Ricky Rubio Cleared For Full-Contact Practice
The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced that guard Ricky Rubio has been cleared to participate in full-contact practices with no limitations after consultation with Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colorado.
With the final medical hurdle being cleared, Rubio will now practice with the team. Rubio and the Wolves medical staff will assess his ability to participate in an NBA game after monitoring his progress during these practices.
Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn said the timetable on Rubio’s return to game action is still to be determined in order to not add pressure for a specific target date. He said each step in Rubio’s recovery has been handled sensibly in that regard—keeping a focus on what’s best for Rubio’s long-term health.
Kahn said when Rubio does return, Rubio will likely be targeting about 16-18 minutes per game as he gets re-adjusted to live NBA basketball.
“He’ll be eased in,” Kahn said. “The likelihood is he’ll play his first game around 16-18 minutes and then from there the medical staff and Ricky will determine on a game-by-game basis what to do next.”
Kahn said he’s felt good about Rubio’s progress in the last several weeks just watching him at practice and before games. He’s been starting to move really well, Kahn said, and he’s been pleased with the diligence Rubio showed throughout the process.
His return to full-contact practice marks a major hurdle in Rubio’s road to recovery.
Rubio had surgery on March 21, 2012 to reconstruct a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and a torn LCL (lateral collateral ligament) in his left knee. The surgery was performed by Dr. Steadman at The Steadman Clinic in Vail. Rubio's injury occurred with 16 seconds remaining in the Timberwolves game against the L.A. Lakers on March 9, 2012.
From there, Rubio began baby steps of participating in non-running conditioning and weight lifting sets, followed by rehabilitation exercises, treadmill work and eventual jogging as the team headed to Training Camp. He’s continuously worked on shooting—stationary, jump shots and lateral movement—since the team returned for workouts in September.
Kahn said the way Rubio continued to approach his rehab workouts shows the type of work ethic he’s portrayed since arriving in Minnesota.
“Ricky’s different,” Kahn said. “I think he showed that last year in the way he played. His maturity and the kind of moxie he exhibited. He’s just different from other players. None of us doubted his ability to apply that type of discipline with his rehab, but watching I’m just more impressed with him.”
Rubio began participating in 5-on-0 activities just over a week ago, and as he continued to inch closer to fully rejoining the team Kahn said there was building excitement and anticipation.
His ability to impact games on both sides of the ball is something Rubio will bring to the Wolves as he works his way back into the rotation. Rubio showed his playmaking ability offensively, but he was also a key component of the Wolves’ identity on the defensive end—particularly stopping dribble penetration.
Still, Kahn and coach Rick Adelman have been cautious in noting with this type of comeback it’s important not to get over anxious. Rubio will have ups and downs as he returns, and he’ll need to ease himself back into his minutes after being sidelined from NBA competition since March.
“We need to be mindful that there will be ups and downs for him,” Kahn said. “Anecdotally, that’s what we need to understand. The first year sometimes can be an up and down year. But even in his down moments, Ricky is a significant addition to our team.”
Forward Kevin Love, who returned to the lineup last week after missing nine games with a broken right hand, agreed Rubio might need an adjustment period as he returns to the court.
“He might be a step slow; like me, he might need to get his legs underneath him,” Love said prior to Wednesday's game in Los Angeles. “But he’ll continue to get better, and he’s worked extremely hard to get where he’s at. We’re excited to have some good news.”
Adelman said prior to the team’s road trip that patience will be important in his return, but every step he takes toward rejoining the team is a big boost for his teammates and the organization.
“He’s just the type of young man that’s going to get through it,” Adelman said. “He’s just going to have to have some patience himself. But you saw last year when he had tough games, it never stayed with him very long. But this time it’s going to be more physical. His legs will be dead some days. We’ll just have to see how it goes. But you have to have faith in him, the type of person he is.”
Rubio, acquired by Minnesota with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, appeared in 41 games (31 starts) for the Wolves during his rookie season, averaging 10.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 2.22 steals. He compiled 12 point/assist double-doubles and dished out 10-plus assists on 15 occasions. At the time of his injury, Rubio ranked third in the NBA in steals and fifth in assists.
Kahn said today’s news is a big step in getting Rubio back on the court.
“It’s an uplifting thing for everybody—management and players and of course the fans,” Kahn said. “The day is getting closer.”
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