x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Struggles of Ricky Rubio to live up to expectations in the NBA

The Minnesota Timberwolves are sticking with the inconsistent Spaniard as his second season comes to a close.

Ricky Rubio has endured his fair share of ups and downs since moving to the NBA.
Ricky Rubio has endured his fair share of ups and downs since moving to the NBA.

Ricky Rubio's reputation preceded him across the Atlantic, long before he finally signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves prior to last season.

He was the dazzling young point guard who played in Spain's ACB League at age 14. At 16 in played in the Euroleague. At 17 he played and starred on Spain's Olympic team in China. At 18, the Timberwolves chose him with the fifth pick in the NBA draft.

He had flair, good looks and star quality. People compared his mop of hair and astounding passing skills to Pete Maravich, an NBA standout of the 1970s.

Rubio is nearing the end of his second NBA season, and stardom continues to elude him. Still only 22, he has both dazzled and disappointed.

For the second consecutive season, Rubio is averaging 10.6 points per game. He is handing out a solid 7.5 assists per game, good for seventh in the league, and playing superior defence.

But he also averages 3.1 turnovers per game, has made only 36.5 per cent of his shots and is a wretched 28 per cent from three-point range.

The development of Ricky Rubio continues.

"It's still a learning process for him, but you have to admire how hard he plays on every possession," said Rick Adelman, the Timberwolves coach. "Even when he wasn't shooting well, he kept taking his shots. That's how he is."

In a victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, he had 19 points, 12 assists and eight steals (and eight turnovers), making seven of 12 shots. Three nights later, against the Detroit Pistons, he missed 12 of 13 shots. "Since I'm a professional, I haven't been a good shooter," Rubio said. "I'm trying to work as hard as I can."

Still, the charismatic kid is a fan favourite. And the Timberwolves believe he can develop his shot.

"It's not that hard," said Terry Porter, the Minnesota assistant coach. "I didn't shoot that good coming in. I'm ageing myself, but we didn't have three-point shots in college. So I had to learn how to get that."

Rubio's ascent was hampered last year when he required knee surgery. He started this season six weeks late, and appeared tentative. He has improved of late, and Adelman said his fitness has improved.

"He feels better about his knee," Adelman said. "He's more confident. He is playing more like he was last year before the injury. … He's not a great shooter but a lot of guys aren't in this league. He is a kid that is going to work hard at it and eventually he will be more than good enough shooting the ball. But right now he is doing everything on the fly."

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