SALT LAKE CITY – When the Timberwolves made the trade to bring Ricky Rubio back to Minnesota, President Gersson Rosas and coach Ryan Saunders said one reason they pulled the trigger on the deal was so Rubio could help mentor some of the Wolves' younger players.
That became critical after the Wolves drafted 19-year-old Anthony Edwards with the No. 1 pick in November. Rosas specifically cited the impact Rubio had on Donovan Mitchell's development in Utah as why he thought it was important to swing the deal.
Utah's Derrick Favors, one of Rubio's former teammates with the Jazz, called Rubio "one of my favorite teammates, one of my favorite guys."
"First and foremost, Ricky is a great guy," Favors said. "He's a great person, not just basketball but off the court, in the locker room, always communicating. Always positive. He's always trying to find ways to help the next guy out. He's a good mentor."
Favors said Rubio's unselfish play rubbed off on Mitchell and others during Rubio's two seasons with the Jazz.
"He's got great court vision, always looking for the open guy," Favors said. "He's always looking to get guys involved before looking for his own shot. I think throughout my 11 years in the league he's been one of my favorite teammates, one of my favorite guys I had on the team just because of how good a person he is on and off the court."
Previously, Rubio said Favors taught him a lesson on how to be a professional in the NBA. Rubio saw how Favors dealt with times he had to come off the bench when he has been so accustomed to starting. That may come in play this season if the Wolves bring him off the bench and start games without him and D'Angelo Russell sharing ball-handling duties.
"He didn't say a word," Rubio said of Favors earlier this month. "He kept working and … at the end of the day we won. That's what you care about. You have to sacrifice something for the best, for the team.
"If it's coming off the bench, would I like it? No. I wouldn't like it, I will be honest. But I will be willing to do it for the best of the team."
Vivint Arena is one of six NBA arenas hosting fans for regular-season games. The Jazz are allowing 1,500 fans, or 8.2% of the arena's capacity, according to NBA.com. Jazz guard Mike Conley said he wasn't worried about playing in front of fans as long as everyone in attendance was taking precautions, such as wearing a mask, which is mandated by the league in order to attend a game.
"We want fans to get into the building, obviously in the safest manner possible," Conley said. "As long as people are following the protocols ... I think it's needed for the community to be able to get that involved with our team.
"I cannot stress the importance of doing the right things in a time like now. … We just have to continue to be diligent, continue to work and hope for the best in the situation."
Other teams allowing fans in their arenas for regular-season games are Houston, New Orleans, Cleveland, Orlando and Toronto, which is playing in Tampa, Fla.
Jordan McLaughlin, who agreed to his second two-way deal with the Wolves on Dec. 18, cleared COVID protocols and was available to play Saturday, the team announced. McLaughlin will serve as point guard depth and will likely be third in the rotation behind Rubio and Russell. Jaylen Nowell remained out because of a calf strain.