Fans upset about missing Rubio's first starts on TV

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 15, 2012 - 3:58 AM
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Wolves Ricky Rubio headed downcourt to the crowd's delight after he hit a three point shot from the corner to put the Wolves ahead of the Heat late in the game. ](MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE(mlevison@startribune.com (cq all names program.)

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ATLANTA - Timberwolves fans hooted and hollered when Ricky Rubio made his first two NBA starts this weekend, just maybe not in the way you would have thought.

More than a few voiced their displeasure through social media and other methods, upset that neither Friday's game at New Orleans nor Saturday's game at Atlanta could be seen on local television.

The Wolves are set to televise 50 of their 66 games on FSN this season, which, for now, leaves 16 games dark when new fans are clamoring to see Rubio and Kevin Love.

Two of those came just when Rubio was inserted into the starting lineup.

"We certainly have heard from fans, too," said Wolves senior vice president of marketing and communications Ted Johnson. "We understand their frustration. I'm sure that was painful for fans. It was painful for our staff."

The Wolves last summer ended their 12-game package of over-the-air games on Ch. 29 because of increasing scheduling difficulties with a station obligated to show network programming and because of the cost of buying air time, selling ads and producing their own broadcasts.

This season's five-month labor lockout and its abrupt start Christmas Day didn't allow the Wolves to consider other options to add more games than the 50 its current long-standing contract with FSN calls for the cable station to carry. Johnson said the team never has carried every game; the most was 70 in 2003-04, when Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell combined to win 58 games.

Games on Friday and Saturday were not carried because FSN already had scheduled Gophers and Wild hockey games by the time the shortened 66-game NBA season was configured.

Johnson said one or two over-the-air games may still be added this season. He also said FSN could agree to carry well more than 50 games in coming seasons now that it has its new "plus" channel that allows it to carry two local teams' games simultaneously.

Johnson said he's received "some e-mails, tweets, a couple calls. Not an overwhelming number, but certainly enough to know it's an issue for our fans. We know in a season like this there's just going to be some things that we'll just have to work through."

Sensible solutions?

Wolves coach Rick Adelman and his staff debated until not long before game time Saturday before they decided to start Rubio and Luke Ridnour together again for the second consecutive night, even though the Hawks started 6-7 guard Joe Johnson.

His solution for such a mismatch: He asked starting small forward Wes Johnson to defend the other Johnson and put Ridnour, all 6-1 of him, on Hawks 6-9 forward Marvin Williams.

"We're overmatched sizewise completely, but we have to go with our strengths, too," Adelman said. "Just trying to figure out a way to combat them."

Go figure ...

At least Adelman didn't have to figure out how to defend Hawks center Al Horford, who is out for the next three months after he tore a pectoral muscle Wednesday at Indiana.

On the same day, Golden State announced forward Kwame Brown would miss three to four months with the same injury.

"I've never heard of that," Adelman said, attributing a rash of injuries leaguewide to a shortened training camp and seriously condensed 66-game season.

Who?

Rubio inspired another opposing crowd -- and even other teams' advance scouts sitting courtside -- with his array of passes that included an alley-oop to Wes Johnson for a slam dunk and a nifty behind-the-back pass to Derrick Williams for a layup.

Rubio already has been compared to everybody from Pete Maravich to former Boston Celtics great Bob Cousy, who played in the 1950s. Such a comparison has left at least a few people confused.

"I didn't watch Cousy play," said New Orleans coach Monty Williams, "and when I see those highlights, I still don't know which one he is."

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