Long after the Timberwolves’ practice ended Wednesday there was an informal three-point shooting contest. It was high-spirited and rather loud, with good-natured digs going back and forth as Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved and Mickael Gelabale took shots along with Kevin Love and Chase Budinger.

Love still is recovering from a hand surgery. But Wednesday marked Budinger’s first practice since sustaining a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee on Nov. 10 in Chicago. Should his knee feel good Thursday morning, he expects to play Thursday night in Sacramento.

With Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic already back from their injuries, and Love and Budinger showing their three-point prowess Wednesday afternoon, Rubio was asked if seeing them all together made him wonder what might have been.

“We don’t have to think about what could have been,” Rubio said. “We have to think about what can be.”

The Wolves, inching back to health, have 17 games left to do that. Out of the playoffs, and with the possibility that Love won’t return this season, they do have enough pieces back to build some positive momentum.

“We have to do that,” coach Rick Adelman said. “I don’t know any other way to do it. Though the one thing I worry about is our schedule becoming so brutal.”

Indeed, the number of games and quality of opponents the Wolves will face in the coming weeks had Adelman shaking his head.

“I’m not sure what we did to the league office,” he said. “But our schedule is just incredible.”

The good news is that Budinger said he came out of practice feeling good. His return, he said, was a mixture of exhaustion and exhilaration. He was tired from being out of basketball shape and thrilled to be back. He said it felt like the first practice of training camp.

But the good thing is the knee held up.

“I’m just trying to get my legs underneath me,” he said. “But, all in all, the knee felt great.”