Hartman: Let's steal Thunder's formula, Rubio says

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 16, 2012 - 11:09 PM

The Timberwolves guard sees a lot to emulate in Oklahoma City.

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Rookie guard Ricky Rubio

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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Ricky Rubio sees inspiration in one of the teams in the NBA Finals.

"We can be like the Oklahoma [City] Thunder," the Timberwolves star point guard said in an interview with EuroHoops.net.

Rubio was asked: "Are you jealous of the Oklahoma Thunder? Do you think Minnesota is going to emerge as a new NBA powerhouse the way the Thunder did?"

He responded: "OKC is a good example to follow, is a young team with a lot of talent. We have to keep working hard so we can be a team like OKC."

In its first season in Oklahoma City, the Thunder struggled in 2008-09, going 23-59. Since then, though, the team has been a powerhouse, winning at least 60 percent of its games each season.

As for his knee surgery, Rubio said everything is "very good. It's a slow process, but I am progressing and exactly where I am supposed to be at this point. I go to rehab every day and I am getting better and better."

Asked what the fans can expect from the Timberwolves in the near future, Rubio said: "We are a very young team, we are hungry to get better and play better and get in the next playoffs."

Rubio spoke about the number of injuries the Wolves suffered during the past season, including his own. "Every team had injuries this season," he said. "We had bad luck but that can only make us stronger and it's already making us want to play better next season."

Rubio talked about center Nicola Pekovic. "Pekovic is a good center," Rubio said. "He has amazing hands to catch the ball and has a very high basketball IQ. I enjoy playing with him because he knows his place on the court and you can trust him."

Meanwhile, like Rubio said, he has stayed in Minnesota and is spending a lot of time trying to get the knee in shape so he can play early next season.

More home runs

A year ago, the Twins had hit 18 home runs after 34 games at Target Field. Now with Trevor Plouffe leading the way, they are ahead of that pace with 29 home runs at home this season.

Justin Morneau, who has two homers at home this year, believes warmer weather is a big reason for the increase.

"I think the ball -- you go anywhere, you go to Chicago early in the year and the ball doesn't carry like it does once [it gets warmer]," he said. "I don't know what the temperature is, but it seems to me around 75-80 degrees, the ball seems to carry a little bit better and we've seen that the last couple of days. I think during the day it definitely carries a lot better here, so maybe we'll get some more day games next year or whatever it is. I think it's something that the time of the year definitely changes what the ball does. But it has been fun to see, and obviously it's a lot more fun when we're hitting more homers than they are."

Top grades

This past academic year, the University of Minnesota had 275 athletes reach a 3.0 GPA, second in the Big Ten to only Ohio State with 318.

Northwestern, the only private school in the Big Ten, had 205, as did Michigan, which ranks as one of the top academic schools in the country.

The presence of new scholastic adviser Lynn Holleran and her staff has resulted in Gophers athletes compiling a 3.19 GPA last year.

To get the good grade-point average, 38 percent of some 700 Gophers athletes had a 3.0 GPA or better.

According to the Minnesota Daily, 35 of 62 track athletes make the list, while the women's basketball team had 10 of its 13 players make the mark.

And the football team had a 3.0 GPA this year.

Other Gophers updates

Sports Illustrated recently picked the Gophers football team to go 0-8 in the Big Ten next season.

The Gophers will open the 2012-13 basketball season facing American University on Nov. 9. Then they will go to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament Nov. 22-24. They could play host to either Western Michigan or Texas A&M at home on a date to be set as an extra game because they are playing in that tournament, as per an NCAA rule. They play at Florida State -- ranked No. 15 at the end of last season -- with little rest on Nov. 27. They will also face South Dakota State, ranked No. 42 in the RPI last year, on Dec. 4, North Dakota State (150 RPI ranking) on Dec. 11, and will play at Southern California in December.

Gophers distance runner Hassan Mead will run the 10,000 and 5,000 meters in the Olympic Trials at Eugene, Ore., on Friday. Meanwhile, the Gophers track team has signed an outstanding distance runner named Jeffrey Cottrell, a Hermantown, Minn., native from Spokane Falls (Wash.) Community College, who is expected to compete well in the Big Ten.

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