Rubio's loss will hinder Wolves

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 10, 2012 - 10:58 PM

The team is going to be hurt at the box office far more than from the absence of any other player in Timberwolves history.

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Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio held his left knee after he tore his ACL against the Lakers on Friday.

Photo: Jim Mone, Associated Press

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Some of our readers believe I've been writing since B.C.

Yes, believe me, I have been doing this a long time and watched all of the professional teams suffer serious injuries. But the fact that point guard Ricky Rubio will be out for the rest of the season after suffering a torn left ACL on Friday night against the Lakers will affect the franchise in many ways and is the most serious one I've encountered for more than one reason.

Yes, a similar knee injury suffered by Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was a serious situation, but the Vikings weren't going anyplace and despite how great a player he is, Peterson hasn't captivated the fans like Rubio has.

Forget about what Rubio contributed on the court. Until Friday night, when he went 5-for-12 from the field and added four free throws, Rubio had been in a shooting slump and not playing as much as he was earlier in the season.

But Wolves coach Rick Adelman has stuck with Rubio, who has had the advantage of being tutored by assistant coach Terry Porter, one of the great guards in the history of the NBA.

Rest assured, the Timberwolves are going to be hurt in the standings with Rubio out for the year, but in the rookie's case, the team is going to be hurt at the box office far more than from the absence of any other player in Timberwolves history.

Sales of his jerseys have not only been on the top of the list here, but nationally he ranks with the best. You heard more Rubio talk than about any recent pro athlete.

What surprised me is the number of people who overnight became Rubio fans, those who had never watched the Timberwolves play since their inception.

The Wolves were averaging 2,100 more fans than they were a year ago and they were getting full price for tickets, something they didn't get a year ago.

Rubio overnight became one of the most popular players among the pro athletes in the Twin Cities.

"For two years Ricky Rubio was an NBA draft pick stewing in his native Spain. Now he is spreading joy in Minnesota with his artful passes and spirited play" wrote Lee Jenkins in Sports Illustrated.

Added Jenkins about Rubio's demeanor while still in Spain: "Rubio barked at teammates who didn't make proper cuts in practice and cussed himself for missed shots. He is far from the stereotypical soft Euro. Then again, when he needed a break, he popped in a DVD of 'The Lion King.'"

In describing Rubio early in the season, Adelman said: "Rubio has meant a lot to this team, especially with the fan base as well. On and off the court, he's been great.

"He's refreshing. He's a very refreshing kid to be around because he enjoys playing the game so much, he enjoys working on the game. Every day he comes to practice and gives it his all. He's meant a lot to this team in turning it around. Like I mentioned with us knocking on the door, he's helping us."

It will be interesting to see what the results will be on the floor and at the box office without the popular kid from Spain. In their first game without him, the Wolves lost 95-89 to New Orleans on Saturday night, playing what Adelman called some of their worst defense of the season.

High on Valencia

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan expects a lot out of third baseman Danny Valencia this season, even though there was criticism of his play a year ago.

"There's nothing wrong with Valencia. He has a high ceiling," Ryan said. "He's one of those guys we're going to be looking forward to at least, he's being a threat in the lineup to hit the ball and he can hit it over the fence. He can do a lot of things and we're looking for him to take the next step forward.

"He ought to be in that All-Star area of at least being in the conversation, because he has all the requisites to be a complete third baseman. It's up to him, but he's a pretty good player."

Ryan believes the experience of Valencia's first two seasons with the Twins will make him better this year.

"I think there was a little concern about his first-step quickness, maybe his range," Ryan said. "Young players, it's just going on his second year, second-plus, but some players take their at-bats to the field, stuff like that. That comes with youth. But you were right, he was one of our better players and we just need to have him go out there on a consistent basis and get the consistency that we're looking for."

Kill's connection with Weber

Gophers football coach Jerry Kill was upset to hear Illinois had fired basketball coach Bruce Weber after working with Weber when Kill was football coach at Southern Illinois.

When Weber was hired by Illinois, assistant Matt Painter became the head coach while Kill was still at Southern Illinois. Painter is now Purdue's head coach.

SID'S JOTTINGS

• Wisconsin has lost six assistant coaches, and now running backs coach Thomas Hammock, who left the Gophers to join the Badgers staff, has been interviewed for a position with the St. Louis Rams. Badgers offensive line coach Bob Bostad, who left Wisconsin to go to the University of Pittsburgh, has moved again, this time to become line coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The assistant line coach with the Bucs will be former Vikings offensive line coach Steve Loney. ... And incidentally, Iowa lost its defensive coordinator, Norm Parker, who retired, and its offensive coordinator, Ken O'Keefe, who after 13 years with the Hawkeyes has joined the Miami Dolphins.

• Michael Floyd, the former Cretin-Derham Hall star and Notre Dame wide receiver, ran a time of 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine to assure him of being a No. 1 draft choice.

• Bloomington Jefferson football coach Jon Leverenz, a former Gophers linebacker, resigned in November. Leverenz, who had little help in the community developing young athletes, will still coach the Jaguars track team.

• Minneapolis native and former Holy Angels basketball star Troy Bell is playing for Pellacanestro Sant'Antimo in Italy. He is leading the team in scoring at 23.4 points per game and is second in rebounding at 6.8 per game.

• Former Gophers starter Seth Rosin told the San Jose Mercury News that he might stay in his role as a reliever in the Giants' minor league system. "They want to see guys in different roles at those [minor league] levels," Rosin said. "Something really clicked for me in the bullpen, where I was able to use everything I had in short stints. It worked well." Rosin is in major league camp with the Giants but expects to start the season at high Class A San Jose. Rosin pitched 122/3 innings of relief in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 2.13 ERA with nine strikeouts.

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