Posted on: January 10, 2012 3:38 pm
Posted by Royce Young
So Ricky Rubio is living up the the hype he carried around with him before the draft in 2009. He's a passing savant, a true genius with the ball in his hands. He sees the floor like he uses a superpower to pick out a cutting teammate. He puts passes right on the money, finds space and even has shown a little more offense than expected.
And yet, he still finds himself behind Luke Ridnour on the depth chart. Understandable. We're only nine games into the season and there was no telling that Rubio would be this NBA ready. You didn't want to just throw him to the wolves (get it? you get it) and let him learn on the fly. Minnesota wanted to develop him, make sure the game wasn't too fast for him and bring him along slowly. No need to rush.
But, then again, Rubio has been, well, awesome. And while yes, it's just nine games, those nine games haven proven that a) Ricky Rubio is better than Luke Ridnour and b) Rubio is obviously the point guard of the future for the team. So considering those two factors and also that the Wolves aren't risking a playoff spot by handing the keys entirely to Rubio, it's time to start asking: Why is he not starting?
Probably because his defense is still bad, right? I mean, that's what pretty much everyone wanted to fall back on while critiquing the young Spaniard. Sure he's flashy, but NBA point guards will tear him apart.
So, have they? Through the Wolves nine games, Rubio has taken on opposing point guards like Russell Westbrook, Brandon Jennings, Tony Parker, Kyrie Irving and John Wall and has a matchup with MVP Derrick Rose Tuesday night. A pretty good batch of talent to measure himself against. Granted, Luke Ridnour is technically the starter and Rubio gets quite a bit of second quarter minutes when a second unit is on the floor, but note that Rubio has played virtually every entire fourth quarter, which means he has seen probably more time on the opposite starting point than Ridnour.
How'd he do? Westbrook scored 28 on 10-21 shooting but turned it over seven times. Jennings went for 24 and seven assists. Parker had just 11 points on 3-11 shooting. Irving scored 14 on 12 shots and had seven turns. And Wall was just 3-10 from the floor with four turnovers.
The lesson: Rubio isn't getting dominated by any stretch. He's holding his own, and in some cases, playing pretty good defense. For instance, in Minnesota's opener against the Thunder, Rubio did a great job staying in front of an attacking Westbrook, taking a critical charge late in the fourth quarter. He moved his feet, kept position and didn't reach. He leads the Wolves in steals with 1.3 a game (15 in the league among point guards) and has shown excellent passing lane instincts. You can be a great player without playing great defense. Steve Nash has always been a pretty mild defender, but does a serviceable enough job to not make it a glaring issue. And that's what Rubio's doing. He's not going to be a stopper by any means, but he's not getting abused.
And when you can make plays on the other end, it often doesn't matter either way. Rubio changes the way the Wolves play. Their best lineup in terms of plus-minus includes him, and it's not close.
Now, Rick Adelman knows basketball and his team a whole lot better than I do. He knows what he's doing. But you can be sure he's trying to figure out when the right time to make the transition is. Maybe it's that David Kahn wants to build up Ridnour's trade value and then deal the veteran to make a natural hole for Rubio. Maybe the idea is since Derrick Williams can't start because Michael Beasley (or Wayne Ellington) is in front of him that it's better to keep Rubio and Williams playing together in the second unit because that's the future of the Wolves. Maybe it's just because Adelman doesn't see Rubio as ready.
But if that last one was the case, Rubio wouldn't have played every single minute of every single fourth quarter so far this season. He hasn't come out those last 12 minutes yet. Adelman clearly trusts him with crunch-time and clearly thinks he can handle those important minutes. Adelman likes to use Ridnour and Rubio together a lot in the fourth, but the point is, Rubio is getting starter minutes for the most part, especially in terms of the quality of the minutes. So he's getting the necessary experience.
It's clear though that the future of the Wolves rests in Rubio's hands as their starting point guard. He wasn't drafted and didn't finally come over from Spain to back up Luke Ridnour. It's about timing. It might happen after the All-Star break or trade deadline or it might not happen until next season.
Point is, Rubio's ready for it. Why delay it? He's proven he can handle the responsibility of driving the Wolves car, he can defend well enough and is the future. It's not a question of if he'll ever start, it's just a matter of when, and how soon.
Posted on: July 22, 2011 2:11 pm
Edited on: July 23, 2011 12:38 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Two more names to picture running the wildly interesting Timberwolves roster: Rick Adelman and Portland assistant Bernie Bickerstaff. Both had been rumored to be candidates, but according to the Star Tribune, the two will get interviews this weekend.
Previously, the Wolves had interviewed Mike Woodson and Terry Porter. Don Nelson, who is easily the most interesting candidate, has only spoken with David Kahn about the position. It's unknown if he'll have a formal interview.
What's intriguing about Adelman is that only a few months ago after he departed from the Rockets, he said he would likely be done coaching and look to the front office. He's older and has certainly been around, but even then it seemed odd that Adelman might really be done. He's been coaching for a long time and is still one of the best offensive minds in the game.
Which is what makes him an interesting fit for the Wolves. I get the feeling that this is Adelman's job if he wants it. He understands up tempo, understands young players and can install an offensive system that works. He's a proven winner and likely will connect well with the Wolves young roster.
However, he could be anxious about working with Kahn who tarnished his already well-tarnished reputation with his handling of Kurt Rambis. Hence, Bickerstaff might be a more natural fit since he's an assistant looking for a head position and also that his son, J.B., already worked with the Wolves. (J.B. recently took an assistant position with the Rockets but could come back to Minnesota if his dad got the job.)
It's still very up in the air and if we learned anything from how Kahn handled Rambis, we probably won't have a firm answer until somewhere around 2014. But the candidates are piling up and interviews are happening. Who it'll be though, is still a pretty interesting though.
Posted on: July 18, 2011 3:36 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 3:55 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Let's be realistic: Don Nelson probably isn't going to be taking the Timberwolves job. Yes, I realize that David Kahn doesn't operate under the law of what's "realistic," but still, pulling the 71-year-old out of retirement (and off a beach in Hawaii) won't be easy. Besides, even though the Wolves would immediately become a cult favorite, it's probably not a great fit.
Which means the Wolves aren't just starting and stopping with Nelson. Other names have popped up -- like Bernie Bickerstaff, Rick Adelman and even Washington Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar. One more name to add to the list: Former Suns head coach Terry Porter. Via the Star Tribune:
Notice that Porter is actually the first official interview for the Wolves. Nelson spoke with Kahn, but that was just informal talk, likely for feeling out to gauge mutual interest.
With Porter, he was Mike D'Antoni's replacement in Phoenix and attempted to change the culture of the team, slowing down the pace and focusing on defense. It didn't work, and he was fired halfway through the season and replaced by Alvin Gentry, who restored the run and gun to the Suns. Porter also coached two seasons in Milwaukee but didn't experience a ton of success there, either.
Kahn has made it very clear he's looking for a coach who wants to run, and Porter obviously isn't opposed to that. While he slowed the Suns down some, it's not like he turned them into the walk-it-up Blazers or anything. They still played fast, just not as fast. With a roster like the Wolves, Porter might be a solid fit mentoring young Ricky Rubio.
There's a lot of buzz around Nelson, but Porter is the only official interview as of now. Doesn't mean he's the top candidate or the favorite, but it does mean that he's at least in the running.
Posted on: July 16, 2011 2:30 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 3:42 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Oh boy, it might really be happening. Don Nelson might really, truly, actually be a candidate for the Minnesota Timberwolves coaching position. Last week when word broke that Nelson was interested in the Minnesota roster, it just seemed like something a retired coach might say, but without much actual chance of happening.
But according to the Star Tribune, Nelson has spoken with general manager David Kahn about the position and is still very interested. That's saying something about his level of interest right there.
"I think it'd be a great fit," Nelson said. "I love Minnesota.
"Really, throughout my career, what I've done is taken teams with bad records and with every situation I've made them better. I like to be around young players. I've had great success with bad teams, getting them on the right track, getting them to max out. I have a great history there."
Nelson, of course, is the NBA's all-time winningest coach and recently retired/was forced to retire after a bumpy stint in Golden State. He's 71, so he's not necessarily a long-term solution. But in terms of trying to turn around a young roster, he indeed might be a decent fit. At the very least, he's an incredibly intriguing one.
Putting Nelson's up-and-down style with Ricky Rubio running point, Kevin Love throwing outlets and Derrick Williams running the floor is nothing short of fascinating for any NBA junkie.
Would that translate to wins?
Hard to say. But a Minnesota franchise commandeered by Kahn and Nelson would be some incredible fodder. Kahn wants the team to run, and you know that's what Nelson will do.
One guy, though, that's probably not excited about this idea is Anthony Randolph. I bet he thought he was finally free of Nelson. Not for long, maybe.