PORTLAND, ORE. — More than two months into his long-awaited first season in the NBA, Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio no longer is a regular fixture on ESPN's "SportsCenter" highlights, as he was almost nightly in the season's opening weeks.
His shooting percentage has dropped to 36.4 because of his share of 1-for-8 and 5-for-16 nights.
He hasn't reached double figures in assists in his past 12 games after doing so in eight of 10 games immediately before that.
Has the opposition figured out his game and adjusted, as Houston coach Kevin McHale suggested would happen after teams got their first look at him?
Has he hit the proverbial rookie wall 37 games into this brutal 66-game season unlike any other in the NBA, let alone the comparatively leisurely 42-game seasons he played in Europe the past two years?
"I think it's all of that," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "They're definitely playing him differently. They're playing him physical. In our league, the coaches scout well and they figure things out. And we just haven't shot the ball very in a lot of games when he's out there, or he'd have a lot more assists than he has."
Teams increasingly have played off Rubio on pick-and-rolls -- the lifeblood of the Wolves offense -- by sending defenders underneath screens rather than over the top of them, daring Rubio to beat them with his shooting.
He is shooting 21.7 percent in the first three games of this rugged four-game Western trip that ends Saturday night in Portland after going 1-for-8 each night in games against the Clippers and Lakers.
"No, I don't think about it," Rubio said when asked if he has hit that rookie wall because of the demanding schedule. "It's just some tough games with my shooting shots. I have to work on it and keep improving."Homecomings
The Wolves' first visit to the Rose Garden this season has even more Portland connections than the past year or two because Adelman now is coach.
He coached six seasons at an Oregon junior college before Trail Blazers coach Jack Ramsay hired him as an assistant coach in 1983. He spent 11 years with the Blazers, the final five as the head coach who twice led them to the NBA Finals, and he still lives in Portland.
Wolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn was raised in Portland and still owns a home there, as does guard Martell Webster. Kevin Love, of course, is from Portland, too.
"It's always special to go back, but at this point, it's just another game," said Love, now in his fourth NBA season. "I always get to see my immediate family, which is nice, but I just saw them at All-Star [weekend], and my very close friends, who I consider family as well. Other than that, it's not any different than any other game."Etc.
• The Blazers have Minnesota connections as well: They re-signed veteran center Joel Przybilla -- Monticello's own -- last week and he played his first game this season with a 19-minute appearance Thursday night against Miami. Former Timberwolves forward Craig Smith signed with Portland as a free agent in December.
• Wolves rookie guard Malcolm Lee scored 12 points on 5-for-15 shooting and had nine assists, six turnovers, three rebounds and three steals in 31-plus minutes Thursday in his first game back in the NBA Development League. He is expected to remain there at least through the weekend in his second time with the Sioux Falls Skyforce as he plays his way back from December knee surgery.
• For anyone curious about Luke Babbitt, the former Nevada forward whom the Blazers drafted in 2010 with the 16th overall pick they got from the Wolves for Webster: He's back from the D League and averaging 1.5 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 5.7 minutes in 24 games with Portland.