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Ricky Rubio's return could spark already well-off Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves aren't exactly struggling without Ricky Rubio, but his return could still be huge for their playoff aspirations.

US PRESSWIRE

The Minnesota Timberwolves are likely to have Ricky Rubio back in the lineup on Saturday for the first time since March 9, 2012.

Rubio is returning from ACL and LCL injuries, and his return could be just what the Wolves need to get back in the thick of a playoff hunt.

Actually, as noted by Steve Aschburner at the NBA's Hang Time Blog, the Wolves are already in the playoff hunt, and Rubio's return will be less of a rescue and more of a shot in the arm. Without him, they're 11-9 (also without Kevin Love for the first 10 games of the season). With him, they could be something special.

With Adelman doing a masterful job of plugging holes and finding mismatches, the Wolves are off to their best start since Kevin Garnett‘s last season with them. They have won five of their last six games and are 6-6 against teams that are .500 or better. If the goal was to stay competitive and viable as a playoff challenger while Love and Rubio were out, the Wolves have overachieved.

There was worry that the Wolves would be out of the playoff race before Rubio even returned. His injury was so significant that they were questioning whether the team would be 20 games back by the time he got back. Now, he's set to come back right in the middle of a rough stretch of the schedule, which is immediately followed by a lengthy stretch in which the Wolves play four games in 14 days.

The Wolves are a much different team now than they were before Rubio's injury in March. They're a better team, and it will be very interesting to see how they play with him back in the lineup.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.