Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio's compelling rookie season is over, ended by a torn anterior-cruciate knee ligament that ends his season, a team source said this afternoon.
Just when the franchise finally had reversed four long, losing seasons by surpassing .500 to become a playoff contender for the first time since 2004, Rubio was injured late in Friday's home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Rehabilitation time for such an injury usually is six to nine months, which means Rubio also likely will miss playing for Spain in the London Summer Olympics that begin in July.
On Thursday, the NBA introduced a commercial on its TNT doubleheader promoting Rubio's passion, "unbridled joy" and ability to see things before they happen, which is why the commercial's tag line is, "So he already knows El Futuro Es Big."
That, btw, means The Future is Big.
On Friday, Rubio fell to the floor clutching his left knee and shin after he went to help defend Lakers star Kobe Bryant. He planted to his left foot in an attempt to block Bryant's path with the ball and his knee appeared to buckle just before he collided with Bryant.
He was called for a foul on the play, an infraction that sent Bryant to the free-throw line for the eventual game-winning free throws in a 105-102 victory.
The Wolves not only lost the game on the play, they lost their starting point guard and a player who finally, after all these years, has made them internationally relevant again.
Rubio was helped to the bench, where he held his hand over his eyes while the team's athletic trainer probed Rubio's knee with his hands.
He tried to walk during an ensuing timeout, but only made it a few steps before the knee gave out on him and he was helped back to the bench. Teammates helped him to the locker room at the game's conclusion and he later left the arena walking with the help of a friend.
As of Friday night, Rubio and fellow rookie Derrick Williams were the only Timberwolves who had played in all 41 games this season.
He had started 31 of those after coach Rick Adelman brought him off the bench for his first 10 NBA games before moving him into the starting lineup alongside fellow point guard Luke Ridnour.
Without him, the Wolves are left with veterans Ridnour and J.J. Barea at point guard.
Barea has missed 18 games this season because of a variety of injuries, the latest being a sprained ankle that's expected to keep him sidelined until the Wolves embark on a seven-game, 13-day road trip that begins Monday in Phoenix.
The Wolves ended Friday's game – their 18th consecutive loss to the Lakers – without either Rubio or Love.
Love was a late scratch to the lineup because of back spasms that had bothered him since he fell during a game against Portland on Wednesday.