ORLANDO – And then there were two.
Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio’s frightening ankle injury Friday leaves the team with veteran Mo Williams as its starter and rookie Zach LaVine as the only backup option if Rubio should miss an extended amount of time.
“We’re going to have to change a little bit how we play now,” Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. “We ran a lot of stuff, Ricky initiated the offense and our offense was starting to really click. We’re going to have change on the fly here. We’ve got a challenge in the next 24 hours.”
Williams said after Friday’s game that the challenge falls squarely on him now that he joins starters Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, Thaddeus Young and rookie Andrew Wiggins, starting Saturday in Miami.
“We just have to change our whole style now, especially the starting unit with me in it,” Williams said. “I have to change obviously my mentality being more so with the starting unit. I’m going to have mix it up. Obviously, I need to feed big Pek and we have Thad and we have K-Mart. I turn into that fourth option, and we have Wigs out there run some stuff for him, too. I have to be more efficient when I do give my looks. It’s going to be an adjustment, but I’m up to the task.”
Williams also said it’s a time for LaVine to make his mistakes and grow at the same time.
“Ricky is the man, the captain of our team,” LaVine said. “It’s not going to be the same. Everybody is going to have to step up now, just staying ready, be in the gym. When opportunity knocks, you have to be ready.”
Believing in the rookie
After relying upon Wiggins to defend Chicago’s Jimmy Butler with Saturday’s game on the line as well as Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson in Wednesday’s fourth quarters, Saunders turned to veteran Corey Brewer in Friday’s overtime after Orlando’s Tobias Harris outscored Wiggins 17-6 and outrebounded him 16-3 in the small-forward matchup.
“Floating a little bit too much,” Saunders said, “and Brewer was having a hell of a game.”
Still, Saunders said before the game he’s convinced Wiggins is the best man for the job both because of the player he is now and the player will become.
“That’s what he’s going to be,” Saunders said. “He’s advanced defensively right now, and that’s what he’s going to be. He’s also different than Corey because Corey’s a mosquito-type defender, a pest. But Joe Johnson and Butler, both those guys are pretty heavy in the pants and Corey’s pretty light in the pants. Drew is a little bigger, a little longer and he’s deceivingly long. The main thing is he’s going to be an elite defender before anything else.”
Calling upon Plan C
Robbie Hummel played 14 minutes off the bench Friday while backup power forward Anthony Bennett played just one second — enough time for the Magic to choose him to shoot two free throws for the injured Rubio — because of a sore knee Bennett bumped Wednesday at Brooklyn.
“What I told our guys is, if they get thirsty I’m going to send them to the desert,” Saunders said of players who get shot happy. “That’s the bench, so they have to figure it out.”
• Wolves reserve center Gorgui Dieng met with U.S. Army Sergeant Bacary Sambou before Friday’s game.
Sambou — a native of Dieng’s country Senegal — was wounded in action in Afghanistan in 2012 and was honored after the first quarter as part of the NBA’s Veteran’s Day commemoration.
• Ex-Wolves guard Luke Ridnour signed with the Magic last summer. He came off the bench and scored six first-half points in seven minutes.