Irving, Rubio draw comparison, raves

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 7, 2012 - 2:24 AM
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Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio has the ball swatted away while driving against the Cleveland Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao during second-quarter action Friday at Target Center.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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Friday's Timberwolves-Cleveland game brought together the top two players selected in the 2011 draft: Duke point guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona forward Derrick Williams. But that wasn't the night's most intriguing rookie comparison.

Instead, it came at point guard, when Irving started for the Cavaliers as he has all season and Ricky Rubio came off the bench for the Wolves.

Before Cleveland's 98-87 victory, Wolves coach Rick Adelman disputed the notion that he has brought Rubio along more slowly than the Cavs have Irving just because Irving is starting and Rubio is not.

Rubio has played every minute in the fourth quarter in the Wolves' first seven games.

"I don't know if I've brought him along slowly," Adelman said. "He hasn't started but he's played every fourth quarter, so that puts a little bit of pressure on a young guy when every game you're playing is really close. I think it depends on your team. Right now, we have nothing but young players and I think [Cavs coach Byron Scott] is in the same situation with their team."

Starting or not, both rookie point guards are finding their way quickly in this league.

"In the next few years, both of these guys are going to be considered some of the best point guards in the league," Scott said. "Ricky is one of those guys who has a flash to his game I think we haven't seen for awhile, especially from a rookie at that position. And Kyrie is a guy we've seen on a night-to-night basis who shows flashes of definitely All-Star potential. It's just a matter of these guys getting that experience and developing their games."

'Tweener?

The Cavs had Williams work out twice for them before the draft, but they ultimately decided to take Irving instead.

"I just didn't know what position to say he was or is," Scott said. "Is he a power forward? Is he a small forward? I still think he's going to be one of those guys who's going to be in the league for a long time and averages 15, 17 points a game. But at that particular time, with that No. 1 pick, what we really, truly needed was a point guard and that's what we went after."

Chuck loves Love

TNT analyst Charles Barkley on Thursday called Kevin Love the "best power forward player in the world" and said there's something not right in that world if Love isn't a starter in February's All-Star Game in Orlando. Fans determine that.

"No, I do not," Love said when asked if he's got Chuck on the payroll. "It's definitely a blessing to have him and whoever sing my praises. It's very humbling."

Together again

Scott spent the first two years of his NBA coaching career as Adelman's assistant in Sacramento.

"I think he's the perfect match for this team," Scott said of Adelman and the Wolves. "Rick has been great with young teams. That team at Sacramento had a young bunch of guys. He just allows you to play basketball."

Etc.

• Times are changing: Tuesday's home game against Chicago has been added to NBA TV's "Fan Night" doubleheader as chosen by Internet voting. Phoenix-Lakers is the second game. That's eight national TV appearances this season, the most since 2004-05.

• Guard J.J. Barea on Friday missed his third consecutive game because of that hamstring he injured at Milwaukee Dec. 27. "It feels really good, but I'm going to be patient," said Barea, who came back after one game away to play against Dallas on Sunday and now has missed the next three games. "Maybe Sunday [at Washington] or Monday [at Toronto]."

• Here's another small sign of Rubio's growing popularity: The team's public relations department has started a standard media-availability session for him 70 minutes before every road game to help manage out-of-town requests. No other Wolves player has such a policy.

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    Listless play from a team unfamiliar with the notion of high expectations riled fans, and Michael Beasley was injured to boot.

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