HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — For all the magic Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love or Rubio and Michael Beasley or even Rubio and Derrick Williams might make on the court, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ true dynamic duo this season should be Rubio and his new mentor.
Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman holds the keys to Rubio’s rookie season, and his career to some extent, and so far is driving flawlessly so far. Much like Paul Silas did with LeBron James so many years ago, Adelman has to press all the right buttons early on with a player that is dealing with pressures, internal and external, that not every top draft pick has to deal with.
Rubio is only four games his journey and raised the stakes already with masterful performances in a loss to the Heat on Friday and Sunday’s win over the Mavericks, the two teams that played for the NBA title last season.
Did you see him work against the Mavericks? (If not, check the video above.) His 14-point, seven-assist, four-rebound showcase included five consecutive points scored after the Mavs shredded a 15-point lead to just one.
It’s clearly a matter of time for Rubio to overtake Luke Ridnour as the starting point guard for the Timberwolves. But it’s up to Adelman to decide when to push that button. Adelman’s work with young point guards in the past — namely Jason Williams and also Mike Bibby in Sacramento — suggests that he is following a revised script that only he is privy to.
Based solely on the way they play, the Williams situation is the one that closely resembles what Adelman has on his hands with Rubio, a flashy, pass-first wizard whose offensive skills have exceeded the expectations of most. Adelman started Williams every game of that 1999-2000 season in Sacramento, no doubt learning some dos and don’ts about how to deal with a precocious talent that will be asked to play such an integral role on a team. Once he turned the team over to Williams there was no turning back.
“We’re still evaluating the team, and he’s going to have his minutes, he’s going to get a chance to play,” said Adelman, who played Rubio an average of 28.3 minutes in his first three games. “Those types of things will happen over time. You’ll know when it’s the right time to do it. Right now, we’re just trying to get a win.”
Many Wolves fans probably came to that conclusion after opening night, but for now Adelman continues to start Luke Ridnour and brings Rubio and J.J. Barea off the bench.
Asked if he is bringing Rubio along slowly so the rookie doesn’t feel too much pressure, Adelman said: “It’s one thing I really admire about him: He’s got a lot of pressure on him. The expectations are so high for him. It’s there all the time. He doesn’t seem to buy into that at all. He’s just trying to play his game. I don’t see him pressing or anything like that.
“Every rookie is going to go through ups and downs in this league, and he’s not going to be away from that. He’ll have to face that, too, but so far he’s done a nice job.”
Rubio’s fourth-quarter stats in four games: 7-for-10 shooting, 21 points, 14 assists, nine rebounds, a plus-27 in plus-minus rating.
As Rubio continues to impress, the pressure on Adleman to make the starting lineup change will continue to swell. But we’re banking on Adelman knowing when to say when and why it’s so important to proceed with caution, even with a player whose skills and performance scream “I’m Ready!”
A wise, veteran coach knows that there is such a thing as too much, too fast. And there is no reason to rush Rubio. Timberwolves fans waited two years to see him in their uniform. They can wait a couple of weeks more to see him in the starting lineup.