Rescue Timberwolves? Rubio’s Return Could Rev Them Up





MINNEAPOLIS – Ricky Rubio figures to be a lot of things when he finally returns to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ lineup nine months after knee surgery and rehab: A hardwood savior. A gate attraction. An emotional boost. A coaching challenge, however welcome, as far as blending Rick Adelman‘s new with his existing.

Most of all, Rubio’s 2012-13 debut – expected to come Saturday night when the team plays host to the Dallas Mavericks at Target Center – figures to be a big happy headline for a franchise rather lacking in those across its 24 seasons.

Here are three more things the charismatic second-year point guard will be when he plays for the first time since tearing the ACL and MCL ligaments in his left knee in an innocent-looking collision with Kobe Bryant back on March 9:

  • A diversion (from the Kevin Love hubbub that flaired up Tuesday over an Internet story full of unhappy quotes from the Wolves’ power forward).
  • A one-man cavalry (shoring up a backcourt thinned by injuries to Brandon Roy, Josh Howard and Malcolm Lee).
  • And … an unfair advantage?

It almost seems that way. The Timberwolves are 11-9 despite playing a quarter of their season without Rubio and the first 10 games without Love, the All-Star power forward who broke two bones in his right hand in training camp. They have weathered other injuries, too, but there they sit in the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings, generally getting healthier and positioned to climb even higher.

When Rubio went down last spring, the fear within the team was that his knee injury would cost Minnesota not just a run at the 2012 postseason but possibly a shot at getting there in 2013, too. If the Wolves started, say, 6-14 through their first 20 games, they might find themselves too far back, needing too many breaks and coincidences, to climb back above .500 to chase down even the eighth seed.

Well, look at them now. With Adelman doing a masterful job of plugging holes and finding mismatches, the Wolves are off to their best start since Kevin Garnett‘s last season with them. They have won five of their last six games and are 6-6 against teams that are .500 or better. If the goal was to stay competitive and viable as a playoff challenger while Love and Rubio were out, the Wolves have overachieved.

The schedule is a grind at the moment. The back-to-back this weekend vs. the Hornets and Mavericks is followed hard by an Orlando-Miami swing Monday and Tuesday, during which Rubio’s minutes – or even involvement in one or both – likely will be carefully managed. (A confab of team and medical personnel Saturday morning was expected to give him the green-light to face Dallas.)

After this stretch, though, Minnesota plays just four games in a stretch of 14 days, three across the 12 days from Dec. 21 through Jan. 1. It is 9-5 when getting at least one day of rest between games.

Rubio’s impact could be profound. He returns to an overhauled roster, with only six faces back from the group that went 5-20 after he went down.

The team’s two Clydesdales up front – Nikola Pekovic and Love – should get more opportunities at the rim, with Rubio’s interior passes and the defensive attention he’ll draw. In particular, Love – who might have come back too soon, judging by his continued hand discomfort and miserable shooting percentages — should get more open looks as he and the point guard sync up their games again.

The pressure Rubio puts on the defense and the angles he sees could be golden for shooters such as Chase Buddinger and Roy, if only they were healthy now. Luke Ridnour will benefit in their absence. And so will the team’s Russian connection. The way Andrei Kirilenko moves without the ball and uses the baseline, he and Rubio could be good for a couple highlight set-ups per night. And teaming Alexey Shved – no longer a mere Rubio placeholder – with him in the backcourt hints at some crafty ball-sharing and scoring chances at one end, better-than-expected defense at the other.

“He’s one of those kind of guys who can make a difference in the game,” Kirilenko told reporters after a Wolves practice this week. “In practice you see that every attack, every possession offensively and defensively. Those guys are pretty rare. … He’s just adding some more something to the game. He can run the ball, he can really create that up-tempo and his passes are unbelievable.”

And they’ll be coming now to rev up, rather than just rescue, the Timberwolves.

32 Comments

  1. mike says:

    enjoy love while you can cause he will be playing alongside dwight howard with the Lakers in 2 yrs time

  2. Mack says:

    I hope he’s not rushing to start playing or he might risk getting injured again. Though I can’t wait to see him playing again. He’ll fit perfectly in Rick Adelman’s system and could make those around him better -cough-Derrick-cough-.

  3. Yave says:

    Rubio is back and now the west got tougher.Now I’m just waiting for Derrick Rose to come back to save Chicago.

  4. San Diego NBA says:

    Yes! Ricky is back!!!

  5. PistolPants says:

    9 months waiting to see him. This guy is pure shoe. Let star the showtime.

  6. Yonko says:

    He is going to do friligans with Peck and Kirilenko. trully emotion

  7. Maria says:

    A total plalyer. No way , he is called to be one of the best in this game.

  8. FancyFlashyFriligans says:

    Ohhh Yesssss !! This will be like a christmast present… stay healthy RR9

  9. Andrea says:

    OMG. I can’t wait :))

  10. t-wolves says:

    cnt w8 2 c RR#9

  11. Canary Islander says:

    A Master Genius of the friligans with the ball, Pure Showtime. Ricky was born to play in NBA. WEll Back to the Court Ricky.

  12. WILFRI says:

    THE SHOWTIME IN MINESOTA IS BACK!!!!!!

  13. AnnoYouLater says:

    good to hear…i was very sad when 1 by 1 they got injured but now they are all recovering…the wolves will definitely be better when rubio comes back…i just hope other players like williams step up his game so they can be a legit contender, he is athletic and talented enough to be star player but i just dont get why he is not…

  14. dafuq says:

    Gasol for Rubio??? Maybe ask for Deron Williams next time :D

  15. FancyPants says:

    Ricky Rubio is one of the greatest point guards in the league. Although Steve Nash has been hurt for a portion of the season, and Rubio has yet to make his return, he could be a much more beneficial conquest for the Lakers.

    • nate says:

      Rubio is under contract for 3 seasons, and then will be a restricted free agent, and the Wolves could just match whatever LA offered. He will not have a choice to be a FA until the end of the 2016 season. The only way the Lakers could ever acquire him is via trade, which the salary makes all but impossible. Who could the Lakers possibly ever have that the Wolves would want? Don’t say Gasol either, he makes 19 million, so the Wolves would have to come up with 16 million in additinal contracts to send with Rubio. Since they don’t have any bad contracts on the books, that’s like 3-5 additional players. The lakers don’t have the ammo. Rubio will be 28 years old before you even have a shot at him.

  16. jmndodge says:

    Ricky’s return is much needed. The basic article however, misses the latest developments. We are not getting healthier. center – Pek is healthy playing well – Stiemsma plays about 6 to 8 minutes effectively Pek about 34 leaving 6 minutes usually going to Love. Love Injuring his Thumb on the “broken hand” will mean his effectiveness as a shooter will be poor for another couple weeks – and perhaps he will not play for several games. Dante Cunningham has been more than imagined as backup PF – a great energy guy, AK is playing well – but more minutes than is wise with his back problems (Derrick Williams has yet to claim the role as SF playing effectively every night). The long term injury to Chase Budinger costs us our most effective backup wing player – strong defense and 3 pt shooting from either SF/SG. With Josh Howard and Brandon Roy out – there isn’t much depth to backup at either wing position. With Malcolm Lee down, Shved – has to play the big minutes, and anchor a position where he was designed to backup and learn this year. Luke has played big minutes – and has back issues, JJ is finally healthy. Ricky needs to return (Luke will need to play some SG minutes, Shved may need to play some SF) and most importantly Ricky needs to set up Derrick for some inside success as he did early last season.

  17. Español says:

    Can’t wait for Ricky to be back he is one of my favorite players and can’t wait for him to comeback.

  18. Culo Caca says:

    He Is Pure talent, A flashy fanzy player who make frilligans with the ball. with this player in his best shape timberwolfs are gooing to succes

  19. ricardo says:

    rubio..best of luck ill see to it that i keep on watching wolves game when you come back

  20. Dani91 says:

    #RickyReturns I can not wait to watch the game

  21. Willy says:

    Being an Arizona fan I am surprised by the lack of Playing time for D. Williams. Is he a not fit? Hope they can get into the playoffs when everyone is happy again!

  22. T-Wolves rock after Rubio gets back. the bench is stronger than ever and T-Wolves are the team to beat now. go wolves

  23. The magician is back and the T-Wolves are better than ever. How deep is the T-Wolves bench now after Rubio gets back. T-Wolves are the team to beat now. Go Wolves

  24. KLOVE HAS A LOT TO PROVE says:

    Cant wait for my team to tear it up! But please no more injuries! Haha

    • HEATFAN says:

      Tear up what? Their ACLs?

    • Kevin Luv says:

      Listen y’all, I am the best Power Forward EVER! Aint Nothin’ Rubio can do to make me better. When I played in the Olympics last year Team USA would not have won without me! The body odor that I produce smells better than that Old Spice I am contractually required to wear. I am the best thing before and after sliced bread. Aint nothin Rubio gonna do to make us better , I am the Better!

    • Jimbo says:

      Might as well call your team the Minnesota InjuredWolves. And the only thing the team has in common with a TimberWolf is that they are both on the edangered species list.

  25. LAKERSFTW says:

    Lakers need someone like Rubio. They should trade gasol for him.

    • RARRGH says:

      LAKERS ARE AWESOME ALREADY YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING IF YOU THINK THEY SHOULD TRADE GASOL.

      • Lazlo says:

        If YOU think the Lakers would not trade Gasol and Nash for Rubio right now.. (knowing the salaries wouldn’t allow a trade), you’re crazy. They’d do it in a heartbeat.

    • asmartnbafan says:

      Really? What reason on earth will ANY team ANY would want to take pau gasol and his enormous contract. Please why cant Laker fans get over the fact that they cant get everyone unless they’re free agents.