Reusse's Reality Script: Episode 6 (Rubio)
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1-The headline on the Timberwolves' 92-79 win over Houston on Saturday night was the play of newcomers Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson. The 6-foot-7 Gelabale returned to the NBA for the first time in five years, after playing in Europe, and the 6-foot-11 Johnson was rescued from the NBA's development league.
The pair had a first official indoctrination to the Wolves at Saturday's shoot-around and then played a combined 39 minutes for this injury-ravaged (make that -savaged) outfit vs. the sagging Rockets.
Johnson and Gelabale scored the Wolves' first 23 points of a winning fourth quarter, and deserved whatever attention received from the crowd and the media.
Still, the most-important element of this game was the play of Ricky Rubio during his heaviest work (30 minutes) of the season. Rubio absolutely owned the offensive end of the floor in that fourth quarter, finding Gelabale, finding Johnson and showing the ability to cut through traffic that made him a revelation as a rookie.
The Wild was returning to action on the eastern side of the Twin Cities at the same time, breaking out Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund, and that was the main attention-getter in this parts.
Still, the news was almost as good _ if not the excitement _ in seeing Rubio make what appeared (at least, on the Houston telecast off the NBA package) to be a huge step forward in his recovery from last spring's knee surgery.
"In the first half, I was looking, looking at home we play,'' Gelabale told reporters after the game. "In the second half, I enjoyed it more. Ricky made the game easy for me ... very easy.''
That is what Rubio does best _ create easy offense for teammates _ and he was back in that groove on Saturday night. He also was showing the engaging Ricky smile, rather than a frown of frustration over his limitation that had been seen regularly in his previous 11 games.
2-The comparison between the 2011 Twins, when they fell off the cliff from 94 wins to 63, and the 2012-13 Timberwolves, as they have gone from well-regarded playoff contenders to a MASH unit, has been impossible to ignore.
Injuries, illness and questionable motivation left the 2011 Twins in a situation where the team's ironman was third baseman Danny Valencia, with 154 games played and 608 plate appearances.
Injuries, illness and questionable motivation left the current Timberwolves in a situation where only Luke Ridnour has played in all 37 games. It had been Ridnour and Alexey Shved through 36 games, but now the Russian rookie has joined the slaughter with a sprained ankle and will miss a few games.
Valencia's credentials as a second-year big leaguer and Ridnour's as an NBA veteran vary substantially, but the idea that either would be the most-reliable presence in the lineup when those seasons started was preposterous. Ridnour had a bad back at the end of October training camp and there was some thought he would be limited.
The other comparison is what happened to the stars of the franchises:
Joe Mauer was among the most-popular player athletes in Minnesota history entering the 2011 season. He played only 82 games with 333 plate appearances, missing a huge part of the season with a mysterious leg injury and the last hunk of the schedule with a "mild case of pneumonia.''
Entering this Timberwolves season, Kevin Love was an All-Star, an Olympic gold medalist and a challenger to Kevin Garnett as the best player in franchise history. He missed the start of this season with a broken hand suffered in a mysterious fashion, ripped the hell out of the franchise in a national story with Yahoo sports, and then broke the hand again.
There's a very good chance that Love will finish with 18 games played (out of 82), 618 minutes and a 34.3 shooting percentage, in comparison to 55 games (out of 66) played, 2,145 minutes and 44.8% shooting in the previous season.
Mauer still hears the ridicule of "bilateral leg weakness" even after a productive and full-time season in 2012, and Love now faces the same with "knuckle pushups.''
Mauer's problems were part of an epidemic of injury and illness that sent the Twins careening into the basement of the American League, where they remained in 2012.
And now Love has become the symbol for a Timberwolves' team plagued by the same epidemic ... to the point that it seems like that Monty Python skit and the loyal, blood-spurting guard.