Ricky Rubio says speculation around Kevin Love “hurt the team and hurt himself”

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Last season in Minnesota there only seemed to be two questions: “Wait, who is hurt now?” and “So, Kevin Love, where do you plan to play next season?”

Frankly the first question doesn’t get mentioned enough when discussing the Timberwolves struggles last season (although there certainly were issues beyond injuries), but the second one…

Ricky Rubio brought it up again talking about the future of the Timberwolves with Jeff Caplan of NBA.com.

“Of course we had a lot going on last year and the media was talking, they were wondering if Kevin wanted to be here, blah, blah, blah, and that hurt the team and hurt himself,” Rubio said. “Now that he’s not here, the media’s not going to talk about that anymore. I think that’s going to be good for him and for us.”

Um, maybe the not talking about him is nice Ricky, but the team is not better off. Maybe Wiggins can develop into the kind of talent Love is…. but Love already is. Okay, but time to move on…

Except this season Rubio could be the distraction.

Rubio’s name is going to come up in a lot of trade rumors this season as he is up for a contract extension and if not done by Oct. 31 (highly unlikely outcome) he is a restricted free agent. Team coach/president Flip Saunders doesn’t want to pay Rubio what the player (and his agent) think he can get on the open market. Rubio may be in for a surprise there, but in the short term Saunders is going to listen to legitimate offers, and those will flow in.

It will be Rubio’s year to hear “So, where do you plan to play next season?”

That said, he said he wants to take a leadership role on this team.

“We have to step up, especially me as a leader, be more vocal. Our young guys, they need someone to guide them. I think we have a lot of vets here that can do that. Mo [Williams] is a great example. Me and Kevin Martin can do the same thing.

“What I’ve been doing, since I am young, is leading by example, practicing hard and doing everything on the court. I have to learn how to be more vocal. I’m not good at that and I have to improve.”

It’s something that would help his trade value, too.