OAKLAND, calif. – Five days after Wolves starting center Nikola Pekovic underwent a surgeon’s scalpel in North Carolina, starting point guard Ricky Rubio will have “diagnostic” arthroscopic surgery on his ailing left ankle on Monday near Los Angeles.
That’s the ankle Rubio so badly sprained in a game at Orlando at season’s beginning, an injury that has never really healed even though he played 22 games on it this season before he was essentially shut down for the season nearly a month ago.
Rubio visited a specialist in Los Angeles when the Wolves played the Lakers there Friday. The Southern California Orthopedic Institute’s Dr. Robert Ferkel will perform surgery in Van Nuys, Calif., that’s intended to give Ferkel and the Wolves’ medical staff more information about what is still causing Rubio soreness and pain.
Wolves coach and chief basketball executive Flip Saunders said the surgery will “clean up” tissue around the ankle and give everyone involved a better look.
“We don’t know how minor or major it is,” Saunders said before Saturday’s 110-101 loss at Golden State in which Wolves rookie Zach LaVine scored a career-high 37 points and Warriors MVP candidate Stephen Curry again dazzled with circus shots and 34 points of his own. “It wasn’t responding the way we’d expect it to respond. We’ll know more after they get in there.”
The Wolves won’t know a recovery timetable or an expected return to basketball work until after the surgery. Rubio said recently he is fully committed to getting healthy so he can play again for a Wolves team that’s invested $55 million in him for the next four seasons.
That meant it’s unlikely he’ll play for his Spanish national team this summer. Monday’s surgery practically guarantees Rubio will spend his offseason focusing on the NBA season that starts in October.
Pekovic faces five to six months’ rehabilitation after he underwent surgery last week that shaved bone near his Achilles’ tendon. It’s a procedure doctors are hopeful will relieve pain in his ankle and heel that has caused him to miss at least half of the last two seasons.
The Wolves owe Rubio that $55 million until 2019 and are committed to pay Pekovic nearly $36 million for the next three seasons beyond this one.
Race to the bottom
Despite LaVine’s career night — his 37 points broke the Wolves rookie record of 35 held by Christian Laettner — Saturday’s loss leaves the Wolves tied for the NBA’s worst record and correspondingly the best chance in the NBA draft lottery after New York beat Orlando. The Wolves have lost their past 10 games.
Both teams have won 16 games with just two games left for each. If the two teams still are tied come late Wednesday night, they will split lottery chances so each has a slightly less than 22.5 percent to win the June’s draft No. 1 pick.
A blind draw would be held late this week to determine who gets a decimal-point better chance at the first pick and who would draft ahead of the other if neither team gets top-three lucky in the May lottery.
The importance of finishing with the worst record or winning the blind draw: The team deemed worst can draft no lower than fourth overall.
Saunders was well aware of the Knicks-Magic game being played three hours earlier on the East Coast, even if he wouldn’t necessarily call himself a scoreboard watcher with so much at stake.
“I don’t necessarily watch,” he said. “But I’d like to know what’s going to happen at the end. Why, what’s the score?”
No more KG
Wolves veteran Kevin Martin started Saturday and played ill for the second consecutive night. Forward Robbie Hummel didn’t play because of a bruised hip/pelvis injured in Los Angeles on Friday when he fell hard after trying to take a charge.
That again left the Wolves with just seven healthy players, and Saunders said no help is coming — no Kevin Garnett, nobody — in the season’s final two games this week. Until Saturday, Saunders said there was a chance Garnett would play again this season.
“What we have is what we’ll have,” Saunders said. “With what has happened with Pekovic and Rubio, we’re not going to take a chance with anybody we feel can be a part of our future for one or two games, where something happens and they get hurt. We’re not going to do that.”
• LaVine scored 24 of his 37 points in the second half and shot the Wolves back from 17 points behind to within 94-93 with four minutes remaining before Klay Thompson answered. Inversely, fellow rookie Andrew Wiggins scored 17 first-half points on 7-for-11 shooting but scored none thereafter. LaVine’s previous career high was 28 against the Lakers in Los Angeles in November.
• Martin took fluids intravenously before Saturday’s game so he could play. “I should be in bed,” he said.
• Hummel was in uniform so the Wolves had the mandatory eight players they needed to play the game, but he decided after warmups that his bruised pelvis was too sore to play.
• Martin returned Saturday to Oracle Arena — where he once scored 51 points — on the one-year anniversary of former Wolves teammate/friend Corey Brewer’s 51-point game against Houston at Target Center.