This season has been a disappointment for Minnesota Timberwolves fans, largely in part because of significant injuries to their frontcourt, as Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic have both struggled to stay healthy. One individual however, has not given up despite the playoffs being out of reach and also not being 100% healthy.
Ricky Rubio has managed to put up solid numbers this year even though he is in the midst of coming back from one of the toughest sports injuries there is. In scoring almost nine points, dishing out just over seven assists, grabbing three and a half rebounds, and snatching nearly two and a half steals per game, Rubio is making the best of a less-than-desirable year for Minnesotans.
In the past month, Rubio has had six double-doubles, and three more instances in which he came either one point or one assist shy of that feat. He has also had three or more steals in nine games over the past month. Since the beginning of February he has averaged close to five rebounds per game as well.
With these statistics in mind, imagine what Rubio’s season could have looked like had the Timberwolves not been 20th and 28th in the NBA in points per game and field goal percentage, respectively. I would venture to guess Rubio would average anywhere from ten to fifteen assists per game if the Wolves shot the ball at just a few percentage points higher.
One game in particular showed fans just how passionate he is about his job. Earlier this month when the Miami Heat came to Minnesota, Rubio played one of those unforgettable “effort games.” His stat line was nothing short of impressive, putting up 14 points, eight assists, five rebounds, and six steals. What was most impressive to me, however, was his evident tenacity and will to win.
Whoever Rick Adelman had him matched up with on defense throughout the game was constantly working for position, with or without the ball. Rubio was all over his man the entire game. Here’s the kicker: In between timeouts he was visibly ailing. Limping and hobbling up and down the court between whistles, he never once looked to slow down. He continued to push the fast break and establish open shots for his teammates.
After the halftime buzzer sounded, Rubio was upset with himself over a missed opportunity and threw several punches at the base of the hoop while throwing his towel and storming into the locker room. Whether he was upset with himself over a mistake, or with teammates failing to knock down open shots, Rubio definitely had his reasons for frustration. I am not sure what more he expected out of himself that night while struggling to continue to come back from his ACL injury and playing at less than perfect health. What I can tell you, is that he expects the utmost effort out of himself and his teammates. This is a guy who is passionate about the game, folks.
Wolves fans, do not fret. I see a bright future for you all with Rubio at the helm.