It is still a work in progress, but Ricky Rubio continues to inch his way back to full health.
Friday against the Lakers, the Timberwolves point guard, coming back from left knee surgery, scored nine points on 4-for-9 shooting with four rebounds, seven assists and two steals, though his two late turnovers proved costly.
Saturday? Another step.
He hit a 21-foot jumper early and followed with two driving layups. Then he drove, was fouled and made one of two free throws. In the first quarter alone he had seven points and three assists.
Because of the one-sided nature of Saturday's 115-86 victory over New Orleans, Rubio did not play in the fourth quarter and wound up with just 22 minutes. Still, he finished with nine points on 3-for-5 shooting, seven assists and a steal. Over his last four games, Rubio is averaging 10.3 points on 46.9 percent shooting, 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals.
"I've been afraid for my knee since Day 1," said Rubio of his surgically repaired left knee. "But now I'm starting to not think about it at all. I'm more comfortable, I can attack more the rim. Sometimes I feel a little slow, but I'm getting better."
Johnson makes impression
Well into his second 10-day contract, center Chris Johnson finally got to play for his coach Friday. Johnson, who made the most of his first 10-day deal with Rick Adelman away from the team, didn't play on Wednesday. But in Friday's loss to the Lakers, Johnson entered the game late in the third quarter and played well into the fourth, finishing with eight points on 3-for-4 shooting with five rebounds and two assists in 11 minutes.
Still struggling to find effective rotations, Adelman had Johnson and center Nikola Pekovic on the court together for a while. Adelman said he would consider playing them together more, even though Johnson hasn't played forward in the NBA. "We'd like to try it," Adelman said. "It depends on the situation. Chris is young, and he has not played that before. But sometimes you have to do things on the fly."
Johnson said he's willing to do anything to help the team. "If I play, I try to make the best of it, try to just bring some kind of energy," he said.
Behind the arc
It's a testament to the team's struggles behind the three-point arc that Alexey Shved's five threes Friday were a season high for a Wolves player.
It's been an up-and-down shooting season for Shved, but when he gets into a rhythm, he can be dangerous. It's just that Adelman never knows which Shved he's going to get. "Sometimes the threes he takes are tough shots for him," he said of Shved, who is shooting 31.9 percent on threes.
Adelman said Shved would get more open three-point attempts if the Wolves were at full strength. "Right now he's getting threes out of duress," Adelman said. "That's why he's up and down. But he's not afraid of anything. He's had to play through things, play through where he thinks he was fouled."
• The Wolves outrebounded the Hornets 44-28 after having been outrebounded in seven of their previous eight games.
• Saturday was Crunch-Hog Day, and because Crunch didn't see his shadow, the Wolves will make available $6 upper-level tickets for Wednesday's game against San Antonio.