Back running on his surgically repaired knee for the third week now, injured Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio stopped long enough Thursday at Target Center to show off three scars that stripe his left leg and said he could play his next NBA game by December, nine months after he tore two ligaments there.
"I don't know, they say December, but it could be January," he said. "I don't want to say a time because I don't want to rush it. I want to be ready when I am ready."
Rubio returned to Vail, Colo., three weeks ago for another checkup with his surgeon and was given approval to begin running again in three- minute segments alternated with walking.
He plans one more trip there to see knee specialist Dr. Richard Steadman.
"But it's just to shake the hand with the doctor when I'm ready, when I'm ready to roll," he said.
Rubio was able to shoot free throws all summer while he was rehabilitating that left knee in Minnesota and back home in Spain. He said Steadman told him he can begin jumping by November, but Rubio is hopeful it's before then and insists he's not putting any timetable on the steps to his return.
"There's not a time because it depends on how the knee goes," he said. "Now I start running and I feel good. In three, four weeks, I'm gonna start agility and if my knee swells a little bit, I have to stop. If not, I'm going to keep pushing it. I'm trying to do as much as I can do. They have to stop me sometimes because I want to do more. Sometimes it's just bad for my knee to do more things."
He will accompany his teammates to training camp that starts Tuesday in Mankato. In August, Wolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn said he wants Rubio with the team every step of the way, even if all Rubio said he will be able to do next week is observe.
"I can only run, I can't move lateral," Rubio said. "I can only watch and be an assistant coach."
Rubio hasn't run and jumped and passed a basketball behind his back since he planted that left leg in a March 9 game against the Los Angeles Lakers and ended up in a heap, clutching his knee in pain.
"It has been a long time without running and dunking," he said. "Well, I never dunk, but just like try it. It's so hard to watch basketball knowing you can't play."
Rubio has spent the past six months resting and strengthening his knee, catching up on his reading, spending time with family and friends and playing a video game.
"I'm not a big fan of PlayStation, but at least I can play basketball there," he said. "I was just trying to do fun things without playing basketball. It's hard for me."
Without him, the Wolves lost 20 of their final 25 games. Without him, Spain reached the London Olympics gold medal game and lost 107-100 to the U.S. team that included fellow Timberwolf Kevin Love.
Might he own a gold medal now if not for that injured knee?
"I wish, but because I wasn't there, I don't want to tell you," said Rubio, who started at age 17 when Spain lost to the U.S. team in the 2008 Olympics gold medal game. "I have my silver medal [from Beijing] already. I want my gold medal in 2016."
He also wants to play again, as soon as possible. But not at any price.
"A lot of them," he said when asked what he has missed about basketball. "Missing the Olympics, watching them [Spain] win some games, watching the last part of last season. Watching my teammates play and I can't, it's hard. It's hard physically, but it's hard in the mind, too, because you're just like, 'I want to do it.'
"But you can't in that moment. You just have to wait. You feel how lucky you are when you play, so I'll be blessed when I play."