Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio’s healing elbow and legs were willing in Saturday night’s return to action after two weeks out injured.

But his lungs and the feel with which he usually plays the game?

Not so much.

“You try to find a rhythm, try to run the team, too,” he said. “The first game back after a couple weeks, you just get the rust out.”

Rubio started and played nearly 24½ minutes in his third game of this young season. He had seven points, six assists, six rebounds, a steal and three turnovers in a 119-105 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

“It was good, first game back,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He has been out a while. His timing is not there, but just having him back is good for us. He’s a leader. He gives us organization. They’ll get more comfortable when he gets a few games under his belt. Overall, I thought he was very, very solid.”

Rookie Kris Dunn spelled Rubio for the first three quarters. Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones played eight fourth-quarter minutes — most of them with Dunn and the game out of reach. That appeased a handful of fans who spent a good portion of the game yammering for the hometown hero’s appearance.

Rubio played the game with a compression sleeve on his right arm. Asked how the elbow felt, he said, “It felt good. A couple times I banged it and it felt numb for a second, but you’ve got to play through it.”

Feeling each other’s pain

Old friends Thibodeau and Doc Rivers came together on a court for the first time since Thibodeau coached the Bulls against his former boss two seasons ago.

Good thing the two didn’t have much time to reminisce, or else their conversation inevitably would have gone back to the 2010 NBA Finals and the Game 7 their Celtics lost to the Lakers.

“You never get past it, you just try to get around it,” Thibodeau said. “You know the saying ‘misery loves company’? We’re both pretty miserable and we go through the play-by-play every time we have dinner together.”

Said Rivers on those dinners: “I always pay. Did he bring up that part of it? I don’t get that. I saw his contract. I don’t understand.”

Missing Aldrich

The Wolves signed center Cole Aldrich away from the Clippers, who couldn’t afford him under their salary cap.

Asked what he misses about Aldrich, Rivers said, “His goofiness, his horrendous jokes, his fashion taste and mostly his dance. When Cole danced in the locker room, it set dancing back 100 years. But I just miss him.”

“He’s got it backwards: I can dance, but I can’t dress,” said Aldrich, who had eight points and six rebounds against his old team but fouled out in only 14 minutes.


• Thibodeau and Rivers share more than friendship. Each does two jobs — coach and personnel decisionmaker — for his franchise. “It’s a job he can do,” Rivers said. “He’s ready. He has been in the league. He’ll be great at it, and you will see that soon. He’s hiring people he knows are good and who will do a lot of the work for him, people he can trust.”

• Wesley Johnson, drafted fourth overall by the Wolves in 2010, was scratched from the Clippers lineup because of a heel injury suffered Friday at Oklahoma City.