No Questions Asked, Ridnour Delivers
There has been no road map laid out this season for Luke Ridnour, no traditional path from training camp to offseason. The Timberwolves guard has done a little bit of everything for his team this season whether he bargained for it or not.
He’s shared the point guard position with a star rookie and a key component from last year’s NBA champions. He’s learned a new system under first-year coach Rick Adelman, and he’s rotated to the shooting guard role to fill a void—where he guarded opponents several inches taller than him.
And he’s done it all with a quiet demeanor, a whatever-it-takes attitude that has not only made him an invaluable contributor to the club but also an irreplaceable leader in the Timberwolves back court.
“One thing you can say about Luke all year long is he’s been steady,” assistant coach Terry Porter said. “He’s had unbelievably consistent efforts on both ends of the floor, and he’s been able to sustain that for the stretches he’s shot the ball extremely well, but more importantly he’s done ea great job defensively.”
Ridnour ran the point last year in his first season with Minnesota, but the entire landscape of the back court—and the team—changed this offseason with the addition of Adelman’s staff and the arrival of 2009 first round draft pick Ricky Rubio. Add in free-agent JJ Barea, and the Wolves had a logjam at point guard with only a certain amount of minutes to be had on the court.
But Ridnour proved early that his leadership and steady hand on the court was crucial to the team’s success. The nine-year veteran started the first 10 games at point guard, then moved to shooting guard alongside Rubio in the back court to add an extra ball handler and consistent shooter to the floor.
When he’s been asked to be a shooter, he’s done it. Ridnour has 12 games with 15 points or more this season and shot 46 percent from the floor through the month of January. When he moved back to the point guard role after Rubio’s injury on March 9, he responded with four point-assist double-doubles in his next six games.
He’s stepped up at crunch time—hitting a floater at the buzzer to give Minnesota a 100-98 win over Utah on Feb. 22—and at 6-foot-2 he’s taken on the likes of 6-foot-6 Kobe Bryant and 6-foot-7 Kevin Martin. He’s played while healthy or banged up.
Ridnour said he’s simply tried to help his teammates grow and contribute himself in whichever role he’s played this season.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of good point guards here,” Ridnour said. “Ricky’s a great player, and then you have JJ and you have Malcolm (Lee). From my point of view, I’m just trying to help the guys. I’ve been in the league quite a bit longer than most of them. Just giving them as much insight as I can to help, and at the same time getting myself going.”
He’s done a mixture of both.
With Rubio out for the season and Barea battling a series of injuries during his first season in Minnesota, Ridnour is currently taking on the bulk of the point guard minutes while helping Lee get up to speed in his rookie season. Meanwhile, he’s still contributing offensively—averaging 13.3 points and 6.3 assists per game this month—and is bringing intensity to the defensive side of the ball.
“Hopefully other guys look at it and say you’ve got to be willing to do whatever is necessary for our team to be successful,” Porter said. “I think most guys at his position want to just play point guard, but no, he’s doing what’s best for our team to make us a good team and make us, more importantly, successful on the floor. It’s not the most ideal spot at times, but he’s willing to make the adjustment and make the plays that are needed on both ends of the floor.”
Forward Michael Beasley said Ridnour’s performance this year, through all the changes, shows what type of player he is.
“It put a lot of pressure on his shoulders—Ricky made the game easier, and JJ can come in and score,” Beasley said. “Luke’s a professional. He knows how to play the game of basketball and knows what he needs to do, and he does it every night. No questions asked.”
Ridnour said he’s primarily taking the leader by example approach, speaking up when necessary but for the most part showing his teammates each day that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the Wolves win.
It’s not going unnoticed.
“We’ve had him in multiple positions this year, and he’s been a true professional,” Porter said. “He’s given us great contributions on both ends of the floor.”
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