Working as a server at Ruby Tuesdays last Friday night, I stopped en route to a table, a bowl of parmesan shrimp pasta burning my hand, to watch the plasma TV hanging over the bar. Stopped to watch Ricky Rubio crumple to the court.
In that moment—only 16.4 seconds remaining in the game—a collective wave of fear washed over Minnesota Timberwolves fans everywhere. And when the confirmation of a torn left ACL hit the media last Saturday morning, the murmuring started.
Just when the Wolves seem to have turned a corner after suffering consecutive losing seasons, their rookie sensation point guard is sidelined for the season. Standing at one game over .500—and only one game shy of the No. 8 playoff seat—when Rubio was injured, they have now lost two straight and are a game under .500. Can Minnesota cling to its hopes of a postseason presence?
Only the bench will tell.
After losing what should have been a fairly easy game to the New Orleans Hornets, the Timberwolves scored 127 points to defeat the Phoenix Suns by five on the road last week. Kevin Love set a franchise mark with his 15th 30-point game of the season, and Nikola Pekovic lit up the floor with 24 points and eight rebounds.
The two big man didn’t defeat Phoenix on their own, though. In a true statement of teamwork, Minnesota’s bench tallied an impressive 52 points. Rookie Derrick Williams grabbed two steals and 19 points, and Wayne Ellington and Michael Beasley added 15 apiece.
“There are people on this bench who can start for other teams,” Williams said. “We don’t have a weak point.”
While Ridnour will definitely serve as a solid replacement and provide leadership on the floor, there’s just something special about the way Rubio created plays for his teammates. Hall of Famer Magic Johnson tweeted:
“There’s a difference between passing to somebody and creating a shot for a guy. Rubio creates a shot.”
Minnesota head coach Rick Adelman also acknowledged how detrimental the loss of Rubio could be. “It’s like Steve (Nash) being out for these guys. He makes plays other guys don’t make.”
The win in Phoenix kicked off a seven-game road trip for Love and his squad that has since seen Minnesota drop games at Utah and against the Lakers in the Staples Center. Both games were close and slipped away at the end, but there’s no sugar-coating Minnesota’s situation. To remain competitive in the race for the 2012 playoffs, every man on the roster needs to be at the top of his game—every game. If everyone isn’t, we can expect more of what we saw Thursday and Friday night—competitive, hard fought games, but losses.
So what do you think, Timberwolves fans? Do the Wolves—all of them—have what it takes to finish out the season strong?
Rubio himself offers advice via Twitter:
“Thank you everybody for ur support. I promise I will be back soon and stronger. There is only one way to take: move forward and stay positive.”
Here’s to Rubio’s quick recovery, and here’s to moving forward.