Wolves reeling from loss of Ricky Rubio: 'It's a big emotional shock'
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MINNEAPOLIS -- It was an understandably somber Minnesota Timberwolves locker room before Saturday's game against the New Orleans Hornets as players reacted to the news that Ricky Rubio will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
"It's a big emotional shock," Kevin Love said. "He makes winning plays. He's a winner. We love having him around, on and off the court. We hope for a speedy recovery so he can help this team next year. It's a big loss for us."
Said Anthony Tolliver, "It's a big blow to our team. He's a huge part of what we do."
Coach Rick Adelman said he saw Rubio earlier in the day and was able to talk to the rookie after an MRI revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Rubio's left knee.
"Disappointed," Adelman said. "That's the worst part about it. We're all disappointed, I'm really disappointed for him. He's having a great year and we're going to miss him."
The injury likely will cause Rubio to miss the Olympics as well, removing a key cog from Spain's national tem.
"I said 'this can't be,'" said Nikola Pekovic, who first saw the news on a Serbian newspaper's website.
President of basketball operations David Kahn said that Rubio will have his surgery at some point in March but the swelling must go down before they can move forward with the procedure and rehab.
"I think that Ricky has demonstrated throughout this entire season his competiveness knows no bounds," Kahn said. "His work ethic knows no bounds. If ever there was a player that was ticketed to have not just a full recovery but to come back better than ever, stronger, it's Ricky Rubio. I have no doubt that come next season he'll be back better than ever."
As glum as Adelman and his players were, all believe that Rubio has the right kind of mindset and work ethic to handle a blow like this, as disappointing as it may be.
"He's young and you know, the way he is, he's so competitive, he's going to get through this and come back," Adelman said. "... He's going to get through this. He's going to come back. I feel for him with the summer (Olympics) coming up and everything else. But I have no doubts if there's anyone who will do everything he can do to get back, he will."
Added Nikola Pekovic, "He is still young. His career is in front of him."
The Wolves were also focused on moving forward as a team. The worst thing they can do now is to let their grief fold any chance the Wolves have at making the playoffs.
"We'll see how everybody reacts," Tolliver said. "I think we have enough talent to still be fine. to still get there. we still are in position to control our own destiny. So, as long as we stay on pace, and continue to win games, i think that we have a great chance."
Said Love, "It's a chance for other guys to step up. That's what's going to need to happen going forward. We can't lose the essence of where this team is headed right now."
Without Rubio, Luke Ridnour was moved to the starting point guard and Martell Webster got the start at shooting guard. Adelman and Kahn also indicated that rookie Malcolm Lee will make his NBA debut and be one of the guys who needs to step up, especially with J.J. Barea still out with an ankle injury.
"I do think there is enough character and drive and initiative in the locker room as it is to be highly competitive this season," Kahn said.