On the heels of Wednesday night’s 91-83 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, their eighth loss in their last 10 games, frustrations appear to be starting to boil over for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Point guard Ricky Rubio, who normally avoids making headlines, expressed frustration when acting head coach Terry Porter did not put him back in the game late in Wednesday night’s contest. Porter instead chose to stay with J.J. Barea, citing a desire to stay with the “hot hand” despite an apparent thigh issue for Barea.
Rubio also expressed disappointment with his teammates after a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last week, as the team attempts to stay afloat in the Western Conference playoff race despite multiple injuries to key players. Of course, Rubio himself has come back from the torn ACL in his left knee that he suffered last March, and has been decidedly underwhelming in 14 games since returning to action (4.2 points and 5.0 assists per game). Some of his overall inconsistency can be blamed on being on a minute count as he works his way back, but he has also dealt with some pain in the knee as well as back spasms.
In an overall sense, I think Rubio’s sudden willingness to express frustration is two-fold. He may feel like someone has to emerge as a team leader with various players sidelined as well as coach Rick Adelman being away attending to his hospitalized wife, and he is probably right on that count. But I think his willingness to speak out is also a sign of a bigger problem, and he is certainly not alone in his frustration. Having Adelman back – there is no timetable for his return to the team – may help cure a lot of potential internal issues. It would also be nice to see Rubio up his level of play, and force Porter to use him in critical situations like Wednesday night.
Simply put, as long as he is healthy enough to do so and play effectively, I think it’s time for Rubio’s playing time to increase. Porter has to be very careful with any increase in his minutes in the near-term, but Barea and Luke Ridnour are not clearly better options, if all things are equal. At this point, with all the players who are out of uniform right now, the Timberwolves need to have their best players on the floor as much as possible.