Mar 30, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9) looks on during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Ricky Rubio and Misappropriating Hero Ball

Earlier in March Britt Robson wrote a steaming pile of garbage over at mnpost, that would make any Wolves fan who has watched a game in the last two months scratch his head and wonder about the extracurriculars of Mr. Robson. Establishing a ridiculous basis before putting his literary head down and charging on. Here he goes:

…for those of you die-hards still watching the games, recall how many times Rubio has set up a teammate for an open look during these past five or 10 contests. It will help you understand why one of the game’s most instinctively generous passers is increasingly deciding to rely on his own historically low-percentage shot.

Sure, those of you determined to see the Wolves’ glass as one-third full instead of two-thirds empty can note that Rubio has made 15 of 31 shots the past two games, a very respectable 48.4 percent, en route to back-to-back 21-point games. More credibly (because two games is not a credible sample size when the player has shot 35.7 percent over 78 games) one can argue that Rubio is fast-forwarding his shooting repetitions to establish a rhythm and flow against NBA competition, although his mechanics and arc still seem worrisome enough to compel fundamental adjustments in the off-season.

But the best argument for what can only be described as “hero ball” from Rubio the past couple of weeks is that it exemplifies his leadership and burning desire to win. Because Rubio isn’t selfishly jacking up shots and letting every other aspect of his game languish. Quite the opposite: He’s jousting for rebounds at both ends of the court, aggressively pressuring his man to force turnovers, and still gift-wrapping open looks at the basket for his teammates. The bottom line is, right now, Rubio is the closest thing the NBA has to a one-man team.

In my world, “hero ball” isn’t a nice way to describe a player. So to lay that at Rubio’s feet and then speculate that he’s shooting because he thinks he has a better chance of making a shot than his teammates seems crazy if you’ve ever seen the guy play; because if you’ve ever seen his defender completely slack off of him, you’d see his options are shoot or thread needle after needle. But nevermind, because labeling someone a “hero baller” doesn’t seem to mean what I think it does, because Britt piles the compliments on after that…

This produces exploits like the gaudy 21-point, 13-rebound, 12-assist triple-double against the Spurs, which slaps an otherwise somnambulant national media upside the head about Rubio’s forward progress post-knee surgery, and enables the beleaguered Wolves marketing department, bushwhacked by the team’s injury-related pratfalls and enormous increases in season ticket prices, to peddle something positive. And it gives everyone associated with the Wolves a little more hope.

That said, it behooves me to add a little perspective, especially after my reasons to be optimistic” column of a week ago. One-man teams are the junk food of spectating, delivering delicious surges of energy that are ultimately devoid of satisfying sustenance. Although Rubio’s history and mentality gives him more immunity, one-man-team performances also generate bad habits by provoking ego-besotting adulation.

That last paragraph must have been fun to write, but it’s garbage. This was written 2 weeks ago and after failing to score efficiently, Rubio has been proving himself capable against some particularly stout defense the last 2 games — OKC and Memphis.

So yes, Rubio has been a joy to witness, a lifesaver of souls consigned to the desultory Wolves beat, a buffer, if not an antidote, to all those unfortunate injuries and stupid personnel decisions that have robbed this franchise of a decent supporting cast for most, perhaps all, of this rotten season.

But he still has a long way to go to even crack the conversation about the top half-dozen point guards in this league and he needs to remember to alter his game to re-emphasize his virtues if and when the roster is ever at full strength. Yes, it is fabulous to see how much of himself he leaves out on the floor. But that doesn’t mean that when Ridnour misses a layup with Rubio standing in the corner for a potential three that he shouldn’t scramble back and prevent a breakout layup by George Hill.

And it doesn’t mean that Rubio can allow his man Orlando Johnson to put three or four players between them on a simple out-of-bounds play, resulting in a three-pointer that boosted the Pacers’ lead from 8 to 11 with nine minutes to play.

This cherry picking is every bit as pathetic as writing criticisms between the lines of another.

I could continue this nit-picking, but it would feel like piling on. Suffice to say that even with his recent heroics, Rubio is shooting 39.8 percent in March, including 30 percent from three-point territory, and that his 9.5 assists to 4.3 turnovers is a lower assist-to-turnover ratio than Ridnour and J.J. Barea have compiled this month.

In other words, Ricky Rubio needs help. He needs a healthy Love, a healthy Budinger, a healthy Kirilenko and a healthy Pekovic. He needs all re-signed and on the court next season running sets designed by coach Rick Adelman. If and when that happens, today’s junk food will be transformed into an enriching, organic and succulent repast. For a starving fan base, it can’t happen soon enough.

The comebacker of this piece is exactly on point — as Chase Budinger has helped the Wolves’ overall ball movement and spacing, and created more space for Pek and Ricky — even Derrick Williams — to get more comfortable and do more of what they are capable.

The problem with criticizing Ricky for being a leader and giving his all while carrying a bigger load, is the rewards will bear out in the (hopefully near) future when Rubio doesn’t have to be scoring 20 points and approach a triple-double to keep the Wolves in a game. It’s like when KG had to step up when Googs and Stephon skipped town: Terrell Brandon and Joe Smith just looked at KG and it was do it or nobody will — and that’s exactly where Ricky is right now.

Next Timberwolves Game Full schedule »
Saturday, Nov 11 Nov7:00Chicago BullsBuy Tickets

Tags: Hero Ball Minnesota Timberwolves Ricky Rubio

comments powered by Disqus