About eight months and one week after having surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his left knee, Ricky Rubio said the knee feels fine, he can’t wait to practice….
(Kevin Love missed the morning shoot with an illness and he is questionable for tonight’s game with Milwaukee and Andrei Kirilenko will miss his second straight game with back spasms.)
But no, he doesn’t yet know, exactly, when he will return to play point guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“No idea,” he said, smiling, surrounded by a mob of media after Friday’s shootaround. During the Wolves’ last road trip, Rubio went to visit Richard Steadman, the Vail, Colorado surgeon who repaired his knee on March 21. He was given the green light to go full-out in practice.
Now he just has to actually have a practice to get some idea where he stands.
“It’s going to be my first practice with contact,” Rubio said of his first true team workout, which could come as early as Saturday. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel, if I’m going to feel great, if I’m going to feel weak. I don’t have any idea. I have it all in my mind, ‘Ooh, I want to practice. I want to dunk.’ But I don’t think I can.’’
That said, Rubio seemed extremely eager to get back on the court. The last eight-plus months have been difficult. “I think the most difficult part is being patient,” Rubio said. “You can’t do more than they said because you can get hurt. Being patient is hard. It’s hard but it is what it is. You just have to work as hard as you can and that’s it.”
Not that he has been wasting his time on the bench. Rubio said he has been able to learn a lot about his teammates – particularly the new ones – by watching from the sidelines. “You see all the plays, all the big mistakes when you are out that sometimes you don’t realize when you’re on the court,” he said. “Now I know them even better than I knew them before. “
Still, it will take time to mesh with the rebuild Wolves roster. “Let’s see how many practices I can go with them and see if I can still pass,” he joked.
Rubio said he’s up to speed on understanding coach Rick Adelman’s offense; more of it has been installed this season compared to last year’s strike-shortened season.
"That's what the point guard has to do," he said. "He has to learn all the plays. Not only in your position. You have to know where everybody has to go."
The Wolves’ upcoming schedule includes a lot of potential practice days. The team has three days between Friday’s game with Milwaukee and Tuesday’s road game at Philadelphia. After the two-game road trip, which includes at game at Boston Wednesday, the Wolves play at home vs. Cleveland , then has a four-day break. That’s why one possible return date could be Dec. 12 against Denver.
But much more will be known once Rubio actually gets on the court for a full-contact practice. And no, that new commercial for Footlocker and Adidas, which featured some backyard wrestling, doesn’t count.
“No that wasn’t contact,” he said. “It was all fake.”
Rubio said he has almost 100 percent full movement in the surgically-repaired knee, and feels good about his ability to slash and move side –to-side. He said he will not use a knee brace, but will use a sleeve on the knee at first. But he plans on ditching that as soon as possible.
And Rubio sounded like a gradual return isn’t an idea he’s in love with.
“I don’t think so,” he said, when asked if he could cut down his minutes to start with. “But I will have to. That’s what the doctors said, that the first games we’ll have to limit the minutes, which I say OK. But once I’m out there, I don’t think I can handle that. But it’s going to be coach’s decision to put me on the court.”
Rubio said he had done a lot of running, but admitted that he has a ways to go to be in basketball game shape; he said he will do some extra sprint work after practices to regain that.
He can’t wait to begin.
“It feels good,” he said. “It feels like everybody was on the same track, everybody was working hard – me, the trainers the doctors. I think everybody did a great job. We just have to keep following and now it’s time to practice. As soon as I’m ready I want to play.”