Wessel: Questions surround Ricky Rubio, but he's answered them before
Ricky Rubio once again finds himself entering an NBA season filled with uncertainty and questions.
Rubio came into the league a year ago with the weight of an entire city's sky-high expectations on his shoulders. He had the burden of critics claiming he was too small, he couldn't shoot and his international game wouldn't translate stateside.
The Spanish heartthrob passed every test and lived up to the hype. But now, entering his sophomore season with the Minnesota Timberwolves and continuing to rehab his surgically repaired ACL, he faces a much more daunting challenge.
Rubio smartly put no firm date on when he will return to the court when he met with media on Thursday. It could be anywhere from mid-December to January, but make no mistake: even with a revamped roster, there will be one storyline bigger than the rest heading into the season.
When is Ricky coming back?
The question isn't just when he will return, but when he will return to the level that had him and the Wolves in the mix for a playoff spot and saw him finishing runner-up in the NBA Rookie of the Year voting.
Remember, athletes aren't built the same. Not everybody is Adrian Peterson and has the freakish recovery speed of a T-1000. ACLs are different for everyone.
Just days before training camp opens, Rubio is only jogging. He still needs to sprint, jump, cut and, well, be able to play basketball. There really is no telling when he will be 100 percent -- and it could be a ways after his projected return.
Rubio himself even mentioned on Thursday it is always in the back of an athlete's mind whether or not he or she can return to the level they were pre-injury.
The Wolves are much better suited to handle Rubio's absence than a year ago, when they finished the season 5-20 after Rubio's knee was 86ed.
Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Wesley Johnson and Darko Milicic were jettisoned, only to live on as punch lines for Wolves fans and painful reminders of the past.
Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko stand at the forefront of a group of newcomers brought in over the summer.
But any chance of ending the NBA-long eight-year playoff drought rests solely with Rubio.
The Wolves players seem to know it. Roy and Kevin Love specifically mentioned Rubio's return when asked about how far this team can go in the 2012-13 season.
Luke Ridnour has proven himself as a dependable, stopgap starter. J.J. Barea is a serviceable backup who will be looking to rebound from a frustrating injury-plagued season.
But you'd be hard-pressed to find even an optimistic Wolves backer who thinks either can lead the team long-term.
The Wolves are a franchise at a crossroads. The only person hungrier for the playoffs than the fans is Love. All eyes and expectations -- no matter how unfair -- will be on Rubio when he returns, especially if the team struggles out of the gates.
Betting against him has proven to be losing wager so far. The Wolves hope that continues.