Skip to content

Ricky Rubio’s game translates to NBA just fine thank you

Jan 21, 2012, 3:06 AM EDT

Ricky Rubio Getty Images

For the first three quarters Friday night, the Ricky Rubio doubters out there — those that said his game would never translate to the NBA —  had their chance to crow. “He can’t shoot” and he was 0-10 from the floor. “He can’t defend” and Mo Williams was tearing him apart (along with everyone else on the Wolves).

But he won Minnesota the game, beating the Clippers 101-98. He won it before Kevin Love got free for a game-winning three on a play Rick Adelman has been running since Brad Miller was the guy popping out. He won it before he knocked down his one shot from the field all game, a three from the right corner that tied the game with 20 seconds to go.

Before the dramatic finish, Ricky Rubio earned the Timberwolves a key road win by controlling the game in the fourth quarter, changing the pace and getting his guys the ball in position where they could do damage. He led the Timberwolves back from a double-digit deficit in the final 10 minutes to win. And in doing so showed a kind of veteran savvy and confidence that could take the Timberwolves a long way in a few years.

His game translates just fine. Thank you very much.

“He’s got a real gift,” according to Minnesota coach Rick Adelman. “He’s a great passer in the open court and he’s just a smart player. You’ve got to give him rope and let him go because he’s got that ability. And because of him, we’ve really kind of changed and simplified things we’ve done just to put the ball in his hands. He’s been better than I thought he was going to be.”

“He’s clever with the basketball,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He was getting in the lane on us, turning the corner on the elbow pick-and-roll….

“His penetration hurt us more than anything, even though he was missing shots. He was getting in the lane, then at the end with about 20 seconds to go he hits the three from the right corner.”

For most the way Friday night at Staples Center the Clippers were in control. And Rubio seemed out of it, unable to knock down shots or find the passing lanes he likes in the half court. After the game he admitted that the number of games he plays now — dramatically more than the two or so a week he did in Europe — has his legs tired and that was impacting his shot (he was shooting 42.5 percent on the season before this game and 40 percent from three). He talked about the need to get stronger so this is not a problem in the future.

But then came the fourth quarter, and it was different.

“(The fourth quarter) is when you have to control more of the game, it’s when I feel much better…” Rubio said. “We feel comfortable in the last quarter.”

The young Clippers had the chance to put the Timberwolves away for three quarters but never did. Rather than keep doing what had gotten them the lead in the first place, they went for the home run. There were some calls the Clippers didn’t like (Williams got ejected in the fourth) and that seemed to be their focus and not the game.

Rubio never lost focus. Minnesota came back when Rubio pushed the pace in the fourth quarter and finding ways to create. That was one of the questions about him coming into the NBA — will he really be able to make those passes in the NBA against better athletes?

“Over (in Spain) he would pretty much initiate the offense without creating as much,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “We found out right away he can create and we are better off when he does that.”

He did that in the fourth. He wasn’t hitting shots but he was getting in the lane and drawing contact, getting to the free throw line eight times in the quarter. The other thing he does beautifully is drive at and occupy a help defender, all the while waiting for that defender’s man to cut to the basket so Rubio can pick up the assist. Rubio had three assists in the fourth quarter that were started by his penetration. He had a steal and a block, too.

Then there was the game-tying three. He was 0-10 yet he shot it with confidence. Something one expects of veterans.

The next play he defended Chauncey Billups well on the Clippers second to last possession, getting left on an island without help but staying in front and contesting a shot Billups missed. Rubio is not the most athletic guard on the planet, but he’s pretty long and uses his anticipation well.

Some people struggle with Rubio’s game because it is hard to define — it’s not like anyone else’s game. He is not the next Steve Nash or anyone else. Adelman is good with that — and thinks it translates to the NBA just fine.

“I think we get in trouble all the time in this league trying to manufacture players into who you want them to be and not let them be themselves,” Adelman said. “He’s been playing in the pros for so long, and when I watched him he has such great instincts….

“People ask me all the time if he is like Pete Maravich. No, no. Not even close. He’s a good young player who has a chance to have a very good future but sometimes people try to mark him as something he’s not right now. Let him develop. So far he’s doing great.”

Latest Posts
  1. Celtics GM Danny Ainge remains noncommittal on trading Rajon Rondo

    Sep 22, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    “The truthful answer is I really don’t know.” —Danny Ainge on potentially trading Rajon Rondo

  2. Bucks’ Larry Sanders to play with goggles next season

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:21 AM EDT

    Larry Sanders

    Remember Sanders suffered a serious eye injury last season.

  3. Golden State Warriors top 10 plays of 2014 season (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    Way more Andre Iguodala than you might expect.

  4. Report: Celtics will complete Evan Turner signing before training camp begins

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Indiana Pacers Getty Images

    Turner’s stock has dropped significantly since being traded from the Sixers to the Pacers in the middle of last season.

  5. NBA’s rookie transition program tries to educate, but some of the information is presented in poor taste

    Sep 21, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    You can see what they’re trying to do, but some of the things presented went a bit too far.

  6. Behind the scenes look at internal media day for Charlotte Hornets (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    courtesy Bobcats.com

    Our first real look at the new uniforms and new court design.

  7. Tony Parker hits a back over-the-head halfcourt shot (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Tony Parker Tony Parker

    I’m pretty sure Popovich doesn’t want him taking one of these in a game.

  8. Hornets’ Jeff Taylor says he’s recovered from ruptured Achilles

    Sep 21, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Charlotte Bobcats Dallas Mavericks v Charlotte Bobcats

    He’s going to fight for minutes at a crowded wing spot in Charlotte.

  9. Andrew Wiggins says he doesn’t feel much pressure heading to Minnesota

    Sep 21, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Timberwolves New Players Getty Images

    Nobody expects much from the Timberwolves or Wiggins this season, outside of a few highlight dunks.

  10. Report: Zoran Dragic “in advanced discussions” to leave Europe for Suns next season

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    BASKET-EURO-2013-SRB-SVN Getty Images

    A team is going to have to pay him at least $2 million a year to make it worth his while.

  11. Jeanie Buss ‘not worried’ about Kobe coming back and contributing for Lakers

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Lakers president believes Bryant is ready after he missed all but six games last season due to injury.

  12. Timberwolves ‘not necessarily in a rush’ to agree to contract extension with Ricky Rubio

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Ricky Rubio AP

    Rubio may not like it, but Minnesota can retain his rights in restricted free agency next summer.

  13. Report: Gustavo Ayon’s deal with Real Madrid worth $6.6 million over three years

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    Australia v Mexico - 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup Getty Images

    Big man from Mexico preferred to remain in the NBA, but took the payday to return overseas.

  14. Kobe Bryant may join ownership group attempting to purchase Italian soccer team

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Kobe Bryant Kobe Bryant

    With two years left in the NBA, Bryant has an eye on life after basketball.

  15. Taj Gibson says he’s fine coming off the bench for Bulls: ‘Please miss me with the drama’

    Sep 20, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Taj Gibson Taj Gibson

    A previous report said Gibson was less than thrilled with remaining a reserve.

  16. Andray Blatche signs deal to play in China next season

    Sep 20, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets Getty Images

    Blatche can play, but the NBA offers simply weren’t there.

  17. Giant LeBron James banner approved to hang in downtown Cleveland once again

    Sep 20, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    lebron-banner

    10-story-high banner will return after a similar one was taken down when James left in 2010.

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. R. Rondo (2661)
  2. E. Bledsoe (2571)
  3. K. Bryant (2209)
  4. L. James (2101)
  5. D. Rose (1861)
  1. R. Allen (1711)
  2. N. Young (1632)
  3. K. Irving (1542)
  4. J. Hickson (1498)
  5. B. Jennings (1439)