Rubio will wait to decide on Spanish National team
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Ricky Rubio’s NBA season is over. His summer with the Spanish national team remains a question mark.
The injured Minnesota Timberwolves point guard said Monday that he will wait until the regular season ends before turning his full attention to his ability to play for his beloved Spain in the European championships during the offseason.
After playing in only 22 games for the Wolves this year because of injuries to his left ankle, Rubio said he is going to make getting healthy his biggest priority of the summer. Thanks to that injury and a torn left ACL in his rookie year, Rubio has only played one full season in his NBA career.
“I haven’t been healthy and I owe this team a lot,” Rubio said before the Wolves departed for a four-game road trip. “In four years, I have one good season, an 82-game season. I owe this team a lot.”
Rubio will begin a four-year, $55 million contract next season, and he is determined to bounce back from a massively frustrating season. He worked hard to improve his jump shot in the offseason and looked much more comfortable at the start of the season before badly injuring his ankle on Nov. 7 against Orlando. He missed the next two and a half months and played through some soreness for a while.
But with the Wolves slumping to a 16-60 record thanks in large part to injuries to Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, they decided to shut down their franchise point guard to try to ensure that he would have a healthy summer. He will not need surgery and plans to let the ankle heal on its own.
“If we feel they’re going to aggravate it more or hurt it more by playing, we’re not going to let them play,” coach Flip Saunders said.
Saunders said the decision to play in the European tournament would ultimately be Rubio’s, but added that Timberwolves doctors would have to clear him to play.
“Our doctors probably won’t clear him to be playing competitive basketball for a couple of months,” he said.
Rubio finishes the year with career lows in field goal percentage (35.6) and 3-point percentage (25.5). He averaged 10.3 points, 8.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He said he will continue to work with shooting coach Mike Penberthy to improve his perimeter jumper and felt like he was making progress before his injuries.
“When I was healthy I was feeling good,” Rubio said. “I was working hard and feeling my shot. Confidence is almost 50 percent of the shot. I was having confidence. I was shooting the ball and making shots at the end of the game.”
The Wolves have been racked with injuries all season and were just one victory ahead of the New York Knicks in the race for the worst record in the league.
Kevin Garnett, who has missed 15 straight games with knee and illness issues, was listed as questionable for the game against Sacramento on Tuesday. He has played in just five of the 23 games played he was acquired in a trade with Brooklyn.
Gorgui Dieng (concussion), Anthony Bennett (sprained right ankle) and Gary Neal (sprained left ankle) all stayed in Minnesota and did not accompany the team on the road trip.
Rubio did go with the Wolves to watch and said he was trying to stay positive about another lost season.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “New coaches. Learned with my teammates. I grew up as a player. Every injury you have, you’ve got to be stronger, especially mentally. This one made me smarter. I appreciate more the little details and little things.”