Ricky Rubio is one big step closer to returning to the court for the Timberwolves.
Rubio got the green light from doctors for full-contact practices, the last major hurdle he wanted to clear in his recovery from torn ligaments in his left knee.
The team still hasn’t set a timetable for Rubio’s 1st game action, but just the concept of getting the dynamic point guard back in uniform is a big lift to a team which has been beset by countless injuries early this season.
His slick passing, sunny attitude and overlooked defense on the perimeter energized the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, helping a long-suffering franchise climb into the playoff picture in his 1st year in the United States after coming over from Spain. But he tore his ACL late in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 9, and the Wolves’ season quickly unraveled after that.
“We just need to have him practice for the following couple of weeks and see how he responds,” Coach Rick Adelman announced.
“We’ve missed him a lot. When we lost him, we saw the impact he had on our group because of his leadership — and not just at the offensive end. He protected people better than most point guards.”
Even with Rubio anticipated being out till mid-December, this season started with hopes of the team’s first playoff appearance since 2004. Then All-Star Kevin Love broke his right hand in the preseason, Chase Budinger tore the meniscus in his left knee early in the regular season and Brandon Roy’s knees continued to give him problems. Love made his season debut just a week ago, but the Wolves lost the first 3 games in which he played while they got acclimated to having him back on the court.
“He’ll be eased in,” Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn asserted in remarks on the team’s website. “The likelihood is he’ll play his 1st game around 16-18 minutes and then from there the medical staff and Ricky will decide on a game-by-game basis what to do next.”
Rubio started participating in walk-through portions of practice early last week and Coach Rick Adelman stated that it was clear in those situations that he has not lost his gift for the offense and what will be asked of him when he returns.
“Anybody who’s going through an injury like that is going to have his highs and lows, and I was conscious of that,” Adelman related. “So we do not need him to push himself. This is for the long haul.”
The Minnesota Timberwolves have claimed all along that they will be cautious with Rubio’s recovery and not rush him back. He is too important to the franchise’s future to risk further injury by running him out there too soon. At the same time, it’s clear the Wolves desperately need their playmaker to get the offense flowing smoother and to tighten up some porous perimeter defense that has led straight to some huge nights from opposing backcourts in the week. Football lines