Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 4/3/12
MINNEAPOLIS See the point guard collapsed on the court, clutching his right ankle? The one the Minnesota Timberwolves struggled to replace in the fourth quarter of Monday's 116-108 loss in Sacramento, the one who'd denied injuries for weeks despite bruises and ice packs, constant stiffness and pain?He was supposed to be traded. At least, that's what speculation said. It's what common sense would have dictated after signing Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea. Who needs Luke Ridnour? He's undersized, older, not much of a household name, a third point guard that seemed like one too many. In December and again in early March, Ridnour seemed dispensable. But instead of trading or benching him as the cries for Rubio to start echoed through the Target Center in early January, Minnesota coach Rick Adelman built his offense in Minnesota around Ridnour, to a certain extent. Because as much as benching Rubio to open the season made a statement about earning minutes and where a rookie stands, Rubio was going to start eventually, barring some sort of catastrophic screw-up. With Barea as a career bench player, that left Ridnour the odd man out, but Adelman never once took the veteran out of his starting lineup. Instead, he embraced a system of playing two point guards nearly all the time, allowing Ridnour to have more of a scoring role, and until March 9, when Rubio tore his ACL, that paid off.Sure, the system didn't always work. With the 175-pound Ridnour and 180-pound Rubio on the court concurrently, the Timberwolves were small, and they were sometimes too small. Take the Jan. 29 106-101 loss to the Lakers, when Ridnour guarded Metta World Peace, who referred to him as "some 100-pound guy." It was a perfect example of the system's shortcomings, but it was nothing compared to the 21-19 record those two "100-pound guys" led the Timberwolves to by March 7. They were good enough, a better combination than Minnesota had seen in years.Somehow, still, there were calls to trade Ridnour as late as March 8, to get the team a new shooting guard or small forward. It's not that the Timberwolves didn't (and don't still) need help at those positions, but why ruin a good thing? Yet again, they didn't, at least in part because of Rubio's ACL tear, and just a few weeks later, with Barea still mired in the cycle of injuries that's nearly ruined his season, that decision became an even better choice. Ridnour was all the Timberwolves had left.Before he fell in Sacramento and sprained his ankle, Ridnour was enough just barely enough. He was having a career season, averaging 12.1 points and 4.8 assists per game. Since Rubio's injury, he'd pushed his play to an even higher level, averaging 13.8 points and 7.8 assists, picking up a good deal of the rookie's offensive firepower. And with Barea out since March 23, Ridnour had been averaging 37.6 minutes before he sprained his ankle. He was doing as much as was asked, which seemed to be increasing on a nightly basis, pushing his body to the limits of what it could handle without ever really complaining. He's the kind of guy who says little but to thank God after every game, who will look at you like you're crazy if you ask whether he'll be making a road trip. Of course he will be, and no one could have shouldered the burden better.That's why this injury hurts just as much as Rubio's and center Nikola Pekovic's, if not more. When Rubio fell, the team had options. When Pekovic missed time, there was always the suspicion that he'd return and a viable way to retool the lineup in his absence. With Ridnour, the last domino fell at point guard, and Adelman said after Monday's game that rookie Malcolm Lee, who's played a whopping 95 NBA minutes, will likely be his replacement. There's no consensus on when Barea will return, and it's too soon to put a time frame to Ridnour's recovery. Until then, the Timberwolves' hopes rest on a rookie who's a solid defender but not yet fully comfortable offensively as a point guard.If Lee gets the start on Wednesday, it will be the last thing anyone would have expected just a month ago. After knee surgery, the rookie was recovering slowly, shuttling back and forth between the D-League and Minneapolis. He had the luxury of time, but just a month later, that's exactly what the Timberwolves are running out of, as three weeks are all that separate today from the end of the season.Seeing Ridnour fall was demoralizing, difficult even to watch. It was the first injury in a long time that he couldn't deny. There was no ignoring it, no numbing it and moving on, and it was a painful sign of the reality the Timberwolves now face. It's a reality no one saw coming, not with three point guards, a forward posting MVP numbers and a rookie sensation. It's hard not to take all that for granted, to just assume on March 7 with a 21-19 record that your team still has a shot. But in just a few weeks, that chance at a playoff spot and a winning record has become a distant memory. If the Timberwolves learn one thing from all this, from the barrage of injuries, it's to assume nothing. And that's not a bad thing for a young team to learn, even if it did come at the expense of its season.Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Eddie Lacy defends Mike McCarthy for weight loss comments

Red Sox nearly had serious catcher emergency in loss to Tigers

Ohio State DL Dylan Thompson ineligible for season

Roger Federer will miss Olympics, U.S. Open with knee injury

Seahawks extend Pete Carroll through 2019


LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye releases first statement following car crash

Report: Brock Osweiler could have made more money staying with Broncos

Andrew Luck: Feels `as good as I've ever felt` for training camp

Amar'e Stoudemire announces retirement after signing one-day contract with Knicks

Report: Gregory failed multiple drug tests since suspension

Olympian Abby Johnston: Worst thing about Olympic village is no Pokemon

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

Report: Paul Pierce to return to Clippers

Jimbo Fisher: You come to FSU to win national championships

Andre Johnson worked out for Tennessee Titans

Shattenkirk for Krejci trade rumor still floating around

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman denies link to C.T.E.

Michael Vick: Cam Newton can’t beat me in 40-yard dash

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

Odell Beckham Jr. says Giants will play in Super Bowl LI

Iowa researchers say they can optimize Monday Night Football ratings with scheduling

Terrelle Pryor can visit Ohio State as five-year ban comes to a close

Rudy Gay admits to having ‘no idea’ about what the Kings are doing

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker