League-wide Ricky Christmas attention from NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner:
Rubio’s impact could be profound. He returns to an overhauled roster, with only six faces back from the group that went 5-20 after he went down.
The team’s two Clydesdales up front – Nikola Pekovic and Love – should get more opportunities at the rim, with Rubio’s interior passes and the defensive attention he’ll draw. In particular, Love – who might have come back too soon, judging by his continued hand discomfort and miserable shooting percentages — should get more open looks as he and the point guard sync up their games again.
The pressure Rubio puts on the defense and the angles he sees could be golden for shooters such as Chase Buddinger and Roy, if only they were healthy now. Luke Ridnour will benefit in their absence. And so will the team’s Russian connection. The way Andrei Kirilenko moves without the ball and uses the baseline, he and Rubio could be good for a couple highlight set-ups per night. And teaming Alexey Shved– no longer a mere Rubio placeholder – with him in the backcourt hints at some crafty ball-sharing and scoring chances at one end, better-than-expected defense at the other.
Beautiful sentiments, all. It’s important to note that, like Robson’s piece, Asch strikes a pose of rational expectations, first:
The schedule is a grind at the moment. The back-to-back this weekend vs. the Hornets and Mavericks is followed hard by an Orlando-Miami swing Monday and Tuesday, during which Rubio’s minutes – or even involvement in one or both – likely will be carefully managed. (A confab of team and medical personnel Saturday morning was excepted to give him the green-light to face Dallas.)
There’s some stark naked truth.
After this stretch, though, Minnesota plays just four games in a stretch of 14 days, three across the 12 days from Dec. 21 through Jan. 1. It is 9-5 when getting at least one day of rest between games.
Four games in fourteen days! That’s what I’m talking about. And it’s also important to note that Andrei Kirilenko seems to understand how good Ricky Christmas will be for him:
“He’s one of those kind of guys who can make a difference in the game,” Kirilenko told reporters after a Wolves practice this week. “In practice you see that every attack, every possession offensively and defensively. Those guys are pretty rare. … He’s just adding some more something to the game. He can run the ball, he can really create that up-tempo and his passes are unbelievable.”
God bless us, everyone.