These are frustrating times for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who haven’t made the leap forward into a playoff team because of injuries to their key players. Ricky Rubio is no longer injured, but he isn’t exactly completely healthy, as his poor performances attest to up to this point.

It’s much easier making a comeback into a winning atmosphere, but the Timberwolves aren’t in that situation. After falling 98-113 to the Dallas Mavericks on monday, they are now 16-19, losing four straight and lost 10 of their last 14 games after a 12-9 start.

The initial presumption was that once Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio return from their injuries that kept them out from the beginning of the season, things will go much smoother after a soild start without them, mostly thanks to some excellent defense. Well, the change didn’t really come, Kevin Love is injured again and out for 8 weeks while the defense is no longer trustworthy, allowing 102 points or more in each of their last six games.

For Rubio, it might be more frustrating than for anyone else. Dubbed as the next big hope for the Timberwolves last season, tearing his ACL probably cost the franchise their first non-Kevin Garnett postseason appearance. Rubio, who made his return against the Dallas Mavericks midway through December, has since played 10 times this season, missing several more games after his initial return due to back spasms.

Well, while his passing has remained exquisite when he has the chance to show off his skills, averaging 4.6 assists per game in 20 minutes a night, it’s his horrendous shooting, never his strong suit, that’s really been worrying. His assist to turnover ratio is also something to watch for. Last season, he had a 2.56 ratio, 19th in the NBA. This season it’s a small sample size, but the 1.91 is another thing to cause concern for the Timberwolves.

The biggest problem is his shooting, as we’ve mentioned before. So far, he’s made only 8 field goals in 10 games, making only 22.2% of his attempts. Last season was awful, shooting a terrible 35.7% from the field, but he more than made up for it with his decision making and defense.

The problem with coming back is in the head many times. Rubio isn’t really reacting well to pressure this season, and seems to look to get rid of the ball the moment things get a little too physical for him. Sometimes, off the ball, he looks lost, even not even wanting to get involved, while the defense has easy time keeping him away from the actual game.

The Timberwolves are limiting his limits (20.2 per game), and maybe it’s about playing time. Maybe this season is a lost one for him and the Wolves, and he’ll only be back 100% next season. Let’s hope that is the case, and not a story of another player that an injury ended the promise of a great career before his rookie season was over.

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