Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Bobcats

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Ricky Rubio and Kemba Walker have a distinct appreciation for one another’s ability on the court. The pair of rookie point guards have been key members of their respective teams this season—Rubio for the Timberwolves and Walker for the Bobcats—and for the first time tonight the two will have a chance to face one another.

And though the two have not yet gone head to head on the court, each is familiar with the other's strengths.

“Whenever I get a chance to watch the other rookies, I definitely take my time to watch those guys,” Walker said. “He’s definitely one of those guys that definitely stands out.”

Point guard play will be an important factor tonight as Minnesota hosts Charlotte at Target Center. The Bobcats enter on a 15-game losing streak and have leaned heavily on Walker for production while fellow guard DJ Augustin has missed the past 11 games with a right big toe injury. Walker has filled in admirably, averaging 14.5 points and 4.6 assists over the past 10 games.

Rubio has been that player for the Wolves all season. He's averaging 8.7 assists per game and leads the league with 2.38 steals per night, often electrifying arenas with his ability to use flashy but effective passes and alley-oops.
But as Minnesota looks to end its four-game losing skid tonight, improving their perimeter recent play will be key. The Timberwolves spoke at length the past two days about limiting turnovers, making simpler passes and not forcing plays during their offensive possessions.

Rubio and JJ Barea combined for 12 turnovers in Monday’s loss to Orlando, and each said during the morning shootaround that taking care of the ball is tonight’s priority.

“I think me and Ricky, we’re just putting too much pressure on ourselves to create for others and ourselves, and that’s when the turnovers come,” Barea said. “We’ve got to keep it more simple and relax a little bit and let the game come to us and see what happens.”

Rubio said sometimes an extra pass or two is necessary instead of trying for the home run play.

“We have to look for the easy basket and look to avoid the crazy passes and crazy turnovers,” Rubio said.

Each team will likely look to their rookie guards for that type of offensive guidance tonight. Rubio, the Wolves’ fifth-overall pick in 2009, and Walker, Charlotte’s ninth-overall pick in June, will have their first meeting on a night each team looks to end its longest losing streak of the season.

Rubio said Walker brings an aggressiveness that allows him to score and also draw fouls. Walker said he can see Rubio has an ability to get his teammates involved.

“It’s going to be fun,” Walker said. “I’m always up for challenges, and I know he’s a great player so I’m just looking forward to it.”

Both teams are hungry for a win. Rubio said it’s important for the Wolves to come away with a victory tonight.

“You have to fight for all games,” Rubio said. “You can’t worry about the record, because it means nothing sometimes. We just have to go hard from the beginning and try to win the game.”

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