Rubio's fourth-quarter poise gets noticed

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOODKYOUNGBLOOD@STARTRIBUNE.COM
  • Updated: January 3, 2012 - 11:26 AM

The rookie has played particularly well late in games.

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Minnesota's Ricky Rubio

Photo: Stacy Bengs, Associated Press

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People keep talking about whether Ricky Rubio should be starting games for the Timberwolves. But there isn't much disagreement as to how he is finishing them.

Rubio's strong fourth quarters already are becoming a hot topic. After Sunday's victory over Dallas, Mavericks guard Jason Kidd talked about how simple the Wolves offense was down the stretch.

"They ran one play the whole time and he executed it," Kidd said of the pick-and-roll attack.

So is that a bad thing?

Not to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. After Monday's morning shootaround Popovich talked at some length about his impressions of Rubio and the retooled Wolves lineup.

"There are a lot of changes, not just Ricky Rubio," Popovich said. "But you can see a lot of good."

Especially when it comes to the relatively pared-down Wolves offense late in games.

"It's basketball," he said. "We all run the pick-and-roll. John [Stockton] and Karl [Malone] ran the pick-and-roll [in Utah] for a gazillion years. It was pretty simple, but it depends on who's doing it. And [Rubio] is very good at it. No reason to make something complicated if someone is great at doing something simple."

And it doesn't hurt that Wolves forward Kevin Love is the second half of that equation much of the time. Many members of the Spurs were reveling at Love's shooting performance in the fourth quarter against Dallas.

"He is playing unbelievable," guard Manu Ginobili said. "Making those step-back threes? When the team needed him the most? Unreal."

Said Popovich of Love: "He's more confident than ever. In the past he wondered, 'Should I shoot this shot or not?' Now he knows. He knows he's a stud. He's out there to win and to kick ... "

Well, you can finish the rest.

"He's a complete pro at this point who knows he's one of the best players in the league," Popovich said.

Admiring words

Count Popovich as a member of the Rick Adelman fan club.

"Rick has, in many ways, been under the radar for a long time," Popovich said. "He's always one of the first people owners want to hire, but he always manages to stay in the background, because he's that kind of guy. But he probably did a better job than anybody in the league for two, three, four years in Houston with all the injuries they had. I'm not sure anybody figured that out."

Rubio's adjustment

Asked about Rubio, and specifically how difficult it would be for him to adjust to American culture, Popovich's response was classic:

"These guys, they travel around the world," Popovich said of international players such as Rubio and Ginobili. "They're more cultured than we are. Everyone acts like Americans are the ones ... we have sort of an arrogance about us. Like we're the cultured ones? Are you serious?

''Have you watched TV lately? Have you seen what Americans do? How many languages do you speak? And you wonder how they're going to adjust to our culture? I hope they avoid it and keep their own!"

Etc.

•Spurs guard Ginobili broke his left hand in the second quarter Monday night when he fouled Anthony Tolliver.

•Wolves guard J.J. Barea sat out because of a sore hamstring. Officially Barea was day-to-day but the plan this time around is to rest him until he's 100 percent ready.

•Forward Michael Beasley started despite the five stitches in the index finger on his left (shooting) hand. Beasley taped the index finger to his middle finger.

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