Wessel: Wolves should mix things up and start Rubio, Williams
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The Minnesota Timberwolves are reeling right now, coming off an ugly 0-4 road trip where they lost all four games by double-digits and gave up 100-plus points a game.
Their play lacked any sort of spark or energy. They look like a bunch of guys feeling sorry for themselves and their hefty injury list -- something they've said repeatedly they aren't going to do.
Coach Rick Adelman -- who has missed the last five games while his wife is in the hospital -- isn't one for mixing up a starting lineup. He demonstrated that last season by waiting 10 games to start Ricky Rubio. But at this point, with the Wolves 4-10 in their last 14 games and their season starting to slip through the cracks, there really might not be much choice. Things have gotten stale.
Remember, this isn't like the beginning of the season where the Wolves just needed to tread water until Kevin Love and Rubio arrived in the rescue boat. The roster they have now -- pending a trade -- is going to be the roster for the foreseeable future. Chase Budinger and Love won't be cleared to play until March, and even then it will take a while for them to get back into game shape. Malcolm Lee is cashed for the season. And I have some Christian Laettner rookie cards to sell you if you're expecting any contribution from Brandon Roy the rest of the way. The cavalry isn't coming.
Rubio played a season-high 26 minutes in Tuesday's loss at Dallas and appears closer than ever to turning the corner. As long as the medical staff clears him for 30+ minutes, it might be time to enter him in the starting lineup. Having Rubio start with Luke Ridnour, like they did for 25 games last season before Rubio went down, can give rookie Alexey Shved a much needed break. The rampant injuries have forced the Wolves to ask for much more out of the Russian than they ever expected to and it is clear he is hitting some type of wall.
The other option the Wolves have is putting Derrick Williams back in the opening five. Adelman has gone with Dante Cunningham for Kevin Love's Broken Hand: The Sequel after starting Williams for the original nine-game stint. The Mavericks took advantage of Cunningham starting by leaving him so open that they were basically begging him to shoot. Cunningham obliged by casting 18 shots and making only 6 in 38 minutes.
There is some type of disconnect between Adelman and Williams, but the ceiling on Williams is much higher than Cunningham. Adelman would be wise to flip the two and go back to his original belief that Cunningham is better off the bench because of the spark he gives the team. Also, if you're going to start Rubio, you might as well start Williams, too. The second-year player out of Arizona is much more comfortable when the second-year player out of Spain is on the court.
Adding Rubio and Williams to the starting lineup is far from a magic elixir to cure all the woes this team is facing. But they currently sit tied in the win column for the No. 10 spot in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Lakers and Mavericks. It is time to start throwing some new junk against the wall in hopes that something sticks before it is too late.
The Wolves play nine of their next 12 at Target Center so now is the perfect time to rattle off some wins and get back on track. They get the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets -- both current playoff teams -- on Thursday and Saturday with the season is nearing the halfway point. If they are serious about their pledge to fight through these injuries and contend for a playoff spot, now is the time to stop the bleeding before it is too late.