Column: Through Wolves' Uncertainty, Ridnour Has Been A Constant

So much focus over the past 4 ½ months has gone toward who isn’t currently available on the Wolves’ roster. There is good reason for it, of course. Minnesota has lost more than 280 man games to injuries during the course of this season, and that doesn’t include Josh Howard’s brief stint on the roster.

But Luke Ridnour player has remained a constant—a mainstay despite playing through his own physical aches and pains. Not only has he played in all 67 games this season, but he’s started every contest at either the point guard or shooting guard positions.

In a year like this, that seems improbable and almost herculean. We’re getting to a point where talking about Ridnour’s versatility is reaching fabled status.

“He’s been playing point guard and forward, almost center, too,” Ricky Rubio joked. “He’s been with the team since the first day, and he’s doing an unbelievable job.”

Take a minute to consider the circumstances. The Wolves have started 15 different lineups this year, none of which starting more than 13 games together. Ridnour is the only name to be penciled in as a starter in every game, and he’s done it while starting as the 2-guard alongside Rubio in 32 of those contests. That’s not his natural position—he’s done it over the past two years, but at a generous 6-foot-2 Ridnour is a point guard who has moved over and attempted to guard some of the top shooting guards in the league.

It’s not always the smoothest matchup—not when guys like Kobe Bryant, James Harden or Joe Johnson are matching up him head-to-head. But Ridnour has come to work every single night this year and has made the best out of any assignment he’s been handed.

Professionalism like the kind Ridnour shows every day should be praised within the organization, and it’s something that rubs off on his teammates. It doesn’t go unnoticed the type of hard work the 10-year veteran puts in.

“He’s an example for all of us,” Rubio said. “Especially for me.”

Admittedly putting Ridnour in tough assignments and positions on the court, Rick Adelman has noticeably shown his appreciation for Ridnour’s game and his work ethic over these past two seasons.

Ridnour has been the team’s best healthy spot-up shooter for much of the past two years. He’s not afraid to take big shots either in the mid-range game or from beyond the arc, and his quickness at the 2-guard spot gives Minnesota another option stringing together pick-and-rolls while trying to find an open look.

Add in that he was slowed down by a lower back injury during the preseason and has, at times, shown the aches are still lingering, and Ridnour has been a prime example of work ethic and dedication. It’s much needed this year, because at times there haven’t been a lot of healthy bodies to go around.

“He’s been asked to do things that he shouldn’t be asked to do, but he’s never complained. He just does his job,” Adelman said.

Given all the injuries and the inconsistency in the lineup, Ridnour said the 2012-13 season has probably been one of the hardest of his career. You just don’t have the cohesiveness when people are in and out of the lineup, and with decreased numbers you also have the challenge of not getting as much 5-on-5 practice time as you’re used to.

Then factoring in playing off the ball, and it poses different challenges on different nights.

“It’s been up and down, but the guys who played have played hard and made the most of it,” Ridnour said. “Hopefully we can end the season with guys healthier and make a strong push at the end.”

When I watch Luke Ridnour play, I think about all those things. I think about the type of quiet but effective veteran leadership he brings simply through his play. He’s one of the oldest guys in that locker room, yet he hasn’t gotten a day off and he continues to do everything he can to put the team in position to succeed.

It’s been a tough season for Minnesota, but it isn’t a product of Ridnour’s play. He simply goes to work regardless of the circumstances.

“It’s amazing that he’s played—I shouldn’t say it—he’s played all the games,” Adelman said. “He’s been beat up, he’s had a bad back at times, but he’s gone out and just done his job. It says a lot.”

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