MINNEAPOLIS Two weeks ago, when Ricky Rubio was cleared to practice, the Timberwolves training staff identified this Wednesday, Dec. 12, as a possible debut date. Now, though, things are still up in the air.
It isnt due to anything Rubio has done, it seems, but rather to considerations with the schedule. The game against the Nuggets comes on the heels of four days of rest, but it kicks off a stretch in which the team plays four games in seven nights, including a grueling stretch in which it flies to New Orleans Thursday, plays Friday, flies back to the Twin Cities that night, plays Saturday, flies to Orlando Sunday, plays Monday, flies to Miami and plays Tuesday.
I think whenever you start talking about that, youve got to look at the schedule, bring that into play as to how youre going to approach that, Rick Adelman said. I really dont know.
Adelman expects to have a meeting to clarify the teams plans for Rubio to return to games in the next day or two, and the training staff has been testing the point guard every other day, evaluating the strength in his leg and his endurance. If he continues to do well, perhaps some clarity will emerge, not only as to when hell play, but also how much, how often, how intensely.
Adelman laughed that Rubio wants to play every time, all the time, all the minutes, and its true. Thatll be the biggest challenge limiting him and putting him in the proper situations. If there is a minutes limit, Adelman and his staff will have to figure out when its best to put him out there: For a whole half? For the beginning of one quarter at the end of the next? As a starter? Off the bench? There are still so many questions.
Ive been through that before with Yao, Adelman said. Its not easy to determine that... Those are the things were going to have to sit down and figure out. It doesnt just affect him. It affects the whole team and how you play other people.
Overall, though, Adelman seemed pleased with what the point guard has done thus far. Hes still not perfect with his timing, the coach said, but his conditioning is improving, and his ability to get into the middle of the court and find his teammates that hasnt gone anywhere.
Where we stand: Ive decided to do a new thing every Monday, where I look at the NBA standings, where the Timberwolves sit and how things have shifted from week to week. So to start off, here are the standings if the playoffs started today:
East: (1) Knicks, (2) Heat, (3) Hawks, (4, tie) Bulls and Nets, (6, tie) 76ers and Celtics, (8) Bucks. On the bubble: Pacers are one game out.
West: (1, tie) Spurs and Thunder, (3) Grizzlies, (4) Clippers, (5) Warriors, (6) Jazz, (7, tie) Mavericks and Timberwolves. On the bubble: Nuggets and Rockets are a half-game out.
Interesting notes:Four of last years playoff teams, the Pacers, Magic, Nuggets and Lakers, are currently among the leagues 14 worst teams.Of the teams currently among the top eight in their respective conferences, the 76ers (-1.3), Bucks (-0.9) and Mavericks (-1.7) have negative point differentials.Of the teams currently among the bottom seven in their respective conferences, only the Lakers have a positive point differential, of 3.1. In fact, its the eighth-best point differential in the league, though the Lakers currently sit at 9-12.The Western Conference sits at 75-54 against the East so far this year, off to a dominant start. The Timberwolves are 6-4 against the East.
Peks ankle: After Friday nights game, Nikola Pekovic admitted that his off performance 4 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist was likely due to a sore left ankle. It was the opposite ankle from the one he sprained earlier in the season, but he said he rolled this one in Philadelphia and was actually questionable to play in Boston. Hes hardly the kind of player whos going to make up excuses for poor play, so theres little reason to question him.
And the good news is that at practice Monday, Adelman said that the ankle didnt seem to be bothering Pek. The center felt and looked good on the court, according to the coach.
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