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- Less than nine months after surgery to repair the ACL and LCL ligaments in his right knee, Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio returns to action tonight. Rubio tore the ligaments in a March 9 game against the Lakers just 41 games into his rookie season. He had reconstructive surgery on March 21, and tonight will come off the bench and play 16-18 minutes, Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. “Nothing too strenuous at first, no back-to-backs. That’s what the trainers suggest,” said Adelman, who plans to pair the Spaniard with J.J. Barea in the backcourt. Rubio, who led the Wolves to a 21-20 record before being injured, returned to practice 10 days ago and, despite some conditioning returns after missing training camp, convinced Adelman and the training staff that he was ready late this week.
- While the Wolves get one of their star players back, another one remains a question mark. Kevin Love re-injured his right thumb late in Minnesota’s victory in New Orleans on Friday, and was in the trainers’ room before the game, Adelman said. As of one hour before game time, Love still had not determined whether he can play. Love broke a bone in the hand during the preseason and missed the season’s first nine games.
- Definitely out for tonight’s game: reserve forward Josh Howard, who hyperextended his right knee during the second quarter in New Orleans on Friday. But Howard is expected to travel with the team to Orlando for Monday’s game, though his status for the game is unknown.
- The Wolves will stick to their starting backcourt of Luke Ridnour and Alexey Shved for now, Adelman said, with Andrei Kirilenko and Love at forward and Nikola Pekovic, who scored a career-high 31 points Friday, at center. If Love is unable to play, second-year forward Derrick Williams will start in his place.
- Dallas rookie Jae Crowder will dress for the game, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said, and be available to play after missing two games with the flu. But Carlisle said he planned to stick with Dahntay Jones and Shawn Marion in the starting lineup, along with guards Derek Fisher and O.J. Mayo, as well as center Chris Kaman. That lineup looked lethargic in a 95-74 loss at Toronto on Friday. How will they find the energy to play one night later? “They just have to, that’s all,” Carlisle said. “They just have to.”
- Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki gave a three-word answer to a Dallas Morning News reporter who inquired about his recovery from off-season knee surgery: “I’m not close.” Nowitzki has yet to play this season.