Posts Tagged ‘J.J. Barea’

Rubio Staying Positive On Rough Road Back



DALLAS – For a kid who knows only how to play the game with pure joy, this is pure hell.

The two ugly scars that mar his left knee each measure five inches long, one starting in the middle of his knee cap and jagging down. The other curves around the left side of the knee like a misshapen crescent moon.

As Ricky Rubio pulled up the black, padded knee sleeve that made the permanent markings of reconstructive surgery disappear, he wished the trials that still come with his ongoing recovery, one that wiped out the Olympics and all but 10 games now of this season, could just disappear, too. He softly shook his floppy mane of dark hair and flashed a small, if only brief, smile.

“It’s hard because I still have a little pain and it’s something you have to fight through and get through,” said the 22-year-old Spaniard before the Minnesota Timberwolves lost 113-98 to the Dallas Mavericks, a fourth consecutive defeat for Minnesota and yet another game that Rubio would come off the bench and be limited by a minutes restriction.

“I talk with the guys who had the same injury and they say about a year, a year-and-a-half [after surgery] they started feeling, like, normal,” Rubio continued. “It’s tough when you’re playing with something in your mind; you don’t want to think about it, but it’s in your mind that you’re going slower and you are not who you used to be.

“That’s going to come, but you have to be patient.”

Rubio made his season debut on Dec. 15 against Dallas and played 18 minutes. He dazzled the home crowd with eight points and nine assists, including the highlight of the night, a no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass into the lane to Greg Stiemsma for a layup. It’s about as good as it’s gotten.

Back spasms, likely caused by overcompensation for his knee, took him out of the lineup after just five games. He returned on Jan. 8 and in the four games prior to Monday, Rubio, averaging 3.8 points and 4.6 assists, had made one of 12 shots. His assists dwindled from eight to seven to three to two, all while playing no more than 22 minutes.

“You see flashes, but you can see he is nowhere near like he was last season. He was moving,” teammate J.J. Barea said. “The way he plays he needs to move like he used to move, where he’s faster and he’ll be able to get to pick his spots, get wherever he wants so he can make those passes.”

Flashes came and went Monday night against the Mavs. By the time acting coach Terry Porter subbed Rubio in with 3:20 to go in the first quarter, listless Minnesota trailed 22-11. Rubio and benchmate Barea got the Wolves clicking. Rubio directed an alley-oop pass to Dante Cunningham, drained a jumper and kept a possession alive with a swooping rebound in the lane as the Wolves closed to 39-36 and then 45-41.

But Rubio also couldn’t finish a drive after getting around O.J. Mayo, with little lift leaving his attempt short of the rim. In the final moments of Rubio’s nearly 13 minutes in the first half, Dallas went up 48-41, and then, with Rubio on the bench, 55-45 at the half.

He never got a fair shot to make a dent in the second half. Porter — serving for Rick Adelman while he tends to his wife in the hospital — kept Rubio tethered to the bench for the first 10 1/2 minutes of the third quarter as the Wolves’ first unit mirrored its awful first quarter and allowed the game to slip away. Rubio checked in with Minnesota, reeling from injuries and a rotation in tatters, trailing 87-68.

He finished with six points, six assists and five rebounds, and was a plus-7 — the highest rating among the eight Wolves that played at least 21 minutes.

Rubio’s 2-for-3 shooting night tied his season high for made buckets and figured as his best shooting percentage among the 10 games he’s played, an indication of how brutal it’s been after he averaged 10.6 points and 8.2 assists in a tantalizing rookie campaign before a torn ACL ended it after 41 games.

“It’s hard because you work hard for eight or nine months to get back and it doesn’t stop here,” Rubio said. “You have to work even harder now to get back in shape, to get back to the point you want to be feeling the game again, and that doesn’t come easy.”

Yet, add logging a season-high 27 minutes Monday and a desperate Wolves team slipping down the standings at 16-18, can at least glean some positives as they head back to frigid Minneapolis.

“I tell him to be patient, to keep working on his legs, keep working on his body. It’s going to turn around sooner or later, but he’s got to be patient and stay positive,” Barea said. “And I tell him he’s young. He’s 22, he has nothing to worry about.”

Maybe so. But right now, it’s hell.

Love’s Latest Injury Testing Wolves’ Mettle


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – So this is just how it’s going to be for the Minnesota Timberwolves, a season so marred by constant injury that it stands to test their collective sanity as much as their ambitious playoff aspirations.

The Wolves already knew they’re moving ahead without star forward Kevin Love for a second stretch of games after he re-fractured his right hand last week, but Wednesday’s news that he’ll miss more time than expected, the next eight to 10 weeks, severely worsened that blow just one day after the sigh-of-relief return of point guard Ricky Rubio from his second injury stint.

Love initially broke his hand before the start of the season doing knuckle pushups at home. He missed the first nine games of the season and the Wolves, without their two young stars, were pleased to be 5-4 when Love surprised everyone with an early return.

A stunning spat of injuries followed. Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger and Malcolm Lee remain out with knee injuries. Rubio played in just his sixth game in Tuesday’s hard-fought home win over the Atlanta Hawks to push their record to 16-15, just 1 1/2 games out of the West’s final playoff spot. The Wolves played that one without resolute coach Rick Adelman – out for personal reasons — as they will again tonight trying to stay above .500 in a tough road test at Oklahoma City.

Coaches impress on their players all the time that the 82-game NBA grind is about survival. Expected to be without Love, their leading scorer (18.3 ppg) and by far most productive rebounder (14. 0 rpg), until mid-to-late March, the Wolves are truly in the fox hole now.

They’ll carry through the high hopes of its long-suffering fan base and secure the franchise’s first postseason berth since their lone Western Conference finals run in 2003-04 only by sticking together and pushing harder.

Rubio’s return is a good start. He played 19 minutes on Tuesday and finished with four points and eight assists. He missed the previous four games with back spasms, an issue believed to be caused by overcompensation as he learns to trust the surgically repaired left knee. He’s dealt with the groin and back problems since making his debut on Dec. 15 from last season’s ACL tear.

Adelman and the team’s training staff will have to closely monitor his minutes and progress, but the belief is he’s ready to ramp up and burden a bigger load.

To keep within arm’s length of a playoff spot to this point, the Wolves have heavily relied upon stat-stuffing forward Andrei Kirilenko, center Nikola Pekovic, who has eight double-doubles in last 13 games, emerging Russian rookie Alexey Shved and the diminutive backcourt duo of Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea.

But how long can they keep up the fight in a competitive Western Conference that could take 45 wins to get in?

And which team or teams drop off? The top four, barring catastrophic injury — something the Wolves know never to discount — seem like locks. Golden State is playing well enough and for long enough to not expect a collapse in the second half of the season.

Of the next three teams — Houston, Portland and Denver — none are sure bets, yet the trio is currently on a collective 10-game winning streak.

And lost among the crowd currently on the outside looking in is the Los Angeles Lakers. A glorious run back into contention doesn’t appear imminent, but can’t be eliminated as a possibility either simply because of their proven talent.

The Wolves have expended tremendous energy to stay afloat. How much longer can they grind away? Long enough for Love’s eventual return to be meaningful?

We’re about to find out.

Adelman Steers Injury-Plagued Wolves


HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — If Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman can somehow steer his dejected club through these latest injury setbacks to his two injury-marred stars, please reward him with long overdue recognition as coach of the year.

Before Saturday night’s game against Portland, and after learning that star forward Kevin Love would again be sidelined by a re-break to that darned right hand he originally fractured before the season by doing knuckle push-ups, Adelman marveled how, through one injury after another, his team had managed to pull off a 15-14 record.

With Love joining point guard Ricky Rubio, saddled with his second injury after a brief return from a torn ACL, on the bench once again, the Wolves dropped to 15-15 after a furious late comeback failed against the surging Trail Blazers.

A once-promising season, so filled with hope and excitement and adventure, is becoming one to forget, robbed by uncontrollable injury that now threatens to nosedive off the cliff as the Wolves sit in ninth place.

Rubio, the flashy, dynamic point guard destined for stardom, managed to play in just five games starting Dec. 15, but was unable to join the starting lineup before back spasms, perhaps caused by overcompensation for his knee, took him out after a Dec. 26 loss to Houston.

Rubio and Love, who had never really rounded into All-Star form, saddled with wilting shooting percentages, have played in just three games together.

“I’ve never been through anything like this,” Adelman told reporters before Saturday’s 102-97 loss, Minnesota’s sixth in the last nine games. “You start out with Ricky from the very beginning, hoping to get him back and then it’s just been one thing after the other.”

Dante Cunningham, Luke Ridnour and Alexey Shved are the only Wolves to have played in all 30 games. The injury list is mesmerizing. Obviously Rubio didn’t play for the first month-and-a-half and Love missed the first three weeks. Brandon Roy lasted just five games before more knee problems have forced him to consider re-retirement. Chase Budinger made it into a sixth game before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. Malcolm Lee played in 16 games before a knee injury took him out.

Josh Howard, brought in as an emergency replacement, was waived after he suffered an ACL injury.

J.J. Barea has missed five games, Andrei Kirilenko has missed four and Nikola Pekovic must feel fortunate to have only missed two when he sprained an ankle in November.

If the Wolves have any luck at all they’ll soon get Rubio back. They’ll need him. The remaining January schedule is a bear and could ultimately determine whether the Wolves will be a playoff contender and how active they might be come the trade deadeline.

Among 12 games left this month, Minnesota faces Atlanta twice, the Los Angeles Clippers twice, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Houston and Brooklyn. The Wolves play seven of the 12 on the road, where they’re just 6-10. Games at Washington and Charlotte at the end of the month will serve as must-wins.

In the hotly contested West, if the Wolves somehow head into February with a top-eight spot or anywhere close, be ready finally to give Adelman that long overdue coach of the year award. No questions asked.

No Predicting How Fates Of Lin, Kidd and Felton Have Played Out

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The New York Knicks visit Houston tonight and will get their first look at their old No. 17 turned No. 7 in Rockets red.

They’ll find a shrunken image from the blue-and-orange rocket that lit up drooling Garden crowds last season and turned the place into a nightly dream factory. The absolutely surreal, 50-day Jeremy Lin phenomenon launched “Linsanity” and transformed its creator, a Harvard grad and twice-cut NBA player, into a global icon.

A $25 million offseason offer sheet from the Rockets and a surprising refusal to match by the Knicks later, the dream went poof.

Lin’s on-the-floor replacement — or more appropriately, replacements — has made it easy for Knicks fans to compartmentalize Lin’s remarkable run that started on Feb. 4, 2012 with 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds, and ended on March 24 with 13 points, three rebounds and a left knee injury.

Lin would have surgery, be done for the season and, ultimately, done with the Knicks.

Once incredulous, Knicks fans now hardly notice. The club retooled with the remarkably ageless Jason Kidd, who at age 39, has slid seamlessly to shooting guard, allowing the other backcourt acquisition, the rejuvenated and redemptive Raymond Felton, to handle the point.

New York is off to an 8-2 start, playing with purpose and a rare collectiveness that includes ‘Melo, with much credit being heaped upon the eternally unselfish Kidd.

“It’s been great,” Felton said of playing alongside Kidd, the NBA’s second-leading all-time assist man who now willfully is second on his own team. “He has respect for my game and what I can do out there enough to accept that role at the same time he’s been great for me, just being in my ear, being a big brother. He’s a great teammate.”

Lin’s role changed before the season even started after the Rockets’ trade for James Harden. A phenomenal ball-handler and finisher, Harden’s new $80 million contract dwarfs Lin’s big payday, and his outrageous skills have pushed Lin out of his comfort zone and even recently to the bench during key fourth-quarter stretches.

For a brief time, a Kidd-Lin mentorship in the Big Apple seemed inevitable and exciting. But the Knicks didn’t go to the great lengths, as reportedly they would, to bring Lin back, not at a third-year balloon payment of $15 million. Instead they returned Felton, to his great delight, to New York after a near-ruinous run through Denver then Portland.

Felton has owned up to his mistake of showing up out of shape after the lockout. His game suffered and he became a pudgy target of machine-gun criticism both in Portland and nationally. Following a hard-working summer, his body is slimmer and his numbers better, averaging 15.4 points and 6.9 assists for a Knicks team he never wanted to leave in the first place.

“Yeah, it’s big, it is for sure,” Felton said of the chip he carries on his shoulder. “No making excuses, I came in out of shape and a lot of negativity came from that, so I really have to put most of that on myself. But there was a lot of other stuff that was said about me, off the court stuff that was not true. I’m not that type of person. I think a lot of my teammates, ex-teammates will vouch for that, say that’s not the Raymond that they know. All I can do is come out and bounce back this year.”

Felton is averaging 33 minutes to Kidd’s 26, yet usage rates reveal Felton has the ball in his hands more than twice as much as Kidd, who is averaging 8.3 points and a career-low 3.3 assists, mostly as a 3-point shooter. He filled that role more than some might remember in Dallas, particularly on the 2011 title team when playing with J.J. Barea, or late in games when Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry engaged in a two-man game with Kidd  isolated on the wing or in the corner awaiting a kick-out for an open 3.

“Ray’s our engine,” Kidd said. “He gets things going and again, he finds the open guys and puts a lot of pressure on the defense. He’s been doing that since training camp so he’s playing at a high level.”

At the start of free agency, none of the three point guards knew they’d land where they did, let alone the roles they’d play. It will be fascinating to watch how each’s season continues to unfold.

Early Run Of Injuries Taking Its Toll

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Dallas Mavericks signed journeyman big man Eddy Curry out of desperation at the center position with Chris Kaman injured. When he returned, Dallas cut Curry and signed out-of-work Troy Murphy because power forward took top billing on the depth chart with Dirk Nowitzki rehabbing from surgery.

The Minnesota Timberwolves, down four starters and six rotation players to injury, signed Josh Howard off the street Thursday. The Toronto Raptors are reportedly looking into unemployed 3-point shooter Mickael Pietrus to plug into their injury-depleted roster.

Entering just the third week of the 2012-13 season, injuries — many to some of the game’s biggest and brightest stars — are the overwhelming story line as overworked team medical staffs are on 24-hour notice.

Both conferences can field a veritable All-Star team, position-by-position, of players that have recently returned from injury, were injured prior to the season or are injured now.

The West: Steve Nash, Ricky Rubio, Eric Gordon, Shawn Marion, Chauncey Billups, Kevin Love, Nowitzki, Andrew Bogut.

The East: Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Dwyane Wade, Danny Granger, Amar’e StoudemireAndrew Bynum, Nene.

Yet that’s hardly all of the NBA’s wounded. Here’s more of those who have been, still are or just got injured: Gerald Wallace, Gerald Henderson, Mario ChalmersDevin Harris, A.J. PriceNikola Pekovic, Kirk HinrichGrant Hill, J.J. Barea, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Anthony Davis, Steve Blake, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Channing Frye, Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert, Alan Anderson, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Avery Bradley.

When Minnesota came to Dallas earlier this week with five players out (and Pekovic’s sprained ankle in the third quarter would make it six), coach Rick Adelman engaged in something of a “Who’s on First” rapid-fire Q & A with beat writer Jerry Zgoda.

Jerry: Who’s your backup 3 and your backup 2?

Rick: We don’t have a backup 3. I’m going to start Malcolm (Lee) tonight at the 2 and bring Alexey (Shved) off the bench at both spots. And then at the 3, I don’t know, we’re going to slide somebody there.

Jerry: Have to play AK (Andrei Kirilenko) 48 minutes?

Rick: I don’t want to do to that. We don’t need to wear him out, too.

Jerry: Can you get five or six (minutes) out of (assistant coach Terry) Porter?

Rick: I don’t think so.

A year ago, the worry around the league was how an abbreviated training camp following the hasty resolution to the lockout and then a compacted, 66-game schedule would affect player health. With a full, month-long camp this time around and a complete slate of eight preseason games, this spate of injuries is as unexpected as unfortunate.

Entering this weekend’s games, only the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder among the league’s 30 teams boast clean injury reports, and 22 list more than one injured player.

When the Mavericks play the Indiana Pacers tonight, they expect to get Marion back after a five-game absence with a sprained left knee. Nowitzki will remain out as will Indiana’s Granger. For Dallas, it’s been a strange run of not only playing shorthanded, but facing teams with at least one starter sidelined. They played, in order: Toronto (Lowry), New York (Stoudemire), Charlotte (Henderson), Minnesota (Love, Rubio, Roy, Budinger) and Washington (Wall, Nene).

“The league’s not going to stop and wait for you,” Adelman said the other night about his team’s rash of injuries. “A lot teams are having the same issues with major injuries. As a coaching staff you can’t coach the people that aren’t there. You only can coach the people that are there.”

And so it goes in a very strange first month in the NBA.

Adelman Has Beat-Up Wolves Believing

DALLAS -- Rick Adelman is brewing something special with the Minnesota Timberwolves. So much so that one might wonder if a certain Buss family in L.A. might regret not hiring their former Sacramento adversary when they had the chance.

No one in Minneapolis is complaining.

After Monday night’s impressive 90-82 road victory against the Dallas Mavericks, the “Wonder-Wolves” are off to a 5-2 start despite having nearly as many players injured as games played. Everybody knew the team would be without stars Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love to start the season. But, with each passing game another player goes down with an injured body part.

Brandon Roy. J.J. Barea. Chase Budinger. That’s five rotation players, four starters when counting Rubio and Love, that were not available when Minnesota suited up in Dallas. Yet, they led 45-39 at the half and went up by 13 in the third quarter shortly before yet another Wolves player went down. Center Nikola Pekovic, in the process of punishing Dallas in the paint with 20 points, sprained an ankle and limped to the locker room — done for the night.

Still, the Wolves held tight and never allowed the Mavs, smarting from their own injury woes with Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion nursing knee injuries, to get closer than six points down the stretch. A glance at the box score would hardly indicate a depleted roster: Five players scored in double figures — with the Russian duo of Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved each going for 16 — they shot 46.2 percent from the floor, got to the free throw line 32 times and outrebounded Dallas 49-35.

Adelman said he hopes Roy and Barea can return for Wednesday’s home game against Charlotte. Pekovic reported after the game that his ankle is not bad, but he didn’t care to put a timetable on any possible absence. At this rate, even Adelman can only shake his head in disbelief.

“We have three point guards and three centers, and our roster is kind of not great right now,” Adelman said before the game, semi-joking about the first part of the sentence and not at all about the latter. “But you just have to get through it and you have to keep the team believing that they can go out and win, because you can.”

The impressive Wolves proved it again Monday night.

Dirk Nowitzki: Recovery Taking Longer Than Expected

DALLAS — Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, who continues to rehab from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, said the recovery process is taking longer than he expected.

Nowitzki spoke for the first time since shortly after the Oct. 19 procedure during the Mavs’ broadcast Monday night of their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Fox Sports Southwest. Team doctors initially said Nowitzki would be able to resume basketball activities in six weeks.

“At this point, I’ve got stay patient and do what the doctors and trainers tell me; just keep rehabbing and see how long it is,” Nowitzki said. “When I originally heard three-to-six weeks, in my mind I’m thinking ‘in two weeks I’m back.’ But unfortunately, this is not how it happens. My first knee surgery of my career and unfortunately this stuff takes longer than we expected.

“So I’ve got to be patient, do the smart thing and keep working.”

The Mavs need the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, badly. Also without forward Shawn Marion (left MCL sprain) for a third consecutive game, Dallas (4-4) lost its third in a row, 90-82, to a limping, but game T’Wolves squad that played without J.J. Barea, Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger, and then lost center Nikola Pekovic to a sprained ankle in the third quarter. Pekovic led the Wolves with 20 points. Of course, Minnesota was already without stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, yet is off to a 5-2 start.

Nowitzki was in the Mavs’ pre-game locker room briefly Monday between workout sessions. He said on the broadcast that he recently started running in the pool, adding the activity to riding a stationary bike. He said he was hopeful of increasing his exercises next week.

Nowitzki has been incredibly durable throughout his career. He’s dealt mostly with ankle sprains at points during his previous 14 seasons, but he always managed to return to action quicker than expected.

He began to have trouble with his right knee at the start of training camp last season. He believed the quick start to the season after the lockout and a brief training camp irritated his knee, causing swelling and discomfort. He missed four games early on to help strengthen the knee. He suffered similar issues early during this training camp and hoped to avoid surgery.

Nowitzki, who did not indicate that he’s had any setbacks, said it’s been difficult from a mental standpoint to be patient during the rehab process when he’d prefer to be on the floor with a team that is blending nine new players.

“I just want to be out there,” Nowitzki said. “To me, the recovery is not as quick as I was expecting. I had some down days, so I’m working on being in a good mood and still firing the guys up and being there every day, working out and working hard on some other stuff.”

Forget Holding the Fort, Timberwolves Fighting to Contend

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — If the Los Angeles Lakers were the unlikeliest team to start the season 1-4, then the Minnesota Timberwolves had to be voted most unlikely to start 4-1.

Not with double-double machine Kevin Love, and their fancy-pants playmaker Ricky Rubio nursing injuries for who knows still how long. Yet here are those frisky T’Wolves, victorious in four of their first five games, winning dramatically, slapping high-fives and hugs all around beneath by a roaring — yes, roaring — Target Center crowd.

“We’re a really resilient team, we’re a deep team,” Wolves newcomer Chase Budinger said after Friday’s latest triumph, secured when he somehow slipped the Indiana Pacers’ defense and received a brilliant pass from Andrei Kirilenko for the game-winning layup with less than a second to spare. “What you are seeing right now is guys are stepping up as guys are getting hurt and going down. Each and every game it seems like there is a new guy stepping up for this team. That’s why we are getting wins.”

The 96-94 win over the Pacers is a prime example. Backup point guard J.J. Barea was out with a foot sprain, leaving coach Rick Adelman to turn to Malcolm Lee behind Luke Ridnour. Two guard Brandon Roy stayed in the locker room after halftime because of a sore right knee, a risk the Wolves accepted when they signed the 28-year-old out of early retirement, a predicament they will carefully monitor.

Budinger led the Wolves with 18 points, becoming the fifth player in five games to finish with the honor. Entering the game, six players were averaging between Barea’s 9.3 points and center Nikola Pekovic’s 13.8.

Five of the 10 players Adelman used Friday night scored in double figures, the Wolves shot 50 percent from the floor and trekked to the free throw line 28 times, making 24. And somehow Adelman didn’t use anyone as many as 37 minutes.

No, Minnesota’s early schedule hasn’t been a murderer’s row. But, Budinger’s right, they’ve been resilient, coming back from 22 to knock off the Nets in Brooklyn, shaking off injuries and winning three of four by no fewer than 11 points.

“I like to win,” Kirilenko said. “I think everyone here did such a great job in the preseason and did such a great job to get together as a team, and I guess this is the payoff. It’s just the start of the season and our two best players are out. We have to do something and get those wins no matter what.”

Think it can’t continue? Check out the schedule for the rest of November. At worst, it’s manageable. Of the 10 games left this month, four are against playoff teams, starting at the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls on Saturday night. They play at transitioning Dallas without Dirk Nowitzki on Monday, and Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers are sprinkled in among a slew of lottery teams.

If this scrappy group brimming with confidence can keep it up until their two studs return, the T’Wolves won’t yet be hailed as the team to beat in the West, but you’ll certainly want to set your DVRs.

Healthy Barea Critical To Wolves

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — About five hours before Sunday’s tip at Toronto, Minnesota Timberwolves point guard J.J. Barea was chirping away about how good his body feels, how his killer quickness is back and the excitement about his club’s chances for a breakthrough season, even with stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio sidelined.

After a lockout-shortened and injury-riddled season — one that he called “brutal” and one that limited him to just 41 of 66 games after he signed a four-year, $19 million contract to join the Timberwolves — Barea focused on getting his body right.

“For me, it was more about feeling good, getting quicker again and feeling good and feeling fast again, and that’s pretty much what I did,” Barea told in a phone conversation Sunday afternoon. “I feel great right now, so hopefully I can keep it going.”

And then midway through the second quarter of a one-point game with the Raptors, Barea drove the baseline and launched his compact body — listed at 6-foot, but realistically no taller than 5-foot-9 — and scored at the rim. But he crashed to the court and then appeared to get kicked in the head before his head thumped the hardwood. (more…)

Rubio’s knee, not timetable, matters


They waited two years for him after spending the No. 5 pick in the 2009 draft on a worth-the-gamble move. What’s the big deal if the Minnesota Timberwolves have to wait another three months? Or even four?

Ricky Rubio wants to be ready when he’s ready.

Only days shy of a training camp he’ll experience mostly as a bystander, Rubio continued his rehabilitation from knee surgery at the team’s practice facility. He is one of several NBA guards (Derrick Rose, Eric Maynor, Iman Schumpert) fighting back from torn ligaments, each on a timetable dictated less by the date of his injury than his body’s reaction to the repair.

Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune caught up with Rubio Thursday:

Back running on his surgically repaired knee for the third week now, … Rubio stopped long enough Thursday at Target Center to show off three scars that stripe his left leg and said he could play his next NBA game by December, nine months after he tore two ligaments there.

“I don’t know, they say December, but it could be January,” he said. “I don’t want to say a time because I don’t want to rush it. I want to be ready when I am ready.” (more…)