The catalyst for the Minnesota Timberwolves massive turnaround may not be around for the rest of the season.
In a potentially devastating blow to the team's playoff hopes, T-Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio appeared to suffer a serious knee injury during Friday's home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Rubio was injured with 16 seconds left in the game when his left knee buckled awkwardly during a collision with Kobe Bryant. The rookie was helped off the court and reportedly was in a fair amount of pain after the game.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Timberwolves are fearing the worst, with a torn ACL the dreaded possibility. A full examination will be conducted during an MRI scheduled for Saturday. A torn ACL would easily take Rubio out for the remainder of this season and recovery could stretch into next season. Typical recovery for a torn ACL stretches nine months or longer.
Rubio, Minnesota's first-round pick in the 2009 draft, finally made his way to the NBA this year after playing the past two seasons with FC Barcelona. The results have been nothing short of spectacular. Rubio has electrified the Minnesota fan base with his flashy passes and command of the offense. The guard leads all rookies with 8.2 assists per game, while also chipping in 10.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest.
The stellar play from Rubio combined with All-Star Kevin Love has Minnesota at 21-20, currently just 0.5 games behind Houston for the eighth and final playoff seed. The Timberwolves haven't made the playoffs since the 2003-04 campaign when they lost in the Western Conference Finals. Since then, Minnesota has managed just one winning season, including a brutal 32-132 record over the past two seasons.
If Rubio is forced to miss significant time, guard Luke Ridnour provides an able replacement. Though also a point guard, the nine-year veteran has started alongside Rubio as Minnesota has employed a small lineup with ample ball-handlers. J.J. Barea, who spent last season with the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, would also assume a larger role off the Minnesota bench.
The loss would definitely be felt in the entertainment department. Rubio has made the Timberwolves watchable again with his precise passing, behind-the-back dishes and no-look dimes. Since the All-Star break, Rubio has cut down significantly on his turnovers, playing both entertaining and efficient basketball.
UPDATE: According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and SI.com, the MRI conducted on Rubio has confirmed a torn ACL. The guard will miss the remainder of the season. The recovery time will also take him out of the Summer Olympics, where Rubio was scheduled to participate for his native Spain.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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