More light has been shed on Ricky Rubio’s quest to return from the high ankle sprain he sustained Nov. 7 in Orlando.
All it took was a local columnist’s blog that, given the dearth of updates on Rubio’s progress, questioned the amount of time it has taken Rubio to come back. In his pregame press conference Wednesday, Wolves coach Flip Saunders responded to that blog directly, giving some much needed information in the process.
“[It is] worse than a high ankle sprain, some of the muscles were also torn that led to his foot,” Saunders said of Rubio, who missed his 36th game. “That is giving him some problems in his toes. … He has pain on the inside of his ankle; he’s got sort of a bone bruise there. And [the doctors’] concern is that they didn’t want him to be full-go yet, because it could turn into a stress fracture.’’
Saunders was forceful in defending Rubio’s desire to return, and the work he has put in to do so.
“The last two weeks he came to me and said he wanted to go 24/7 with his workouts,” Saunders said. “He wanted one person to stay with him. ... Anyone who has been around the team knows there is nobody who works harder than him.’’
Recent appointments with two specialists reinforced the idea that rushing Rubio back would be a mistake. That said, Rubio took part in his first full-contact work at practice Tuesday, even slipping himself into some five-on-five work without permission.
“It is a very unique ankle sprain,’’ Saunders said. “Eventually, when we think he can cut and not have any pain — right now he chops as he turns — and he’s cutting and is fluid, he’ll be able to do five-on-five, up-and-down kind of stuff.”
The good news on the injury front is that center Nikola Pekovic, out 31 games with ankle soreness, returned to action Wednesday against Dallas.
He didn’t start, and Saunders pledged to control his minutes for now, but he was back.
The big question is whether Pekovic and the Wolves have figured out a way to keep that inflammation from returning; this is an issue that has dogged Pekovic for a long time.
Both said yes.
“I think we can, because we finally found a real therapy and everything,” Pekovic said. “Hopefully that will mean everything will go well. We have half the season left. Hopefully I’ll go through the rest of the season with no major issues.’’
Said Saunders: “It’s an issue more with his joints than an injury situation. Right now I think we’ll be able to monitor it.’’
Pekovic scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds in 23 minutes.
Guard Kevin Martin missed his 31st game Wednesday. But he remains close to returning from a broken right wrist sustained Nov. 19.
A change to the Rising Star Challenge at this year’s All Star Game festivities could impact the Wolves.
The yearly game between top first- and second-year players will have a new format that will pit international players against U.S.-born players. Each team will have 10 players (four guards, four frontcourt players and two others regardless of position).
Rookie Andrew Wiggins of Canada and second-year center Gorgui Dieng of Senegal are locks to play in the game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Feb. 13. They could be joined by rookie Zach LaVine of the U.S. and second-year player Anthony Bennett of Canada.
A slam dunk?
According to a Yahoo Sports report citing league sources, LaVine will take part in the slam-dunk competition on All-Star weekend, as will Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Orlando’s Victor Oladipo. Both LaVine and Saunders said they had not heard from the league about it.