When I saw the Timberwolves schedule my first thought was “welcome to the NBA Ricky Rubio, we’d like you to meet Russell Westbrook.” Tough way to debut.
But Rubio was not fazed in the least, he looked good in his first NBA game. Very good.
The numbers are modest — six points, six assists, five rebounds and no turnovers in 26 minutes — but that was more about the Timberwolves keeping the reins on him early. When he was in he was controlling the game for the Timberwolves in a mature way.
Rubio just has an amazing court sense that few point guards ever have. We knew he could pass, but he uses his feel for the game to control the pace, space the floor properly and create shots for others. Check out his first assist to see what I’m talking about.
And for one night at least he did all the things critics said he couldn’t. He was 2-of-2 on midrange jumpers (but missed his one attempt from three). He didn’t play recklessly and turn the over. Some people thought he couldn’t defend, although if you watched him internationally that didn’t seem a big issue.
Here is what Zach Harper — who blogs the Wolves — had to say about Rubio’s play.
His passing is some Third Kind, Richard Dreyfuss in a pick-up truck type of stuff. It’s not that they’re flashy. It’s that they’re flashy with a purpose. Some people throw a behind the back pass because it makes them look good. Rubio’s threads were to make the team look good….
Rubio turned Westbrook into an iso player, and it briefly took the Thunder out of their sets. With 3:30 left in the game and the Thunder up one, Westbrook drove the right side of the lane against Rubio. Despite being presumed to be too slow to stay with guys like Westbrook, Wall, and Rose, Ricky slid his feet, stayed in front of Russ and sold a charge to the ref for the turnover.
Certainly Westbrook played like an All-Star. He lost Rubio on some back door cuts and on one play in transition just physically overpowered the Spaniard. Oklahoma City won the game because they are the better team.
But Rubio is going to be good in the NBA. Likely very good. And that may come along sooner rather than later. Combine that with Kevin Love and Derrick Williams and you can see a real future for Minnesota. For now, they are going to be fun to watch.