Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio was smiling and upbeat Thursday, Sept. 27, as he talked with reporters, but he had no definitive news on when he would play this season with his revamped team.
Rubio, still recovering from a major knee injury, expressed hope of playing in "December or early January." Even then, the Spanish star preferred to be cautious about his return to the court.
"I don't want to say a time because I don't want to rush it," Rubio said outside the Wolves' practice facility at Target Center. "I want to be ready whenever it is. It depends on how my knee goes."
Rubio tore his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee when he collided with Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant in the final seconds of a March 9 game at Target Center. Rubio had surgery on March 21 at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo., setting up a six- to nine-month rehabilitation.
Doctors cleared him three weeks ago to do light running on a treadmill, but he will not participate in the Wolves' four-day training camp, which begins Tuesday at Minnesota State Mankato. Rubio also is prohibited from jumping and lateral movement. He has been cleared only to shoot set shots and free throws.
Rubio is hoping to start agility work in "three to four weeks" if there is no swelling in his knee. So far, he said, he has not had any.
"It's a great feeling to be able to run and the knee not swell," he said. "If the knee swells, I will have to stop. If not, I
will keep pushing it. I'm trying to do as much as I can do. They have to stop me sometimes because I want to do more."
Rubio was a major factor in the Wolves' early success last season. Before the injury, he averaged 10.6 points, 8.2 assists and 2.2 steals and helped the Wolves build a 21-19 record. Rubio admitted he has concerns about whether he can return to the level of play that established him as one of the NBA's top rookies last season.
"I always have doubts and think about how I'm going to come back," he said. "I just have to trust. I'm doing my best to get ready and be as strong as I can. I want to be back soon."
Rubio said he has one more scheduled visit to Vail to be examined by Richard Steadman, who performed the surgery. In the meantime, Rubio will continue his rehab under the supervision of the Wolves' training and medical staff. Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea are expected to handle point guard duties while Rubio is out.
The inability to practice prompted Rubio to label himself as an "assistant coach" for now. He plans to attend all practices and film sessions to keep abreast of potential changes in Wolves coach Rick Adelman's system. Adelman's assistants have been conducting informal workouts with players for the past four weeks.
Rubio's upbeat mood could be challenged while he is sidelined. "Watching my teammates play and I can't has been hard," he said. "It's hard on me physically because it hurts, but it's also hard on the mind."
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