Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio's playing-time limit moved beyond a topic of conversation into a point of contention in Wednesday night's 91-83 loss to Brooklyn at Target Center.
This time, Rubio did not push or exceed that 26- to 28-minute limit imposed by medical staff to protect his surgically repaired knee.
The issue Wednesday was he never reached it, and he clearly was angry about it afterward.
He played 24 minutes, and not at all in a fourth quarter when acting head coach Terry Porter rode reserve J.J. Barea the entire way.
Afterward, Rubio expressed frustration that he was not on the floor on a night when the Wolves lost for the seventh time in eight games. The Nets now are 12-2 since P.J. Carlesimo replaced fired Avery Johnson as coach.
"Yeah," Rubio said when asked if he was upset, "but it is what it is. T.P. preferred to play players who were playing. I don't know what to say, you know."
Rubio went to the scorer's table to check back into the game with the Wolves trailing by eight with about four minutes left in the game.
He returned to the bench to await a timeout when play continued without stoppage. He then stayed there for good when Porter decided to stick with Barea through an eventful fourth quarter after Barea made a three-point shot that got the Wolves within 82-77 with 2:37 left.
Porter planned to sub Barea out for Rubio after he came up limping when he got hit in the thigh, but kept him on the floor when Barea played on and made that three-pointer.
"At that point, I just rolled with him," said Porter, who coached his ninth consecutive game for the Wolves in place of absent head coach Rick Adelman. "He was hot and made a shot. That was the only difference. It wasn't something Ricky did. It's tough decisions in regards to personnel at the end of games based on who's hot and who's not. We just talked about it and decided to go with J.J."
When told what Porter said his reasoning was, Rubio said: "Maybe it was that. I mean, I don't know. I don't know what to say."
Rubio said he plans to speak with Porter about the matter.
"Yeah, I didn't like it," Rubio said. "I think he thinks what's best for team. I want to know what happened and we're going to talk."
Barea had been, for much of the fourth quarter, in a contentious battle with Nets backup guard C.J. Watson. It was a battle Watson won by turning the proverbial tables on Barea, a guy who two days earlier was fined $5,000 by the NBA for his second flopping offense this season.
Watson scored nine consecutive points during a three-minute stretch early in the fourth quarter when the Nets stretched a two-point lead into a 77-68 bulge.
During that stretch, Watson also goaded Barea into five successive fouls in fewer than three minutes by getting physical with him.
"J.J. Barea's a flopping guy, so I tried to give him a taste of his own medicine," Watson told the Nets' postgame television broadcast afterward. "I hope I don't get fined, though."
Porter stayed with Barea despite the fouls, because of that three-pointer made and seven points scored and three assists collected while playing all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter.
"That's the first time in my life," Barea said of those five fouls. "I was doing the same thing they were doing to me on the other side. I wasn't getting the calls. That's the way it goes sometimes."