Minnesota Could Have A Franchise Player Back This Weekend

Toronto was down to just eight healthy players for Wednesday night’s game against Brooklyn, but you won’t hear any sympathy for the Raptors from Minneapolis. The Timberwolves have endured the NBA’s worst injuries this season, at times missing Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Chase Budinger, J.J. Barea and Brandon Roy. Now the team is projecting a not-so-distant future where all but Budinger will be back. The next piece in reassembling the Wolves roster could be in place Saturday.

The StarTribune and ESPN Radio 1500 have been reading the tea leaves as to point guard Ricky Rubio‘s return and both believe the second-year guard will be back Saturday against Dallas, at home. Point guards Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea have held their ground in Rubio’s absence, with point guard the team’s third-best position this season by PER (though they’ve also given up the best PER over this season, too). Still, Rubio will elevate that position, if not immediately, by Christmas.

[RELATED: Rubio’s Top 10 Plays]

Also of note is that Brandon Roy, yes, Brandon Roy, is back working out at the Wolves’ facility. He said that he never considered retiring after his latest knee procedure. As reported by the StarTribune:

“No,” he said when asked about reports that he’d considered leaving the game again. “A few people asked me that, and I don’t pay attention much to the media. I don’t really read that stuff. But I don’t know where that could have come from. But no, I never thought about walking away. It was, for me, just do I want to go through another procedure or do I want to play through it. that was more my question than walking away.”

I don’t believe Roy will play in a meaningful role the rest of this season, but to dip heavily into cliche, he could provide a mental boost for this team’s oft-injured psyche. Only Barea has had any luck in the playoffs, but Roy is can convey that experience to his teammates.

After all these injuries, Minnesota is still 10-9, third in the Northwest Division. Can they still make the playoffs? According to a stat dug up by ESPN’s Brian Kamenetzky, the eighth seed from the Western Conference has needed 48 wins the past three full seasons. That stat was relayed to prove the point how the Lakers needed to win almost twice as many as they lost to get that eighth spot. Figured for the Wolves, they must go 38-25 for that averaged eighth position. Given Love is back and playing like an All-Star (don’t think for a second his beef with management will carry to the court regularly) and Rubio is likely back, too, a playoff spot isn’t the pipe dream it appeared in mid-November.

What do you think?

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