Posts Tagged ‘Luke Ridnour’

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…)

Beasley, Crawford On the Move …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley could be on the move today with the trade deadline just hours away. So could Trail Blazers guard Jamal Crawford.

They could be a part of the same deal, if the reported three-team deal between the Timberwolves, Trail Blazers and Lakers has any legs. Dave McMenamin of has one version of the potential deal:

The Lakers revisited talks to acquire Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley on Wednesday, multiple league sources told Several variations of the trade have been discussed. One would land Beasley on the Lakers in a three-team deal that would send Portland Trail Blazers guard Jamal Crawford to the Wolves and Luke Ridnour from Minnesota to Portland. Los Angeles would give up one of its two 2012 first-round draft picks in the deal and use its $8.9 million trade exception, acquired when it traded Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks in December, to absorb Beasley’s approximate $6.3 million salary. Portland would also receive the Lakers’ first-round pick.

As of late Wednesday night no deal was completed, but a source familiar with the negotiations said, “the sides have momentum.”

Our man David Aldridge adds the following about the deal:

Rumors of this deal broke Wednesday evening, but Blake played for Los Angeles in the Lakers’ overtime win over New Orleans. Crawford did not play for Portland in the Blazers’ blowout loss in New York, but Beasley accompanied the Timberwolves to Utah, where they were to play the Jazz tonight. A source involved in the discussions said Thursday morning that the deal was on the table but not yet agreed upon.

Crawford was held out of the Trail Blazers’ loss in New York last night, the official reason given was tendinitis in his right knee. But it’s no secret that Trail Blazers have been exploring their trade options for Crawford.

Beasley would give the Lakers an option at small forward that they have been searching for. And Crawford gives the Timberwolves a short-term option in the backcourt (he is expected to opt-out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent again this summer) to help ease the blow of Ricky Rubio going down for the season.

Report: Ricky Rubio Done For Season

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.

Rubio went down in the final seconds of Friday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, his knee buckling before he collided with Kobe Bryant. The fear Friday night was that it was a potential season-ending injury. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune confirmed those fears this afternoon:

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.

Trade Chatter: Orlando’s ‘Dwight Howard Watch’ Continues

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The countdown clock is ticking … and on the Orlando Sentinel‘s Dwight Howard Watch page, it’s literally ticking … down to next Thursday’s trade deadline with no guarantees as to what’s going to happen to the Magic’s superstar center and the city and franchise that don’t want to lose him.

A week away from what could be doomsday for Magic fans if Howard is dealt and no one is quite sure what’s going to change in Orlando.

There is a strong belief that the Magic will call Howard’s trade request bluff and keep him on the roster with no chance of getting anything for him if he leaves via free agency this summer, as’s Marc Stein makes clear here:

I’m sure some of the “Magic resolve” chatter that’s been gaining traction in recent days about how increasingly determined they are to keep him beyond the deadline is at least partly designed as a means of trying to improve the offers that come in before the deadline. Yet it seems evident that the stronger belief in the Magic Kingdom is that it’s better to keep Dwight and face the worst-case-scenario consequences of losing him for nothing if there’s so much as a 10 percent chance of him changing his mind.

The vibe coming from the Magic is that owner Rich DeVos prefers that scenario, frightening as it is, to what Orlando can get for Dwight in a trade today. Fortunately we have only about a week more to wait to find out whether Orlando’s bravery has staying power … or whether the claim that it’ll take its chances with mere salary-cap space should Dwight bolt was just posturing.

It’s strange, with all of the wild and crazy rumors that were flying around a week ago this time you’d expect we’d have more of the same. But instead, rumors are being shot down with increasing frequency.

Take a spin around the league and see all of the guys who were supposed to be on the block who are no longer considered to be in that mix, and that includes the likes of Rajon Rondo, Pau Gasol and a few of our other trade rumor faves:


The Best Power Forward In The Game

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – TNT’s Charles Barkley crowned him weeks ago.

Kevin Love said he doesn’t take the floor with anything else on his mind.

And with performance after performance, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ All-Star makes his case for being the “best power forward in the game.”

His monster performance against Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers last night should serve as the latest piece of evidence in his case for top honors. Love dropped 38 points and 17 boards on the Clippers — and for the record, Love is 3-0 against Griffin and the Clippers this season. Dating back to last season, he’s averaging 21.0 points and 12.9 rebounds in seven (4-3) head-to-head matchups against Griffin, who promises to be one of his rivals for top power forward honors in the years to come.

Love’s not just piling up fantastic numbers on a bad team anymore either. The Timberwolves are winners of two straight games, are 7-3 in their last 10 games, 20-19 overall and knocking on the door for that last playing spot in the Western Conference, they’re just a game and a half behind the Rockets for the eighth spot this morning.


Kahn’s Point Guard Love Paying Off

ORLANDO – Few men love point guards the way Minnesota Timberwolves general manager David Kahn does. He is, after all, the man who selected three in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft (Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Ty Lawson) and has taken the heat from us over the years for his fetish.

Kahn’s acquired (and traded) a few point guards during his tenure as well. And Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman routinely deploys three (Rubio, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea) at a time late in games.

Kahn’s crazy, point guard-fueled master plan seems to be working, though. The Timberwolves head into All-Star weekend at .500 or better for the first time since the 2004-05 season, courtesy of Ridnour’s buzzer beater last night over Utah.

We’re not ready to proclaim this a playoff team, but with a bevy of options in the backcourt and All-Star Kevin Love, promising rookie Derrick Williams and surprise talent like Nikola Pekovic to flesh out the frontcourt mix, this team is well on its way to becoming a legitimate factor in the playoff race for seasons to come.


Season Of The Point Guard?

HANG TIME HQ, ATLANTA — It’s a big man’s game, always has been and always will be, and if you doubt that, just check out the number of zeros on Kwame Brown‘s paycheck.

And yet: The season of the point guard is taking shape quite nicely. With few exceptions, the majority of championship contenders and playoff hopefuls are getting strong play from the point and in some cases, two point guards. This isn’t a surprise, though; we all saw this coming, because of the number of point guards taken recently in the Draft who have developed quickly and efficiently.

Let’s take a quick sampling:

  • The Wolves are flourishing with Luke Ridnour starting and Ricky Rubio finishing games. Coach Rick Adelman is doing the right thing by bringing Rubio along slowly and keeping all pressure to a minimum. The kid’s going to be special, why rush it?
  • Ty Lawson has come into his own in Denver, and the quality of play at the point doesn’t suffer when he’s replaced by Andre Miller. The Nuggets are getting 12.5 assists a game from the duo and are off to a credible start.
  • While they aren’t challenging for a title anytime soon, the Bobcats are giving heavy minutes to both D.J. Augustin and rookie Kemba Walker, who often are on the floor together; arguably, they’re the Bobcats’ best hope for the future. That is, if Charlotte doesn’t trade one of them (Augustin most likely) in the future.
  • Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul have been the starting backcourt for the Clippers all season. This is an ideal situation because the Clippers are loaded with finishers, primarily Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, so it helps to have a pair of guards who know how to deliver the ball. Lob City, you know.
  • Oklahoma City has Russell Westbrook in contract drive, and then with Eric Maynor lost for the season with a torn ACL, Reggie Jackson had 11 points and four assists off the bench against the Spurs on Sunday.
  • In Miami, rookie Norris Cole has been a big discovery, and he has lit a fire under Mario Chalmers, who was big (29 points, eight assists, seven rebounds) without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Atlanta last week.

Of course, there’s also the returning MVP, Derrick Rose; Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash are among the league leaders in assists and Kyle Lowry is having a career season in Houston. And we should mention the No. 1 pick in last summer’s draft, Kyrie Irving, is beginning to blossom with the Cavs.

Interestingly, point guard was a big topic Sunday in D.C., where Rubio had 14 assists and outplayed John Wall, the No. 1 pick a few years ago. This was a curious case because the Wizards gave Minnesota the No. 1 pick that became Rubio. Here’s how it happened: Back in 2009 the Wizards were in the lottery, but when they drew the No. 5 pick, they decided to ship it to new Wolves GM David Kahn for immediate help. Kahn sent Randy Foye and Mike Miller to the Wizards, who figured Foye (the No. 7 pick in 2006) was ready for a breakout and would be better than anyone available at No. 5.

Kahn then took heat for drafting two point guards, Rubio and Jonny Flynn, back-to-back. And Rubio’s people were very hesitant to send him to the Wolves, a perennial loser; Rubio subsequently re-signed with his team in Spain. Meanwhile, the Wizards were expecting a big 2009-10 season, with Gilbert Arenas back from knee surgery and ready to regain the form that made him dangerous at both ends.

Well, we know what happened. Gilbert brought his guns to the arena five months later and the Wizards crumbled. At least they grabbed the No. 1 pick in the next lottery, and Wall had a promising rookie year. But Wall has regressed, especially his shooting. He made only 3-of-10 against the Wolves and two of those were dunks. Plus, the Wizards fell to 0-8. Rick Kamla of NBA TV had an interesting question: If you were starting an NBA team today, would you want Rubio or Wall?

Anyway, here’s the account from Minnesota:

Afterward, Wolves coach Rick Adelman was asked when Rubio — who has started the season by playing every second of every fourth quarter — was going to be promoted to starter.

“I get real tired of answering that,” he said. “He’s doing just fine.”

Fine enough that one Verizon Center press room wag commented on how Rubio, at first glance, makes his teammates better while Wall doesn’t. The Wolves, by the way, have seven players on their roster who were top-six lottery picks. The Wizards’ only other player chosen that high is last summer’s No. 6 pick, Jan Vesely.

“If it had been Rubio, who knows, John Wall might not have been here,” Washington coach Flip Saunders said, referring to that 2009 trade the Wizards hoped would bolster a team that at the time included Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. “There were a lot of things that went into the whole equation.”

Rubio said Sunday he is happy where he is.

“I don’t know, Minnesota was the team that drafted me and I don’t think anything else,” Rubio said. “They were the ones who trusted me and I’m so glad they did.”

And Washington:

Rubio is only a month younger than Wall, but he was just 17 when he started for the silver-medal-winning team from Spain in the 2008 Olympics. He also won a Euroleague title with FC Barcelona in 2010 and won the Spanish League title last season. Rubio didn’t put up great numbers in Europe or in the European championships last summer, but he has found an NBA game that is more compatible to his style of play.

“Here, you can find more space to penetrate and for passes,” Rubio said. “I don’t want to say I played bad last year. My team won almost everything, so I did something well, right? So that’s teamwork and sometimes you don’t need to shine for your team to win.”

Oh, and speaking of teams off to a poor start, the Nets are still optimistic about re-signing Deron Williams next summer, when he becomes a free agent. And if Williams does sign up, would Dwight Howard follow? That’s a good bet, because while this is a big man’s league, Howard wants and needs a point guard to make him look even better.

Ridnour Too Quick For His Own Good

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – On Wednesday night, with his team down two points with 1.6 seconds left in the game, Hang Time favorite Luke Ridnour was quick-thinking. But he was also quick-footed, and that was his problem.

The Wolves were down three when Rudy Gay fouled Ridnour near the midcourt line. And since they were out of timeouts, Minnesota couldn’t advance the ball to their side of the floor after another set of Memphis free throws. So Gay’s foul, which prevented the Wolves from attempting a game-tying 3-pointer, was a good play, even though he seemed to protest the call afterward.

And at that point, the Wolves’ only chance at sending the game to overtime was for Ridnour to make the first three throw, for the Wolves to rebound the second one, and follow it up with a bucket.

In that situation, a player would normally take his time and try to put the ball off the back or side of the rim. But Ridnour caught the Grizzlies sleeping by throwing it hard off the front of the rim as soon as he got the ball from the baseline official. And it ricocheted right back to him in time for him to get off an open 12-foot shot.

But Ridnour was a little over-anxious, and stepped over the free throw line early. You can watch the whole sequence transpire in the clip above, but pay attention around the 1:13 mark.

While the players lined up alongside of the lane can step into the paint when the shot is released, the shooter is not allowed to step over the line until the ball hits the rim. And the slow-motion replay above shows that Ridnour did just that.

Here’s the exact wording of the rule from the 2011-12 NBA Rule Book (pdf)

The free throw shooter may not step over the plane of the free throw line until the
ball touches the basket ring, backboard or the free throw ends.

With the play happening so quickly, it was a good call by outside official Gary Zielinski. Ridnour had committed a violation, the Grizzlies were awarded the ball, and the Wolves lost their opportunity to catch their opponent by surprise.

It will be interesting to see if the Wolves go with the same quick-throw strategy should they face the same situation later in the season, and if their opponent (as well as the officiating crew) is ready for it.