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published Monday, December 26th - 7:27am

There was an e-mail suggestion over the holiday weekend that offered this cheery suggestion: Ricky Rubio was destined to become the Timberwolves' version of Tsuyoshi Nishioka when it came to an ineffective import for a local pro franchise.

Rubio would have to turn out to be the equivalent of Ndudi Ebi in order to be fairly compared with Nishioka, the bust the Twins brought in to play in the middle of the infield this past season.

There was criticism heaped on David Kahn, the Wolves' president for basketball operations, when he used the fifth pick in the 2009 draft to select Rubio - and then the teenager stayed in Spain rather than sign with Minnesota.

I said at the time and have repeated it frequently: The best thing to happen for the Wolves was for Rubio to stay in Spain for a couple of years. It gave him a chance to mature physically, while also not using up half of his obligation to Minnesota before he could become a free agent.

The Wolves signed Rubio late last spring, before the lockout, and now they have control over him through the 2014-15 season. If he had come here immediately after the draft, Rubio could have two seasons left, after spending his time surrounded by a team for two years that went 32-132 and working with Kurt Rambis and his inferior coaching staff.

We have no idea what the 6-foot-4 guard from Spain is going to bring, but he's now 21, and has a bit more talent here, and Rick Adelman's excellent collection of coaches to give him a chance to succeed.

The Wolves' first two home games are tonight vs. Oklahoma City and then on Friday night vs. Miami. The Thunder and the Heat both looked tremendous in their Christmas Day openers, and are the teams most likely to play in the NBA Finals in my opinion.

So, it could be a continuation of Mismatch City right away at Target Center, but don't despair. It figures the Wolves will get better in the second half of the condensed schedule under Adelman, rather than worse as they did in the closing weeks under Rambis for two straight seasons.

During this NFL season, we've heard excuses that the lockout prevented players from preparing properly to explain failures. Two examples of this were Minnesota quarterbacks:

We were told that veteran Donovan McNabb didn't have a chance to become familiar with Bill Musgrave's offense, and rookie Christian Ponder wasn't able to put in that valuable time learning the offense in the offseason.

The circumstance is far more difficult for Adelman. There has been two weeks of practice, surrounding two exhibition games. And once the schedule starts, with what amounts to four games per week with a full dose of NBA travel, there will be few days when Adelman can put his team through an actual practice.

Which means there is a good chance that there will be more ugly basketball than smooth functioning, and the Wolves can only hope that its energized fan base doesn't turn cynical too rapidly.

The idea of playing a small lineup - Rubio and J.J. Barea together in the backcourt, rookie Derrick Williams, Michael Beasley and Kevin Love up front - for sizable stretches of a game brings visions of dynamic offensive moments.

But then you wonder how that lineup would be able to guard anybody?

Rubio and Barea going head-up against OK City's Russell Westbrook and James Harden tonight ... that's a frightening scenario.

At season's start, Barea and Luke Ridnour probably will get more minutes than Rubio. And it might not take long for another rookie, Malcolm Lee, a 6-5 defender, to be getting a good share of minutes at off guard.

The player who could get lost in the shuffle is Wes Johnson, the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft. He's more of a small forward than an off guard, but Beasley and Williams both will be in need of minutes at that forward spot.

On many nights, Love and Anthony Randolph figure to be getting more combined minutes at center than Nikola Pekovic and Darko Milicic. That will give Beasley more time at power forward, and perhaps get Johnson a decent run at small forward.

The lack of a real training camp puts Adelman and his coaches way behind in preparing and making decisions on his personnel. I'm guessing that factor,  along with defensive inadequacies everywhere you look, will put the Wolves at around .333 - 22-44 - in this shortened season.

And then will come the draft, and total awareness among team followers that the Wolves' first choice now belongs to New Orleans (through the Chris Paul trade with the Clippers), and, oh, is there going to be some renewed howling over that Marko Jaric trade from way back in 2005.