Souhan: How rare is Rubio? Unselfish, smart and as good as the hype

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 11, 2012 - 11:10 AM

Ricky Rubio led a Wolves comeback against Chicago on Tuesday, wiping out a 24-point second-quarter deficit, but the Bulls still prevailed 111-100 at Target Center.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Ricky Rubio is an aberration not because of his exotic hair or nationality, nor his endearing accent or teen-idol charm. Rubio is an aberration for reasons as fundamental and useful as a bounce pass.

He's the rare subject of hype who turns out to be better than advertised. He's the rare NBA player who prides himself on unselfishness. He is the rare athlete who succeeds because of savvy and intelligence rather than athletic ability.

Whether this should be considered a compliment to him or an insult to his team, it is true: 10 games into his NBA career, Rubio is the second-best player on the roster.

Tuesday, Rubio faced his toughest NBA challenge, in MVP point guard Derrick Rose and defensive mastermind Tom Thibodeau of the Bulls. Unlike many 21-year-olds, Rubio won't have to hide the test results from his parents. The Wolves' 111-100 loss was that close largely because of Rubio's gamesmanship.

He was often brilliant, leading a dramatic second-quarter comeback and challenging an elite team in a game that looked like a blowout midway through the second quarter.

By the end of the first half, Rubio had a sizeable crowd at Target Center roaring, and his coach, Rick Adelman, pumping his fist. By the end of the game, Rubio had 13 points, 12 assists and four rebounds in a season-high 36 minutes. He produced his third double-double in five games, and started the second half for the first time this season.

"I'm not happy," Rubio said, shaking his head. "We can't be down by 20 and then react."

The Bulls led by as much as 24 in the second quarter. Rubio led the Wolves on a 20-2 run to end the half, reducing Chicago's lead to 53-47.

He did it with three assists that led Anthony Randolph to the rim, three assists on Kevin Love three-pointers, by twice grabbing a rebound and leading a fast break, and by displaying a competitive fire that has rarely been so obvious. After missing a free throw in the midst of that run, Rubio stepped back and punched himself in the chest, then cursed himself as he retreated on defense.

"He has a lot of poise, even at his age," Love said. "He wants to win very bad. The game is starting to slow down for him now. He's making lots of adjustments to his game, making shots, and we can all kind of follow in his footsteps, because we all need to slow down at this point."

A child shall lead the Wolves, and a relative child already leads the Bulls. Rubio is an effective defender, but most mortals are helpless against Rose, who can blow by or shoot over just about anybody. Tuesday, Rose scored 31 points on a variety of power drives and power jumpers, twice rising to hit threes as the shot clock wound down. "He's great," Rubio said. "Maybe he is one of the best if not the best player I ever played against."

Entering the game, Rubio led all rookies in assists per game and also in a more shocking category: most fourth-quarter minutes played among all NBA players. In his first nine NBA games, Rubio sat out only seven seconds of fourth-quarter play. He sat out almost four minutes Tuesday, having played the entire third quarter.

"He's the one guy on our team that can get into the paint, going to the basket, and find the right people," Adelman said. "He's got the vision. I'm surprised he's been able to do that consistently."

The Wolves roster remains horribly flawed. After all of these rebuilding seasons, they possess no NBA shooting guards or centers. Most of their worthwhile players are either power forwards or point guards.

When Rubio runs the offense, though, the Wolves' limitations recede like wrinkles under a layer of pancake makeup.

What could have been an easy night for the Bulls turned into a game close enough to cost Thibodeau his voice in the fourth quarter.

By then, Wolves fans may have had the same problem.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. •

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Kansas City 0 Top 1st Inning
San Francisco 0
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Dallas 57 3rd Qtr
Orlando 46
New York 28 2nd Qtr 10:02
Toronto 29
San Antonio 7 1st Qtr 9:13
Houston 5
Miami 4 1st Qtr 11:02
Memphis 3
Minnesota 8 1st Qtr 9:28
Chicago 9
Phoenix 8:00 PM
Sacramento 9:00 PM
LA Lakers
Denver 9:30 PM
Golden State
Portland 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Dallas 0 2nd Prd
New Jersey 1
Tampa Bay 0 1st Prd 17:00
Winnipeg 0
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Carolina 8:30 PM
Columbus 9:00 PM
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 3 2nd Qtr 6:57
Cincinnati 17
Troy 0 2nd Qtr 14:56
South Alabama 10
BYU 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Houston 7:00 PM
Montreal 13 14:45
Ottawa 7
Saskatchewan 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Which local team are you currently most excited about?

Weekly Question