Rubio’s Back And So’s His Magic

– At first, it looked like a double-wicket shot. It truly appeared – in real time – as if Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio had delivered a perfectly executed, improbably conceived bounce pass through his own legs AND through Dallas defender Elton Brand‘s legs too.

Only in replay, slowed down, was it clear that Rubio’s pass had gone just past Brand’s left leg rather than behind it, not that the Mavericks forward noticed. The basketball reached its destination right about the time the Target Center crowd realized what it was seeing, and Greg Stiemsma finished off with a simple layup for a very unsimple highlight.

“Playing with Rajon [Rondo] last year, I’ll say it was kind of similar, where you almost have to expect the ball every time you roll, every time you dive,” Stiemsma said of playing his first game with Rubio, the Wolves’ clever and, finally, available point guard.

“We’ve been running through some drills with him the last couple weeks, some pick-and-roll stuff. Even there, Ricky’s going between his legs, behind his back, all that in the drills.”

That one was Rubio’s piece de resistance (that’s Spanish, right?) in his first game in nine months. But there were others: Rubio shoveling a pass to J.J. Barea as they crisscrossed for a reverse layup. Rubio sticking a long arm into O.J. Mayo‘s passing lane, switching defense into offense in an instant as his dark eyes immediately searched for an open man. Rubio working the baseline like Gretzky behind the net, finding Luke Ridnour 18 feet out for a jumper.

With Rubio running the point, there’s always the risk for his four teammates of snuffing another of the kid’s wonderous assists and snuffing a video treasure. Worse, there’s the risk of getting hit in the head or the face by the ball if one is caught unaware. And so it was a risky night in downtown Minneapolis Saturday, where Rubio continued his comeback from knee surgery.

It is continuing, for al the excitement and the instant results. Rubio was on a minutes leash of (cough) 16-18 minutes Saturday and will build up his participation time gradually, coach Rick Adelman said. He probably won’t play in both ends of the Wolves’ back-to-back trip to Orlando Monday and Miami Tuesday. And after all the inactivity and rehab from surgery to repair the ACL and MCL ligaments torn in his left knee in March, Rubio’s performance curve figures to have a few ripples, maybe even reversals, in it.

Still, he electrified the crowd of 18,173 (the Wolves sold an extra 1,750 tickets in the hours before tipoff) and seemed to make them forget that All-Star Kevin Love was a late scratch due to the flu (Love hoped to play through his bruised right thumb, before the Wolves sent him home as a sickie). Rubio certainly animated Adelman, who lavished praise on his team afterward and even saved a little for himself.

“When he has the ball in his hands,” Adelman said, “I’m a lot better coach.”

If Houdini had come back from surgery, he would have started with a few card tricks. But Rubio came back sawing the lady in half, only from behind his back.

His first shift began with 1:47 left in the first quarter and ended at 6:16 of the second. In that 7:31 stint, he had four points, four assists and a steal. The Target Center had its second lineup thrill of the season – Love surprised them all with his sudden comeback from a broken hand the night before Thanksgiving. Folks boomed “Rubio! Rubio!” for him just for trotting to the scorer’s table.

“I can’t say with words how it felt,” the 22-year-old said.

Derrick Williams could. The disappointing No. 2 pick in 2011 scored 12 points with five rebounds in the first half, Rubio’s return applying paddles to his game. “That’s the best I’ve felt since I’ve been here, honestly,” Williams said.

Rubio’s second shift started at 4:37 of the third quarter and ended 7:15 minutes later. That pushed him to 14:46 for the game, Adelman holding back a few of Rubio’s rationed minutes just in case. And sure enough, when the Wolves’ 15-point lead dwindled to one with 3:16 left, Rubio came back in.

Key moment this time? A pile-up near the sideline with Dallas’ husky Derek Fisher. Fisher already was coming on like a Grinch trying to swipe Christmas, scoring nine points in the fourth. Now he was tangled up on the floor with the Spanish unicorn. But two men went down and two got up, both fine, Fisher tapping Rubio on the chest.

“Once guys come out there, everything’s free to go,” Fisher said. “But you’re obviously never trying to hurt a guy. I just asked him if he was OK real quick.”

Rubio’s third shift ended with regulation, his shot from out top bouncing off, same as a couple of Minnesota tips. Adelman showed great restraint in sitting him through the overtime. There was the minutes limit and, besides, Rubio was tired.

“That kills me inside,” Rubio said, smiling as always, “but we did a great job.”

Officially, Rubio was a mere +1 in plus/minus. But his impact had been more contagious to the other Wolves than Love’s flu. Andrei Kirilenko dominated the 12-4 overtime with five points, three boards and an assist.

“We’re going to do big things with this team this year, just showing how we played in overtime, getting that 10-0 run,” Rubio said. “It was amazing … They gave me a great gift, that W in overtime.”

Only fair for a guy who dishes so many gifts himself. As Dallas’ Dahntay Jones said of Rubio’s impact: “You have people flying down the court, because they know he’s looking for them. He’s special.”

Kirilenko ticked off the names of the great playmaking point guards with whom he has played: John Stockton, Mark Jackson, Deron Williams. “Ricky is one of those guys because when he sees opportunity, he goes there. I learned from the best how to get open – and how not to get hit on the back,” Kirilenko said.

“It’s always a privilege to play with those kind of guys. Especially if you can play without the ball – you know if you get open, you’re going to get the ball.”

Rubio changes the whole dynamic of playing without the ball – no one is without the ball for long when he’s on the floor. Rubio’s back, and defenders’ heads are swiveling again.


  1. uoykcuf says:

    0 point, 4 asists and 3 turnovers ain’t magic. Kid needs time to truly regain his magic.

    • Beast says:

      1 bad night plus he only played 16 min

      Hes on his way back, I feel he will be the diffrence maker for Minnesota .. We all know what Love will do But Rubio will make the team better

  2. iim ny oppinion says:

    i think the showtime IS in LA ..but i’m not talking about the lakers…

  3. mayo says:

    2 words……………GRANDE RICKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Rubio’s “dark eyes”? Kevin Love got sent home “sickie”? This got published?

  5. Edgars says:

    nise to see Ricky back and just as good as before that injury.. hope Rose is back soon too!!

  6. Pep says:

    If you look at the video, Rubio’s tweet says “bona nit”, which is neither French nor Spanish. It’s CATALAN, Ricky Rubio’s mother tongue.

    Molta força Ricky! Endavant!

  7. auparojillos says:

    Well, some of us spanish people understood the joke, don’t worry.
    The fact is that Ricky is back, and we all can enjoy again: Minnesotta and Spain hace something in common, and it´s a very good thing!
    As a european, I am also proud of having there other superb players as Kirilenko, Pekovic, Shved….
    Back in the 80s we used to see the NBA as a forbidden game, because of the difference of quality (remember Schrempf?).
    Afterwards came Petrovic, Divac, Kukoc, Sabonis, showing that european players had a place there.
    But the current generation, with Nowitzki, both Gasols, Rubio,…NBA is not forbidden anymore.
    Keep on enjoying!

  8. Beast says:

    Ricky Rubio = Spanish Steve Nash I swear.

    He has the court vision that the very gifted pg of all time carry.

    remakrable player

  9. YungCAUCASOID says:

    rubio is wack…he’s too 1-dimensional/no defense/so a team will never win with him as thelead QB


    And I don’t have to say why no Journalists will ever mention that reality, about Rubio…….except for on

  10. patrickmarc says:

    I was waiting for Rubio, waiting for the magic effect, beautiful and exciting basket ball, and most of players of this team are amazing. Pekovic is great ! don’t you think so?

  11. JC Navarro rules says:

    Dear Steven,
    piece de resistance?? Sorry but it is not spanish. Next time, before making a fool of yourself, you could check google traslator.
    Por lo demas ya sabemos que Riki es un grande y lo seguirá demostrando

  12. my opinion says:

    I think it’s pretty safe to say this now, “it’s Showtime in Minneapolis”, no longer in LA….. Ricky Rubio is going to be the MJ of point guards…. as basketball fan I hope he stays healthy

  13. ko0kiE says:

    can’t wait to see the whole twolves team healthy (if that is ever going to happen)..


    A true court general. His very presence inspires people. You can see it on how they move without the ball. Amazing guy to be around with. After yesterday, I realized that KLove isn’t the leader of this team. Ricky is. KLove might be the best player stat wise, but lets face it. He can’t carry this team to the playoffs without Ricky. Their offense and defense just looks so crisp with Ricky running the point.

  15. al says:

    I think the writer was kidding when he asked if that phrase was spanish. Probably was trying to be amusing but failed. Why do so many of you serious jerks get so easily irritated.

  16. FancyPants says:

    RICKY RUBIO is a reason to love this game. Pure Fatasy and showtime. Counting the hours to see him again. Cant Wait

  17. Canary Islander says:

    What a player… terrible sense of the game after 9 months injured. NO question he is a NAtural Talent and is in the beguining of his carrer. He is called to be a superstar in this Game. Born to play in the Nba. Pure Magic and fantasy. what more to ask for. In few years he will be fighting for the ring. Hope to see that. Thanks for the support. Brilliant.

  18. WILFRI says:

    pistol rubio is back!!!!!!!

  19. JAVIER GARCIA says:

    gracias por reconocer la valia de ricky,han sido una de las grandes noticias n.b.a. del fin de semana,ser español ,bajito y blanco es posible triunfar en la nba, ademas es una gran persona

  20. andres feret says:

    grande ricky, un regalo para los fanáticos del basket!!

  21. tmabona says:

    Yeah the author knows it’s French. It’s still used incorrectly though. Pretty lax usage for a journalist, in my opinion.

  22. mike says:

    rubio and love will look fantastic in 2 yrs time playing alongside dwight in their new Laker uniforms!!

  23. Dave says:

    I think that the french sentence is not the point. The point is Ricky is back and everybody will enjoy.
    Has been a long time without you ricky. Now is the time.
    Go ricky!!!! go wolves!!!!

  24. Trampas says:

    I’m Spanish and I understood perfectly the irony. That if the second time reading it.
    Great article, great Riky ..

    I’m ready to go back to enjoy the show of Riky

  25. USASpaniard says:

    Tears in my eyes when i saw Rubio back with his typical style. This boy is magic, Is too special fot his team mates. I think this team is going to do something great. And KLo didnt play. I like how ademan is managing this team.

  26. Enzjulliem says:

    Good thing he didn’t wrote, “brevis in longo” hehe Anyway, Rubio is back

  27. Dani91 says:

    Grande Ricky, que bien que has vuelto. Un partidazo para los 18min que jugo
    Go Ricky!!! Go Wolves!!!

  28. t-wolves says:

    magic is back in t-wolves basket hahahahaha

  29. Dani says:

    Well if you’re an Spanish watching the article, it really had some ”importance” (that’s English, right?)
    This hurts my eyes . A really limited culture…

  30. alewind says:

    French or spanish, IT doesn’t matter.
    Rubio is amazing. That is what counts.

    Emotions appear while reading your article.

    Thank you.
    From another spanish.

  31. daniel says:

    it is not piece de resistance… it is “prueba de resistencia”.

  32. polyglot says:

    Dear Gheo and Inigo,

    I’m fairly certain the phrase, “that’s Spanish right?” was meant to be ironic. As in the audience knows something the character doesn’t.

  33. eddie says:

    “Pièce de Résistance” is indeed French and I’m sure the author knows it. That’s why he put that ironic remark there in brackets. You guys need to lighten up and improve your reading skills. Glad that Rubio’s back.

  34. hadoken says:

    Settle down my ignorant friends,,, he knew it was french that’s the joke in it all,,,,,,,,,,,


    • Green Mamba says:

      Hehehe, its so obvious he is just playing with words here, and everybody wants to be a critic. SMH
      Rubio be doing his thing!

  35. elenrod says:

    I think (or, rather, hope) he was being facetious when he said ‘that’s Spanish, right?’

    Anyway, so glad to see Rubio back without seeming to miss a beat.

  36. hakocadiz says:

    simple the best

  37. Iñigo says:

    Ouch!! I´m from Spain and that hurts!! ¨piece de resistance¨ is French!! Next time please inform yourself in a dictionary. Thank you!!

  38. Gheo says:

    Limited culture, Steve. “piece de resistance” derives from French, not Spanish.
    Different languages exist in the world, you know.