DENVER – Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio’s surgically repaired knee must be feeling better, much better.
In his past 10 games, he has flirted with reaching his first NBA triple-double five times.
He has six steals each in three of those games — including his past two entering Saturday’s game at Denver — and 43 total.
That’s the most prolific 10-game stretch by any NBA player since Ron Artest in 2002, and so long ago that Ron Artest doesn’t even exist anymore.
“It’s good to see him back, I think he’s 100 percent now,” teammate Derrick Williams said. “That’s the Ricky we’re all used to: He’s passing the ball, he’s making shots.”
And he’s getting his hands on basketballs, deflecting opponents’ passes and collecting steals at an accelerating rate that, at this pace, will qualify him to be listed among the league leaders in that category within a week.
If he were eligible now, he’d be second in the league with an average of 2.39 per game, behind only Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul.
It’s quite a change from that cautious player he was for weeks and weeks after returning Dec. 15 from March knee surgery.
“I’m being aggressive on offense and on defense because I don’t think at all with my knee,” he said simply.
He picked the King’s pocket — Miami’s LeBron James — clean from behind during a game last week and was credited with the game-saving steal created by teammate J.J. Barea late in Wednesday’s over Washington.
Williams predicts it’s only a matter of time — “Maybe next game,” he said — before that first triple-double arrives.
And maybe more than that…
“We were talking the other day how he might get a quadruple-double,” Williams said. “I think he was on pace to get one [against the Wizards]. The way he gets into guards like that, he could get 10 steals in a game.
“I think Chris Paul might have got one a few years back. I think it’s possible.”
Williams was thinking of a two-week stretch in January 2009 when Paul twice came within three steals of the rarest of the rare, the quadruple-double that has been reached by only four players since the NBA started keeping track of blocked shots and rebounds in 1973.
Chicago’s Nate Thurmond reached double digits in four of five statistical categories — points, rebounds, blocks, assists and steals — in October 1974. San Antonio’s Alvin Robertson followed in February 1986, Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon did the same in March 1990 and San Antonio’s David Robinson was the last to do so, in February 1994.
Triple, quadruple, quintuple … Rubio when asked said he doesn’t take any particular pride in his individual statistical achievements, not when his team just ended a six-game losing streak by beating the Wizards on Wednesday.
“No, we didn’t win any games lately so that doesn’t matter,” Rubio said. “I miss winning so bad. I just want to win every night, and I know it’s hard and can’t do it every night. I miss that feeling so bad, it’s so relief to get that victory.”
But the effort needed to reach such statistical achievements does matter — at least to Wolves coach Rick Adelman — on a team where Rubio seemingly and single-handedly is compensating for the loss of injured teammates Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger, to name just some.
“We’re so short-handed and he’s trying, he’s trying,” Adelman said. “I worry about him going so hard that he just gets worn out. … He’s just trying to do everything, and hopefully it’ll rub off on everybody else. That energy just feeds the rest of the guys. Hopefully everybody sees that’s the way we have to be right now with the group we have.”