PHOENIX - The Timberwolves played on without Ricky Rubio's inventive playmaking and offensive flair on Monday in Phoenix, three days after he tore a knee ligament and is now lost for the season.
For all that he provided at that end, they might miss his defense more. Rubio was third in the league in steals, at 2.22 a game, when he was injured.
"I think we're really going to miss him there because he's really good at keeping his guy in front of him," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "That's probably the biggest thing. The way we play is going to change some and that concerns me more than anything else. We have to be solid defensively if we're going to be able to play a different way and we weren't that way against New Orleans.
"We may have to tweak things and come at it from a different way now. It's not so much the X's and O's, it's the energy level he always brought us."
That kind of energy was nowhere to be found in Saturday's home loss to New Orleans. And now the Wolves play their next seven games on the road, starting with Monday's game at Phoenix. It's a trip that could go a long way to determining whether they make the playoffs.
Asked how long it might take his team to get used to life without Rubio, Adelman said, "I was hoping it could happen that quick. After the New Orleans game, I begin to wonder the way we played in that game. We just had no energy and life. These guys have to respond. You can't feel sorry for yourself. You have to go out and play. We need to win. It's no different than before he got hurt."
Just like Mars said?
Guard J.J. Barea declared himself ready to play Monday after missing two games because of a sprained ankle. He has switched from low cuts to high-top basketball shoes, just to see if it might make a difference in a season when he has hit with hamstring, calf and ankle injuries. "Just to try something different, change it up," he said.
Kevin Love started Monday's game even though he left the morning shootaround moving carefully with ice bags strapped to a sore back that kept him out of Friday's game against the Lakers because of spasms.
The Wolves have until Thursday's 2 p.m. Central time trade deadline to make a deal that would add a guard, but Adelman doesn't appear to be holding his breath. Forward Michael Beasley is the most likely player to be traded, but only if the Wolves can get something of value in return.
"These guys have built a base, and we've got to somehow find a way with these guys," Adelman said. "If somebody is added, then we have to look at that. That's why I'm not sure what will happen in this league. If teams make moves, you might bring in one guy who can slip in and help. But with only 27 games left and no practices, it's going to be hard to incorporate two, three guys in, like some of these teams are talking about if they make a big trade."
Rubio's road back
Rubio's rehabilitation from that torn knee ligament already has begun. He tweeted on Sunday and Monday photos of himself on an exercise bike and a therapy table, and he's smiling in both.
"He was a lot more upbeat than I thought he'd be when I talked to him," Adelman said. "But that's who he is and that's why you've got to feel he's going to be pretty positive in his comeback."