MINNEAPOLIS Ricky Rubio did not practice Monday after missing Saturday's game against Phoenix with back spasms. The point guard began feeling back pain and stiffness on Friday at practice, and it got worse from there. He warmed up Saturday and hoped as late as an hour before the game that he'd be able to play, but he still felt too stiff, he said.
Rubio said that he feels like his body is telling him that he's been out a long time and to take it easy. "But there is no break here," he said, referencing the schedule and pace of the NBA season.
Both Rubio and Rick Adelman believe that the pain is likely a result of the point guard overcompensating because of his surgically repaired knee. Adelman has spoken often since Rubio was cleared to practice on Nov. 28 about the likelihood of other problems as the point guard gets back in shape, and he didn't seem surprised by this development. In fact, Rubio said that he also experienced groin pain two weeks ago before this latest issue, and the general attitude is that these problems were, if not expected, then at least just minor setbacks.
"I always thought that something was going to happen just because he's going through basically a training camp," Adelman said. "He's going to go through ups and downs and soreness, and it just happened to be his back."
Rubio said he'll see how he feels on Tuesday before making any decisions about playing on the team's road back-to-back in Utah and Denver on Wednesday and Thursday. He was supposed to meet with the training staff Monday to discuss the policy going forward on back-to-backs (he was not allowed to play in both games of a Dec. 17-18 series in Orlando and Miami), but the meeting will be postponed until the back stiffness is resolved.
"Now the problem is not the knee," Rubio said. "It's the back. We just keep moving forward."
Where things stand: After going 1-1 last week, the Timberwolves' remained a game over .500, third-best in the Northwest Division behind Oklahoma City and Denver. Nine weeks into the season, they're currently the tied for the eight-best record in the Western Conference. Here's a look at the rest of the league:
East: (1, tie) Heat and Knicks, (3) Hawks, (4, tie) Bulls and Pacers, (6) Bucks, (7) Nets, (8) Celtics. On the bubble: The 76ers are a half a game out of eighth place.
West: (1) Clippers, (2) Thunder, (3) Spurs, (4, tie) Grizzlies and Warriors, (6, tie) Rockets and Nuggets, (8, tie) Timberwolves and Trail Blazers. On the bubble: The Lakers are a half game out, the Jazz 1.5 games out.
- Five of last year's playoff teams, the 76ers, Magic, Mavericks, Jazz and Lakers, are currently among the league's 14 worst teams.
- Of the teams currently among the top eight in their respective conferences, the Bucks (-0.2) and Celtics (-2.2) have negative point differentials. (The Celtics also have a losing record.) All teams in the top eight in the West have positive point differentials and winning records.
- Of the teams currently among the bottom seven in their respective conferences, only the Lakers have a positive point differential, of 2.8. In fact, that's tied for the seventh-best point differential in the league, though the Lakers currently sit at 15-15.
- Longest current winning streaks: The Clippers have won 17 in a row, the Spurs five in a row, the Hawks four in a row.
- Longest current losing streaks: The Bobcats have lost 18 in a row, the Mavericks six in a row, the Suns and Magic four in a row.
- The Western Conference sits at 112-74 against the East so far this year, off to a dominant start. The Timberwolves are 6-7 against Eastern Conference teams.
- The Western Conference is beginning to show some more separation at the top, with the Clippers, Thunder and Spurs perhaps pulling away a bit from the Grizzlies and Warriors.
Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.