by Ryan McNeill / @ryanmcneill
Despite waiting two seasons for Ricky Rubio to arrive in Minnesota, the Timberwolves are in no rush to insert their prodigal point guard into the starting lineup.
For Minnesota, having Rubio come off the bench has allowed him to slowly ease into playing in the NBA while giving the team a much-needed infusion of energy when he enters the game. By coming off the bench, Rubio has been able to form some much-needed chemistry with fellow rookie Derrick Williams while not having to play extended minutes against cagey vets like Steve Nash, Jason Kidd or Tony Parker.
Rubio’s teammates seem to thrive off of his flashy style of play which was shown by Minnesota going on a 17-2 run when he checked into the game against Washington.
Rubio was far from just a “spark plug” as he dropped a game and season-high 14 dimes on the hapless Wizards.
“The game against Washington reflected the fact our team made shots so his assists totals were real high,” Adelman explained to the media. “He makes good plays, but as a team we’ve been up and down shooting the ball. When we can make threes and open-court shots, we’re a much better team.
“He’s always going to try and make a tough play and he’ll turn it over, but the ratio he had last night (against Washington) was 14 (assists) and 5 (turnovers). I’ll take that.”
Instead of worrying about scoring or stuffing the stat sheet, Rubio has been able to focus on getting teammates open looks and pushing the tempo of the game.
“I think having him come off the bench helps us a lot because the game changes due to him pushing the ball,” Rick Adelman said. “We come with a group that is smaller and more active. We can run down the court or we can run pick-and-roll. Right now that’s his best style of play when he can come down the court attacking and trying to find people. I just like his energy because our team changes when he comes into the game.”
Rubio is content with his role coming off the bench for the time being because it allows him to get a feel for how games are unfolding and he can adjust his style of play accordingly.
“I try to help the team while I’m watching from the bench,” Rubio explained to me. “I try to figure out what they need. Sometimes our team needs to run more or sometimes they might need me to take care of the ball and find open teammates. I try to do the best I can do to get my teammates going.”
So, was it worth waiting two years for Rubio to arrive in Minnesota even if so far this season he has been a glorified sixth man and spark plug off the bench?
If you ask Kevin Love, the answer is a resounding yes.
“Yes, definitely so,” Love gushed to the media in Toronto while grinning from ear-to-ear. “He’s the first pass-first point guard that I’ve played with in the NBA. He makes passes that are going to set up guys to score and if you have that you’re going to have a lot of success on the offensive end. He’s been doing great so far and he is only going to continue to grow and get better.
“It has been very refreshing to be around him because he loves the game so much. He stays in the gym and he works on every facet of his game.”
For Rubio, he claims he doesn’t have any regrets about staying in Europe because, “You’re never going to change the past.”
But, now that he is finally playing in the NBA, there’s no place he’d rather be.
“As a basketball player, you always dream about coming here to play in the NBA,” Rubio admitted. “I feel comfortable with this team and I’m just trying to help us win.”