Ricky Rubio is done talking about his knee, how it feels, how close he is to 100 percent.
"I don't want to think about the knee anymore," he said Monday.
So he'll have to let his play do the talking. And, recently, Rubio's game has taken such a step it's hard not to think that he has come all the way back from reconstructive surgery on his left knee. As Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said, Rubio is playing with confidence. And that confidence has translated into a much more aggressive game.
Over the past five games Rubio has 23 steals, second-most in a five-game stretch in franchise history. And while this is more because of instinct than his newly-aggressive nature, it is an indication of how confident he feels in his knee. Rubio is averaging 2.1 steals per game, third in the league behind Chris Paul (2.5) and Mike Conley (2.2).
Perhaps a better indication of how good Rubio is feeling is his ability to get to the free-throw line.
In his rookie season Rubio never got to the free-throw line 10 times in one game. This season he's done it in three of his past four games. That has allowed Rubio to score consistently even with his shot still inconsistent. The fact that he is able to get to the basket and get to the line even with teams sagging off him is a testament to the quickness Rubio has regained, as is his 15.1-point average over his past seven games.
"It is a sign of his aggressiveness," Adelman said. "He is picking and choosing the right time, when he has a chance to get [to the basket] and get bumped. He is going to get to the line."
Said Rubio: "It's just that we have to be more aggressive. We have to attack more, get to the line. And, maybe, last year, I was a rookie, and they didn't call those fouls. But because we don't have Kevin [Love], who had like 20 attempts a game, we have to get those free throws."
By any measure Rubio's game has ramped up. After not scoring in double figures in his first 19 games back, he has done so in eight of his past nine, including seven straight. He has nine or more assists in seven of nine games and he has even rebounded well of late. Sunday Rubio had his second consecutive game with at least 10 points and five assists, rebounds and steals, becoming the third player in Wolves history to do that and the first since Terrell Brandon in 2001.
But the Wolves struggles have continued even as Rubio has returned to form, which has frustrated him.
"I was talking to my dad [Sunday] night," Rubio said. "And I was like, 'I never lost so many games in a season.' I lost more games in the last month than all my life, I think. I'm not going to get used to it, and I'm never going to get used to it.''Notes
• Forward Chase Budinger was cleared to start on-court running and agility drills in a Monday check-up in Florida with Dr. James Andrews, the surgeon who performed the operation on Budinger's left knee Nov. 13. Budinger will be re-evaluated in two to three weeks. If all goes well then he would return to practice.
• Derrick Williams took teammates Rubio, Greg Stiemsma and J.J. Barea with him to the opening of his clothing store in Tucson, Ariz., on Monday night. Tucson is the home of the University of Arizona, where Williams played. It is about an hour's drive from Phoenix, the site of the Wolves' game Tuesday.