His season officially over, Wolves guard Ricky Rubio said his offseason will be devoted to getting fully healthy and he hinted that might mean not playing for the Spanish National Team at the European Championships in September.
Rubio, ruled out for the rest of the season by coach Flip Saunders on Saturday, talked briefly Monday before the team left for Sacramento. His season limited to just 22 games by his left ankle injury, Rubio said getting healthy is job No. 1.
“I have time,” he said. “I want to get ready. I want to be healthy, and I want to improve. The main thing this summer is going to be to get healthy, get 100 percent and get ready.”
That will mean continuing rehab well into the offseason but likely won’t include surgery, he said. But it might mean missing the European tournament.
“Of course I have thoughts, but right now I can’t think about it until the season is over,” he said. “Of course the priority this summer is my health. I haven’t been healthy, and I owe this team a lot. In four years, I have one good season, an 82-game season. I owe this team a lot.”
Rubio, who Saunders said likely wouldn’t be cleared for competitive basketball by the team doctors for “a couple months,” first injured his left ankle Nov. 7 at Orlando, the team’s fifth game of the season. He returned to action Feb. 2, but hasn’t played since March 18.
“It’s been a tough season,” Rubio said. “I’m trying to get healthy. Finally I was kind of healthy and I was playing with a little pain. But at one point I couldn’t do any more. It’s tough because I want to be out there on the court. I did everything I could, but I couldn’t.”
Next season will be a crucial one for Rubio, who is coming off a career-low 35.6 shooting percentage. During his extensive rehab from the initial injury, Rubio worked extensively with shot coach Mike Penberthy. And, initially upon his return, his shot looked improved. But as time went on it flattened out again.
“When he came back it was like a training camp,” Saunders said. “So he basically had training camp legs. He lost his legs a little. … He’s going to continue to work on it. Shooting comes from your legs. And If you looked at him previously, he didn’t use his legs as much as he should have. When he came back he was using his legs more, jumping more. But as he kept playing, you could see he was getting fatigued.”
Rubio also expects improvement next season.
“I think this season I was going on the right track,” he said. “When I was healthy I was feeling good. I was working hard and feeling my shot.”
Rubio’s rookie season ended when he tore the ACL in his left knee March 9, 2012. He returned Dec. 12 of that year, then played all 82 games last season.
Calling both injuries “freak accidents,” Saunders said he’s not concerned that Rubio is injury-prone, though he acknowledged that players who play with Rubio’s intensity are at a higher injury risk.
Rubio said he’s not ready to write off the year as a total loss.
“I’m trying to be positive, even if it’s tough in these moments,” he said. “When you only play 22 games, I try to take good things. I learned a lot. New coaches, learned with my teammates. I grew up as a player. Every injury you have, you gotta be stronger, especially mentally. This one made me smarter. I appreciate more the little details and little things.’’