Ricky Rubio was in the middle of a fantastic year. The first season in the NBA for a young European player is never easy, but Rubio, playing professional basketball since he was 14, made the (2 years late) shift rather succesfuly, part of a basketball spring the Minnesota Timberwolves are going through. After 41 games, a torn ACL ended more than just Rubio’s rookie NBA season.
The Timberwolves are 21-21 this season, with Rubio being a huge part of the Timberwolves turning from bottom feeders into contenders for a playoff spot in the crowded Western conference. Moving him from the bench to starter worked wonderfully for Rick Adelman, partnering him with Luke Ridnour. Rubio averaged 10.6 points and led all rookies with 8.2 assists per game. Rookie of the year? Probably not, Kyrie Irving is having a better year, in charge of a surprising Cavs season, but the Timberwolves story wasn’t all numbers.
The Timberwolves became trendy. Kevin Love was a double double monster last season, but Minnesota weren’t close to achieving anything. This year, with Derrick Williams (more hype than substance so far) and an improved Kevin Love, there was excitement around the team for the first time since the Kevin Garnett days.
But with Kevin Love missing games, and Rubio suddenly gone for the season, it’ll be safe to say the Timberwolves can kiss the postseason goodbye. They have talent on the wings, but without a point guard who dominates on both ends of the court, Rick Adelman, as good as he can be, won’t be able to make the postseason for the first time (personally) since 2009, and take the team to its first postseason since 2004.
Broader perspective? The Wolves can’t use Ridnour as trade-bait anymore. Thinking of bringing in Jamal Crawford to add some explosiveness alongside Rubio went down the drain. Barea, the backup point guard all through the season is also hurt at the moment, but teaming him alongside Ridnour doesn’t sound like a great idea.
The basketball world is more than just the NBA, and the Spanish national team lost one of its best players heading into the 2012 Olympic Games. It would have been Rubio’s second visit to the most important international basketball tournament, helping Spain to the Silver Medal in Beijing. Naturally, the Spaniards, European Champions, were the number one contenders to try and derail the American Golden effort.
And now there’s the future. Torn ACLs aren’t a career ending injury as they were once feared to be, but Rubio won’t find it easy fighting his way back to his 2011-2012 form and actually a place in which he’s better than he was this season. There’s plenty of room to improve from 35.7% from the field.
At 21, Rubio has plenty of time to return and improve, but this is a sad ending to one of the more pleasing story lines in the 2011-2012 season. The bottom line after all this introduction will be that the Timberwolves will probably have to wait another year before fulfilling their postseason aspirations.