Wessel: Anticipation builds for many as Ricky Rubio's return nears
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The wait for Ricky Rubio to return to the court is nearing an end.
The team originally circled Wednesday's game against the Denver Nuggets -- two weeks to the day since Rubio was cleared to practice -- as the return date for their Spanish wunderkind.
And on the eve of that game, the Wolves handled all Rubio-related questions delicately after practice. They were almost suspiciously quiet. None more so than coach Rick Adelman who simply offered his standard "I don't know" when asked if Rubio will make his debut against the Nuggets.
Kevin Love elaborated a bit more when asked the same question, but not much.
"He's looked good in practice," he said. "We'll just have to wait and see (if Rubio plays Wednesday). But I'm sure it is going to be pretty soon here."
The Wolves have long maintained they want Rubio's first game back to be on his home floor where the sophomore will get a hero's welcome.
So if Rubio doesn't play Wednesday, he almost certainly won't make his debut Friday at New Orleans, leaving the next home game. That will be Saturday against the Dallas Mavericks.
The Wolves have been cautious with Rubio's rehab from the torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments he suffered in his left knee last March.
At times they have even needed to save the overly ambitious kid from himself when he wants to do too much too fast. So the safe bet would be the Wolves will wait until Saturday to bring back Rubio, if for no other reason than so they don't have to deal with the dilemma of whether he can play three games in four nights.
There already has been one surprise return from injury this season at Target Center when Love was announced as a starter on Nov. 21, also against the Nuggets.
But a similar return for Rubio seems unlikely. There were rumblings that Love's surprise return frustrated some employees because they missed a perfect opportunity to make the most of what was a golden opportunity for walk-up ticket sales.
The Wolves will want to capitalize on Rubio's season debut which, with enough publicity, is sure to result in the first sell out at Target Center since the opener against Sacramento.
Either way, whenever Rubio returns it will result in plenty of other questions. Does he start? How many minutes does he play? Can he play back-to-backs? How will he mesh with new teammates?
But those are going to be minor issues in the grand scheme. The big hurdle is almost cleared.
Rubio's season debut is imminent. And, once that happens, life should be easier for everyone.
Adelman likely will be able to sleep better at night. The Wolves players get their facilitator and court general back. The marketing side should have an easier time selling tickets and their product. And, most importantly, Rubio will get back to his lifelong craft of playing basketball.