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“He just has great anticipation defensively,” Bryant said. “He reads the floor extremely well, he’s extremely patient. He’s developing more and more confidence with his jump shot. I don’t know what … they’re doing in Spain to develop their individual talent, but they’re doing something right.”

Most importantly, Rubio’s play has translated to victories. The Timberwolves were eighth in the West, putting them in position to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2004, before losing to the Lakers on Friday night to fall a half-game behind Houston.

Adelman, the veteran coach who hasn’t always embraced playing rookies throughout his 20-year coaching career, put his faith in Rubio right from the beginning. Even when Rubio wasn’t starting early in the season, he was playing almost the entire fourth quarter of games, and the Wolves offense ran noticeably smoother with the ball in his hands.

Guard J.J. Barea is also injured, with a sprained left ankle keeping him out of the game against the Lakers and making him questionable for the game against New Orleans on Saturday night. That means Luke Ridnour, who has been starting at shooting guard with Rubio at the point, is the only player with experience playing the point guard on the roster.

The Wolves called up second-round draft pick Malcolm Lee from the D-League on Friday, but he has yet to play in a game in his rookie season because of a knee injury.

Minnesota has one more game at home before embarking on a demanding two-week road trip that could define its season.

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/APkrawczynski.