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NBA / Dec 20, 2012 / 4:00 pm

For Minnesota, The Most Important Word Is Patience

Ricky Rubio

Ricky Rubio (photo. adidas)

The 2012-13 Minnesota Timberwolves seem to be a jumbled mess of broken bones, tweaked knees, discombobulated ligaments and disappointed fans that expected them to make the leap to Western Conference contender status. Instead, they lost their best player before the season started while simultaneously still missing their specious second-best player to a knee injury from last year. But they’re 12-11 through 22 games even after losing to the defending NBA champs earlier this week, and now is not the time to sprint before they can crawl, sometimes quite literally in Brandon Roy‘s case. Any pundits looking for Rick Adelman to accelerate the return of their still-recovering franchise point guard have to remember the NBA’s six-month regular season is a marathon instead of a 100 meter dash.

Ricky Rubio played his first minutes in over nine months when he subbed in with a minute left in the first quarter against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night. It didn’t take him long before he found his old flair, delivering an around-the-back pass less than three minutes after taking the court, and a minute later, we all watched as he sent the ball between his legs and past a bamboozled Elton Brand to a cutting Greg Stiemsma for a bucket. It was one of his nine assists on the night in just 18 minutes. He also added eight points and three steals, with those deceptively long arms and quick hands, but the Mavs still tied it up in regulation. Rubio didn’t sniff the court in overtime, but the ‘Wolves prevailed anyway, 114-106, to notch their fourth win in a row. For long-suffering Timberwolves fans, it must have been a welcome site after losing Rubio last year when he tore two ligaments in his left knee.

But just two nights later, Rubio played only 16 minutes in a loss to the Orlando Magic, and finished 0-for-3 from the floor for zero points, three turnovers, four assists and a steal as the Timberwolves’ winning streak ended at four. Rubio said afterward he felt a lot worse than he did after his first game back, when adrenaline and the fans’ reactions may have masked just how far Rubio has to go before he’s at his peak from last season.

So it was understandable when Adelman decided to rest Rubio this week when the ‘Wolves fell to the defending champs in Miami. The team’s already stipulated that Rubio would be kept out of the second night of back-to-backs while keeping his minutes under 18 a game, per the advice of their doctors. Rubio had actually left the door open that he might play against Miami, and he was on the bench in uniform for the game. But that thinking by Rubio was nixed thanks to Adelman and the Timberwolves’ medical staff, and now some are wondering why the Timberwolves are being so cautious with their point guard wunderkind. Compounding Rubio’s absence is the continued injury woes of other Timberwolves players, most notably their star forward, Kevin Love.

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