Ricky Rubio’s ankle injury is worse than previously thought

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Ricky Rubio sprained his left ankle near the beginning of the season, missing all but the first five games of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ season. Originally, the team expected him to be back in January, but the latest word out of Minneapolis is that the injury is worse than we thought and fans won’t be seeing Rubio back anytime soon:

It has been almost 11 weeks since he went down with a severely sprained left ankle, and the length of his recovery has drawn impatience from a fan base desperate to see Rubio throw lob passes to Andrew Wiggins.

But on a night when the Wolves finally got center Nikola Pekovic back from a 31-game absence, coach Flip Saunders shed some light on the nature of Rubio’s injury. Saunders said Rubio not only suffered a high ankle sprain against Orlando on Nov. 7, but also damaged some muscles and ligaments that lead from his ankle to his toes, prolonging the recovery process.

This is obviously a huge bummer for Rubio and for Wolves fans. They’re one of the worst teams in the league this year, but Wiggins and Zach LaVine have emerged as promising young talents, and it’s essential to their future that Rubio gets experience playing with the other parts of the young, rebuilding core.

The Timberwolves have every reason to be cautious with Rubio. They’re not going anywhere this year — at 7-34, they have the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-worst overall record in the league. They’re going to get a top-five lottery pick, most likely. Rubio also signed a four-year, $56 million extension that kicks in next season. The Timberwolves have a lot of money invested in his future, and it would be foolish to put that at risk for what is already a lost season.