Eleven months ago, Timberwolves rookie Ricky Rubio converged on Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant late in a game at Target Center, planted his left foot to impede Bryant's path and ... tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a twist of fate that changed everything.
The Lakers came to Target Center for the first time since then Friday night, this time to open the month of February.
After such a long recovery road back from knee surgery that repaired two ligaments, Rubio was asked if he felt any trepidation about seeing Kobe and the Lakers again.
"No, that's long time ago," he said. "I don't want to think about, I don't think about it. That's the past."
Replays showed Rubio plant his leg and the knee flexed an instant before Bryant brushed by him.
"I don't remember touching him," Bryant said. "I just remember him going down and turning around and him being on the floor. I don't think anybody really realized the extent of the injury, but it became concerning when he couldn't get up. It's always the ones that don't seem to be like much are the ones that are really [serious]."
Enough time has passed that Wolves coach Rick Adelman no longer has to deal with Rubio's playing-time limit.
"They say he can play 32 and that's about what he's going to play anyway," Adelman said, "so I don't really think about it."
Superman flies away
Lakers superstar center Dwight Howard flew home to Los Angeles to have one of those platelet-rich plasma procedures done on his hurting right shoulder Saturday. He will rejoin the team on its traditional long (seven games this season) February Grammys trip in Detroit.
That meant veteran Pau Gasol started in his place, which meant a popular point of conversation, if not contention, didn't apply for one night.
"That's one story you guys won't have to write," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters, referring to his decision to bring Gasol off the bench for most of the last month. "You might have to work a little bit."
Said Gasol, when told he was starting: "I know, right: Big news, headlines."
Rubio on Thursday came to Gasol's defense, saying with a laugh that if the Lakers didn't want to treat his friend and Spanish national teammate properly, "We are more than welcome to get him."
D'Antoni responded by saying, "When he gets a team, he can coach. He can make that decision. But, c'mon ... "
Give him some Love
Here's something for that dwindling minority of Wolves fans -- if any are still out there -- who believe their team is better without Kevin Love's inattention to defense and ball-stopping tendencies: Kobe's in your camp.
"I agree," said Bryant, who played with Love on last summer's U.S. Olympic team. "You can send him my way. ... It's idiotic. It really is."
Love is expected back in Minnesota on Saturday after spending more than two weeks in New York City rehabbing his right shooting hand after having surgery there to repair two broken bones.
The NBA suspended Clippers forward Matt Barnes one game for hitting Wolves backup center Greg Stiemsma in the throat Wednesday at Target Center. Barnes was ejected and served his suspension Friday at Toronto.