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Rubio Practices, Could Play This Weekend

Glorious news for the Wolves: Rubio could return this weekend.

NBA: Preseason-Minnesota Timberwolves at Charlotte Hornets Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Time for some good news! Ricky Rubio returned to practice today after missing the last five games with a sprained right elbow he suffered in the second game of the season on the road against Sacramento.

The Wolves have gone 2-3 in his absence—though beating the JV Grizzlies and the awkwardly built, and not especially good, Orlando Magic, was not terribly impressive. It’s not hard to envision losses against the Nuggets and Nets going the other way with Rubio in the fold, but that’s in the past now and the injury turned out to be less serious than the original “out indefinitely” time frame might have led one to believe. But early reports also suggested the injury was not that serious and today’s news confirms those initial whispers; Rubio should make his return to the lineup very soon.

In fact, Tom Thibodeau said there's even a chance he could play this weekend depending on how his elbow is feeling. The Wolves have a home back-to-back against the Clippers (tomorrow) and Lakers (Sunday) and both the Los Angeles teams are coming into town off back-to-backs (helpful).

Without Rubio in the mix, Kris Dunn has been called upon to start at point guard. However, it’s been Tyus Jones who has actually carried the load. Jones is coming off two of his best games as a pro in Brooklyn and Orlando and has appeared to leap Dunn in Thibs’ rotation. Jones, 20, played 63 minutes in Minnesota's last two games while Dunn has struggled offensively in 32 minutes (16 vs. the Nets, 17 against the Magic).

Against Brooklyn, Jones had 12 points, five rebounds, seven assists and five steals to become the third-youngest Wolves players to post a 4x5 game; KG owns the top two spots. Dunn, meanwhile, is shooting only 28 percent from the field over the five games Rubio has missed. He’s also struggled to run the offense in halfcourt sets.

Something to keep an eye on moving forward will be how Thibodeau structures the point guard minutes. Does Dunn move back to where he started the season as the backup point guard behind Rubio? Does he move to the backup two-guard where he can focus on defense, which he’s already very good at, and where he can use his off-ball skills more than trying to run an NBA offense? Tyus Jones is clearly playing at a high level right now and has gained the trust of his coach. Does Thibodeau reward Jones’ positive play with the backup point guard role for the time being? Is it going to based purely on matchups?

We’ll see what happens this weekend, but there’s no doubt Jones has turned some heads and opened some eyes early in his sophomore season.

In the end, no matter what happens with the minutes, it’s certainly good to have Rubio back. This team absolutely needs him if they want to go anywhere this season. The abominable third quarters with stagnant offense and lifeless defense is something Rubio clearly can help the team avoid, or at least minimize, moving forward.

This is excellent news for the Wolves as two weeks was probably the least amount of time he was realistically going to miss. Now, Rubio will have the chance to silence more of his critics if he can help the team pile up some wins in the next few weeks and get this thing back on track.