The most important return from injury in the NBA season won't be in Washington, Dallas, Los Angeles or Chicago.

Ricky Rubio played his first game in nine months for the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. He delivered the second of nine assists in 18 minutes between his legs and seemingly between those of Elton Brand -- until replays showed it wasn't quite the case. The point is, Rubio makes the improbable worth believing in.

The Timberwolves (12-9) started solidly before Rubio came back from a torn ACL that may have been the only thing that kept him from being named 2012 rookie of the year. The Western Conference is wide open, too, opening the door for Minnesota to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Rubio improves those postseason chances in the same way he makes everyone around him better. That includes Kevin Love, who no longer has anything to complain about.

With Rubio and without Love (flu), the Timberwolves won their fourth in a row in overtime against the Mavericks, a conference opponent barely holding serve without Dirk Nowitzki. The Lakers are even more desperate for Steve Nash; their problems also run deeper.

In the East, the Bulls will get to the playoffs without Derrick Rose thanks to their defense, and the Wizards need a miracle return for John Wall and more to turn their season around. Need we remind you that Rubio was chosen with a pick handed to Minnesota by Washington?

It can make your head spin -- just like Rubio's magical passes.

- Craig Stouffer