Practice Report: Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012

by Mark Remme
Web Editor

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio successfully completed his first day of full-contact practice at the LifeTime Fitness Training Center, participating in all team activities, 5-on-5 situations and putting in extra conditioning work after practice ended.

Teammates and coach Rick Adelman said when it comes to Rubio’s court vision and presence on the court, he didn’t miss a beat. Adelman said he knows the plays, and his innate sense for finding his teammates didn’t go away during his nine-month recovery.

The challenge as Rubio takes the final push toward his return to the court will be a combination of physical conditioning and mentally trusting that his knee can, in fact, handle the rigorous cuts and movement necessary in the NBA game.

After going through a rigorous and methodical rehab process, Rubio said he wants to be perfect when he makes his return.

“Until I don’t think about my knee, I’m not going to play,” Rubio said. “I’m trying not to think about it, but sometimes when you make hard cuts or something like that, you just realize like you’ve been out a long time.”

Sunday was essentially the first taste of NBA action Rubio participated in since tearing his anterior cruciate and lateral cruciate ligaments in March. Rubio sounded satisfied with his first day back, noting he took contact and was able to handle all the activities the team worked through. After practice, Rubio worked on full-court drills with athletic trainer Gregg Farnam and physical therapist Andre Deloya, doing shooting and fast break drills before baseline-to-baseline conditioning sets.

His teammates said he looked good in his first day back. Guard JJ Barea said he guarded Rubio, and the second-year guard didn’t lose his ability to find teammates while also being vocal about where people should be on the court.

“He’s never going to lose that. He’s got that,” Barea said. “He just needs to get his legs together and he’ll be fine.”

Barea said Rubio moved better than he thought he would. Coach Rick Adelman said Rubio showed a lot of the same traits he did a year ago.

“He passed the ball really well, he got to his spots,” Adelman said. “It’s going to be his conditioning. It’s going to be his legs and how long can he go? That’s going to be the biggest thing. But I didn’t see anything there. He knows everything we’re doing. He knows the plays. He got to spots, he made his typical passes. I don’t see that being a problem at all.”

Rubio said his endurance isn’t as big of an issue as his legs, which were feeling a little tired after Sunday’s practice. He said defensively he’s still trying to get back into flow physically, because that’s one thing that is hard to simulate during rehab.

“Still slow, but working on that,” Rubio said. “I’ve been working, but it’s not the same working on the court than working with teammates and being in the court. You can run, you can be in shape but once you hit the court, it’s just different.”

He said it’s going to be a work in progress. Still, Sunday was the next milestone in his step-by-step process toward his return.

“Lungs feel good, legs feel tired,” he said. “I could feel like I ran a 10K or something like that.”

Wolves Still Hurting

The Wolves got Rubio back, but the team is still struggling on the injury front as three members of the team did not participate in practice on Sunday.

Forward Kevin Love (illness), Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) and Malcolm Lee (groin) all did not participate on Sunday, making it a challenge to mix and match how to do full-court drills and 5-on-5 sets. Barea said the team practiced 4-on-4 at times, and Adelman said they cut practice short because of the available personnel.

Adelman said he’s hopeful the Wolves will be able to get more players on the court on Monday before the team heads on its two-game road trip to Philadelphia and Boston.

“It’s just something we’re going to have to adjust to,” Adelman said.

Quick Hits

  • Rubio made a pass between Josh Howard’s legs during practice on Sunday, garnering praise from Howard and acknowledgement from Adelman. When asked about the play, Rubio smiled and said, “Yeah, yeah, it was fun.”

  • Wolves forward Chase Budinger was at the practice facility on Sunday. He’s been sidelined since suffering a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee on Nov. 10.

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