As Zach LaVine begins his comeback from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee he suffered Friday, he will have two Timberwolves teammates who will be able to help him through the process.
“Thanks everyone for all your support!” LaVine said Sunday in a statement on Twitter. “Minor setback but I’ll be back stronger than before. If you know me, you know hard work will get me through this. Gonna be cheering for my guys the rest of the season.”
Brandon Rush — who figures to absorb most of LaVine’s minutes — and Ricky Rubio have both come back from ACL injuries.
Rush, 31, did it twice. He tore his right ACL while at Kansas, returning in time to help lead the Jayhawks to the 2008 NCAA title. In November 2012, while playing for Golden State, he injured his left knee. That one was a more significant injury, and Rush said it took nearly two years to get back to 100 percent, even though he returned to action the following season.
Rubio tore the ACL in his left knee March 9, 2012. He returned to action in mid-December of the following season.
Both know what lies ahead for LaVine. Saturday, Rush was asked what he will say when he talks with LaVine.
“I’ll ask him where his head is at,” Rush said. “When that happened to me, my head was all over the place. When will I be back? Am I going to be the same? So I’ll ask him where he’s at right now, and offer the insight about what I had to do to get back right. Mine took a good two years. But he has a straight ACL. I tore up pretty much everything in my knee. Zach is a freak athlete. He’ll be back.”
Especially given the work ethic LaVine has shown.
“All you need to do is work hard and be patient,” Rubio said. “Brandon Rush and me have been through the same thing. We know it’s not easy. There will be ups and downs. But we’ll be there as a team to support him. I have no doubt Zach will come back stronger.”
Rush hadn’t played in eight consecutive games before starting Saturday and playing 24 ½ minutes in the Wolves’ 107-99 loss to Memphis. He played well in two starts in place of LaVine earlier this season.
“I feel very comfortable stepping in, filling that void for Zach,” he said. “There is not one person who can pick up the slack for the scoring and all the things he does.”
Rush said he worked hard to maintain his conditioning when he wasn’t playing. “I just prepared for a role like this, to be ready when the opportunity knocks,” he said.
Saturday, he made only one of five shots with three rebounds, scoring two points. Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau expects more going forward.
“It was tough to come in, without having a shootaround,” Thibodeau said. “He’s a good pro. I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Rubio has attempted 10 or more shots in four consecutive games, the first time he has done that since the 2014-15 season. He has been effective on three-pointers — hitting 11 of 22 in that stretch — and his overall shooting percentage in those four games is 40.4 percent, better than his career average of 37 percent.
Thibodeau had Rubio and Tyus Jones on the floor together at times Saturday. Rubio was aggressive looking for his shot. But, after Rubio went 5-for-15, Thibodeau was asked if Rubio was too eager.
“He has to keep the defense honest,” Thibodeau said. “He was trying to get us going, too. If they’re going under [on the pick and roll] he has the shot. I want him to take it. He’s shooting the midrange well, coming around on threes. Free throws have been good all year.”