Welcome to the Thursday edition of The Cooler, where some things never change even if you want them to. Let’s get to it:
*A few years ago, I wrote about how Ricky Rubio was the worst shooter in modern NBA history based on some simple criteria: Of all players as of December 2015 who had played at least 5,000 career minutes since the 1979-80 season, when the NBA adopted the three-point line, Rubio had the worst shooting percentage of all of them.
He has since made a pretty significant amount of improvement — shooting better than 40 percent each of the last three seasons after never doing that previously — and stands as just the 13th-worst of all-time. His shooting percentage the last three years (.409) would barely crack the top 100 worst all-time). But most of us would still agree that even an improved Rubio is still not a very good shooter.
His unreliable shot was the primary reason Tom Thibodeau traded him after the 2016-17 season away from the Wolves to the Jazz (for the first-round pick that became Josh Okogie). There are countless things to miss about Rubio — front and center of which are his joy, passion and vision — but as a calculated decision about how Rubio’s skill set translated to crunch time of games, Thibodeau was not wrong.
With that as a preamble, let’s turn our attention to Game 5 of the Jazz’s playoff series Wednesday against Houston. It was an elimination game with Utah trailing 3 games to 1.
Rubio played a very good overall game, finishing with 17 points (on a respectable 7 for 15 shooting) and 11 assists. He made a short jumper late in the fourth quarter to pull Utah within one point of the Rockets at 94-93. But then, after a defensive stop, Rubio found himself in transition wide open in the left corner. He took the pass, loaded up the perfect look, and with the chance to give his team the lead with just over a minute left … missed everything.
The Jazz never scored again, losing 100-93 and getting eliminated. It was possible in that exact moment to feel very badly for Rubio and also to deeply understand the trade at the same time. That the airball became a punch line is unfortunate but understandable.
The sad part is that the air ball might be the last memory of Rubio in Utah. He’s a free agent after this season, and it’s highly questionable whether the Jazz will re-sign him. Rubio missed 14 games this season; the Jazz won the first 8 and was 10-4 overall without him. Donovan Mitchell had the ball in his hands a lot more when Rubio didn’t play, and the results were quite good.
Rubio is unsurprisingly a fan favorite in Utah, much as he largely was in Minnesota. He’ll be loved wherever he winds up, and he’ll probably keep shooting better than he ever did here. But with the game on the line, he’ll never be the guy you want taking the shot.
*I won’t pretend to know who the Vikings will or should take in the draft, but I have a preference: two offensive linemen and a defensive tackle in the first three rounds.
*A night after having two pitches sail behind his head from Mets reliever Jacob Rhame, the Phillies Rhys Hoskins took Rhame deep Wednesday and proceeded to take 34 seconds to trot around the bases — the slowest home run trot in MLB this season, per ESPN.
“If a ball goes over your head the night before, the best way to get back at the pitcher is by putting the ball in the seats,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “So I thought it was worthy of him having that moment and really taking it all in, soaking it all in. He deserved that.”
*The Twins are now No. 22 in MLB in bullpen ERA at an unsightly 4.90. Their primary guys have generally done a pretty good job, but it’s becoming even more apparent that they’re an arm or two short. Maybe that’s a problem that will smooth itself out. Maybe it doesn’t need to be addressed immediately. But it’s not great right now.