovic at center if he can get back on the court and stay healthy.

"I'll be happy just to fit in and find my spot," Pekovic said.

A few other things:

* Kevin Garnett talked about shootaround and was asked about Kobe Bryant's decision to retire after this season. "A;l of his great accomplishments stand for themselves and he has made his mark on the game. It's not sad because you think about a world without Kobe Bryant and that says a lot. The fact that he's made his mark on this game and he's made his mark on not only the Lakers organization but the `2' (shooting guard) position and basketball itself, sports, I can keep going. It's just great to have something like that in our game, never the less sports itself."

* Magic guard Victor Oladipo talked fondly after shootaround about Flip Saunders, who coveted him greatly in the 2013 draft and flew to the Washington, D.C., to privately interview him over a meal and watch him work out. "He told me some words that I'll probably never forget," said Oladipo, who said Flip told him "there's something special about me and I never should lose that."

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Ricky Rubio returns to practice, is expected to play Tuesday

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Karl-Anthony Towns is NBA Western Conference rookie of the month