HOUSTON – It sure doesn’t look like the Timberwolves will be content to just tread water until Ricky Rubio returns from his ACL injury. The promising team that appeared headed for a playoff berth when their star point guard went down in March is aggressively attacking free agency.
The Wolves are evidently getting ready to extend a four-year, $50-million offer to Portland swingman Nic Batum. But that’s just a start in Minnesota.
The team also has plans to meet with Lakers free agent power forward Jordan Hill and are said to be trying to put together a trade with L.A. that could land Pau Gasol. Boston center Greg Stiemsma was flown into Minneapolis for a visit on Sunday morning.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Ricky Rubio‘s celebrated rookie season is over, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Timberwolves’ point guard has a torn ligament in his left knee that will cost him the remainder of this season and possibly the Olympic games this summer in London.
This is devastating news for the Timberwolves, who are chasing a playoff spot for the first time in years behind the play of All-Star power forward Kevin Love and under the tutelage of first-year head coach Rick Adelman.
Just when the franchise finally had reversed four long, losing seasons by surpassing .500 to become a playoff contender for the first time since 2004, Rubio was injured late in Friday’s home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Rehabilitation time for such an injury usually is six to nine months, which means Rubio also likely will miss playing for Spain in the London Summer Olympics that begin in July.
On Thursday, the NBA introduced a commercial on its TNT doubleheader promoting Rubio’s passion, “unbridled joy” and ability to see things before they happen, which is why the commercial’s tag line is, “So he already knows El Futuro Es Big.”
That, btw, means The Future is Big.
On Friday, Rubio fell to the floor clutching his left knee and shin after he went to help defend Lakers star Kobe Bryant. He planted to his left foot in an attempt to block Bryant’s path with the ball and his knee appeared to buckle just before he collided with Bryant.
He was called for a foul on the play, an infraction that sent Bryant to the free-throw line for the eventual game-winning free throws in a 105-102 victory.
The Wolves not only lost the game on the play, they lost their starting point guard and a player who finally, after all these years, has made them internationally relevant again.
Rubio was helped to the bench, where he held his hand over his eyes while the team’s athletic trainer probed Rubio’s knee with his hands.
He tried to walk during an ensuing timeout, but only made it a few steps before the knee gave out on him and he was helped back to the bench. Teammates helped him to the locker room at the game’s conclusion and he later left the arena walking with the help of a friend.
As of Friday night, Rubio and fellow rookie Derrick Williams were the only Timberwolves who had played in all 41 games this season.
The Timberwolves have point guard depth, with Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea on the roster. But Ridnour has been rumored to be on the trading block, with Thursday’s deadline looming, and Barea hasn’t ever been a full-time starter.
Losing Rubio leaves a gaping hole in the backcourt for the Timberwolves and robs them of their young floor leader and one of the most exciting players in the league.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For all the praise heaped upon Timberewolves All-Star Kevin Love for his effort and game, we can’t imagine he’ll receive much love after what transpired during Saturday night’s win over the Rockets.
His stomp of Luis Scola (check the video above) is sure to draw the eye of the league’s Punishment Police. Now we understand things got heated during the game, but here at the hideout we don’t condone the literal stomping of an opponent outside of a cage match.
Neither Wolves coach Rick Adelman nor Rockets coach Kevin McHale said they saw it. But it appeared Scola got a good feel for Love’s size-19 sneakers. “Yeah, whatever the brand is,” Scola said.
The big question afterward was: Was it intentional? And, will it be something NBA head of discipline Stu Jackson takes a look at?
“He was kind of right there,” Love said. “I have size-19 feet. He just happened to be there. I had nowhere to go. I kind of tripped up. I just had nowhere to step. It was a heat-of-the-moment type play. He was there and it happened to be his face.”
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.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – One of our most cherished traditions here at the hideout is coming to an end and we didn’t even realize it until just now.
All those days spent joking at the expense of the Minnesota Timberwolves could soon be a thing of the past. That laughing at Timberwolves GM David Kahn for something he either said or did might be over.
And it has everything to do with the fact that the Timberwolves had arguably the best pound-for-pound offseason of any team in the league. Rick Adelman comes aboard as coach. Heralded rookies Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams join the rotation along with solid veteran pick up and Adelman fave Brad Miller. And All-Star Kevin Love (the bearded, slender gentleman in the video above) shed a few pounds and looks like he’s in All-Star form heading into the start of training camp.
After a couple of years of trying to fit the right players into the wrong system, Adelman will bring a talent-friendly scheme to a deep and promising roster that needed just the right fit in a head coach.
While it’s far too early to set foot on thin ice and predict this team will rise into the ranks of Western Conference playoff contenders, it is fair to say that they’ve got our full attention right now.
Much like the Wolves were faced with a franchise-defining decision whether to break the bank to sign a youngster named Kevin Garnett 14 years ago, the Wolves soon will have to decide whether the face of the franchise right now will become THE centerpiece worthy of such a deal.
If the Wolves don’t sign Love to a contract extension in the coming weeks, he could become a restricted free agent next summer.
If someone offers him a max contract then, the Wolves simply could choose to match the offer then and keep him.
If Love decides not to sign an offer sheet with another team then, he could play the 2012-13 on a $6.1 million qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2013.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If you put your ear against the wall outside the Target Center, you can still hear the calliope music coming from inside. The Timberwolves’ merry-go-round continues.
Ricky Rubio is coming and Kurt Rambis might be going and that means the latest redevelopment project in downtown Minneapolis is back on track, assuming that general manager David Kahn doesn’t take another point guard in the Draft.
But seriously, after two years of running in a knee-deep snow with back-to-back records of 15-67 and 17-65, is it possible that Kahn’s vision for the Wolves comes from some place other than acute hypothermia?