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Patrick Reusse

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Rubio burns inside, and it came to fore in Friday's fourth quarter

Ricky Rubio’s homecoming had started with him being introduced as the first member of the Utah Jazz lineup on Friday night. The sellout crowd was not yet settled in Target Center, yet those paying attention gave Rubio a loud ovation.

Asked later about the greeting, Rubio said: “I have a lot of friends here. I haven’t seen them for a while, so it was good.’’

This seemed to put the Minnesota fans in the “friend’’ category, and that would not be a stretch. The difficulty in making jump shots was a frustration for Wolves hard-cores, yet it never changed an overall fondness for Rubio -- as an athlete who came off as devoid of arrogance in his personality, as a tough competitor, as someone determined to make himself part of a winning team in the NBA.

All of those things Minnesotans were able to love in Ricky, if only that stroke of his led to a jump shot that came quicker and with more arc.

Rick Adelman, Flip Saunders and Sam Mitchell all coached Rubio, with various views as to whether his wonderful floor generalship could make up for his flawed shooting.

There was no such quandary for Tom Thibodeau, who became the president for basketball and the coach before the 2016-17 season. There were Rubio trade rumors almost immediately. There were a few weeks last winter when Rubio was making jump shots as never before in the NBA, but that didn’t change the opinion of many that Thibodeau was going to move Ricky if possible.

The Wolves wound up sending him to Utah this summer for a future first-rounder, then used the money saved to sign Jeff Teague, another veteran point guard, as a free agent.

Friday's game was a bit of a brawl from the start, and the Wolves were almost as much of an offensive mess as they had been in losing the season opener on Wednesday in San Antonio.

They were down 65-58 with three minutes to go in the third quarter, and then closed with a 12-0 run to take a 70-65 lead. At that point, Rubio was 3-for-8 from the field, with seven assists, four fouls and a total of eight points.

Bottom line: His impact had been minimal.

Then came the fourth quarter. The game turned fierce, and Rubio had much to do with that from Utah’s standpoint. At one point, Thibodeau's best defender, Jimmy Butler, went at Rubio defensively, and they wound up in a tangle that resulted in a double technical.

Rubio kept being put at the line, including on a couple of foolish fouls by the Wolves. Rubio made a vital three, and eight of nine free throws. He scored 11 points in the fourth to finish with 19.

If Jamal Crawford had not gone lights out in the fourth, scoring all 17 of his points (including a game-winning three from the far right sideline), Rubio and the Jazz would have come into his old home and left with an upset victory.

Utah coach Quin Snyder was asked about Rubio’s furious play in the fourth and said:

“Ricky is kind of stoic, but it’s burning inside if you know him. I like to see the passion in his game. You saw that tonight and I expect to keep seeing it.’’

Rubio was in civilian clothes in the visitors locker room. When the Butler altercation was mentioned, he said:

“It was the NBA. Everybody is trying to get a win. Whatever it takes to get that win … Everybody is trying to make a point.’’

As for the emotion of playing this soon in a new season against his former team, Rubio said: “Once the game starts, you forget about what the emotions were before. You forget and play to win. We didn’t play that well tonight.’’

Rubio also offered this on Crawford bailing out the Wolves in the fourth quarter: “That’s why he has been in the league all this time, playing on winning teams.’’

Reusse: UNC's approach to NCAA charges might just work for Gophers

Jan Gangelhoff was 56 when she died from cancer in March 2005. This was unfortunate for Jan, family and friends, and perhaps in the wake of Friday’s news from the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, for the legacy of Minnesota’s finest on-court days in men’s basketball.

Gangelhoff was the office manager for Clem Haskins’ program, and came forward to inform first the St. Paul Pioneer Press and then enforcement officials of having written 400 pieces of course work for 20 basketball players from 1995 to 1998.

This revelation wound up taking credit away from the Gophers for the 1997 Big Ten championship, a place in the 1997 Final Four and the 1998 NIT championship. It also cost Haskins his job and Bobby Jackson official recognition for his greatness as a Gopher.

But here’s the deal: If Jan still was with us, perhaps she could recall a few of those papers finding their way to non-basketball players — a late-breaking revelation that this aggressive tutoring was not restricted to athletes.

And then maybe the NCAA could announce, “Based on the general availability, the panel cannot conclude a systemic effort to impermissibly benefit student athletes,’’ and then the Gophers could get back all those wins and various banners.

Plus, the Gophers could bring back that montage painting that used to grace a basketball area, where Clem was painted away but the person charged with doing so neglected to remove his shoes.

Yes. The absurdity of North Carolina disavowing the report it commissioned (and once approved) on two decades of organized academic fraud benefiting scores of athletes and getting away with it; heck, Ski U Mah coming up with a new theory on its scandal could be no greater scam.

There was no attendance required and only the submission of one paper (or two shorter papers) to get class credit at UNC. And the grading was done by Deborah Crowder, a hard-core Tar Heels fan and basically an office manager.

My favorite: a 146-word “final’’ paper on Rosa Parks that earned an A-minus from Crowder for an athlete.

There’s much outstanding stuff to be found online on the NCAA/UNC’s Theater of the Absurd. For a real hoot, check out this Dan Wetzel column

PATRICK'S PLUS THREE

Percentage chance of being Vikings starting QB for 2018 opener:

• T.E. Bridgewater (70 percent). The Vikings will come off a 10-day break in Atlanta on Dec. 3. Bridgewater will start then and for the rest of this season, and the Vikings will reach the playoffs.

• Jimmy Garropolo (20 percent). This is the chance Teddy’s knee doesn’t work and Rick Spielman takes another expensive QB dive.

• Colin Kaepernick (10 percent). I’m saying our guy Zygi is exactly the enlightened owner to end the NFL’s boycott of the activist QB and give him a shot.

Read Patrick Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at preusse@startribune.com.