T-Wolves' Rubio set for 1st practice in 9 months

T-Wolves' Rubio set for 1st practice in 9 months

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) For Ricky Rubio, the waiting has been the hardest part.

Now that Minnesota's dynamic young point guard is achingly close to playing in his first game in nearly nine months, Rubio says it's important to be patient with his recovery from torn ligaments in his left knee. He was cleared to return to full-contact practice this week and is expected to practice this weekend, but it's still too soon to tell when he will be able to play in a game for the Wolves.

``I don't want to think about dates, `cause I don't want to rush it,'' Rubio said Friday after the team's shootaround before a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. ``I want to feel like (I can) practice, and (worry) nothing at all about my knee. When that time comes, I will be ready.''

Rubio tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee late in a game against the Lakers on March 9, derailing a thrilling rookie season for the Spanish import that helped make the Timberwolves relevant again after years of wallowing at the bottom of the Western Conference. He had surgery on March 21, and started the first significant rehabilitation program of his basketball career. The laborious process took the fun and creativity away from a game that's consumed him since he was a young boy.

``I think the most difficult part is being patient,'' Rubio said. ``You can't do more than they say because you can get hurt. Being patient is hard. It's hard, but it is what it is. You just have to work as hard as you can and that's it.''

Rubio has been participating in non-contact work with the Wolves for the past two weeks. He says the mobility in his knee is just about 100 percent, and he's anxious to see how it responds to his first practice, which could come as soon as Saturday.

``I think I feel great, but what they're saying is once you're playing basketball it's different,'' he said. ``You can do whatever you want. You can run a lot. But then practice, it's just different. In the game, it's just different than everything else you do. They were saying I have to do running, do sprint, and after a couple things I will be exhausted, but I want to feel that.''

The Timberwolves have been adamant throughout the process that they won't rush Rubio back. He's too important to the long-term health of the franchise to risk further injury for the sake of an extra win or two in December.

That said, the sooner he's back on the court zipping behind-the-back passes and alley-oop lobs before an adoring fan base, the better for a Wolves team that has struggled to find a consistent offensive flow without him. Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea haven't been able to get the ball moving from side to side as freely and easily as it did when Rubio was pulling the trigger.

They've also played at a much slower pace than coach Rick Adelman has historically preferred, turning games into grind-it-out affairs based heavily on the pick-and-roll in the halfcourt. With Rubio last season, the pace was much quicker, baskets were easier to come by and his defense on the perimeter made a huge difference as well.

Injuries to Kevin Love, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Nikola Pekovic and Barea have also factored into the change in approach. But Rubio is the straw that stirs the drink in Minnesota.

So when will he play in a game?

The Timberwolves hosted the Bucks on Friday night, followed by three days off before a back-to-back in Philadelphia and Boston next week. The team has yet to announce a practice schedule, but they are expected to workout at least twice before hitting the road, and quite possibly on all three days as they try to get Rubio back up to speed.

The chances of Rubio playing in the back-to-back next week would seem slim given the team's stated approach of easing him back into things. That means a possibly playing a home game against Cleveland on Dec. 7, or perhaps a home game against Denver on Dec. 12 after four more days off.

``After the first or second practice, I will know more where I'm at,'' Rubio said. ``Because right now I can practice, but I don't know how I will feel after my first practice.''

Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn said Rubio likely will start out with about 16-18 minutes of action in his first few games. Rubio knows that's probably for the best, but he doesn't have to like it.

``That's what the doctors said, that the first games we'll have to limit the minutes, which I say OK,'' Rubio said. ``But once I'm out there, I don't think I can handle that. But it's going to be coach's decision to put me on the court.''


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Wizards finally experience a blowout win for their side

Wizards finally experience a blowout win for their side

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The Washington Wizards experienced plenty during this largely trying regular season. One aspect missing, being on the all-smiles end of a blowout victory. After Wednesday’s 119-95 rout over the Cleveland Cavaliers, they can now check that box.

“It’s nice to experience that as well,” Tomas Satoransky said.

Washington led from start to finish and by double figures for the final 35 minutes. It set season-highs for points in a quarter (41 in the first), the first half (73) and largest halftime margin (21). The Wizards turned 24 Cavalier turnovers into 29 points. All 13 players scored. 

Quality stretches existed this season, but for minutes, a quarter, maybe a half, but rarely over the full 48. Other than a third-quarter dip when the Cavaliers (2-12) closed within 13 points, the Wizards rolled. The romp meant John Wall only played 21 minutes. None of the starters entered in the fourth quarter. That last part happened in recent games, but this time for positive reasons.

“It was great,” Bradley Beal said of a game “[We were] able to come out and get a lead and be able to sustain it and maintain it throughout the game.”

The Wizards maintained little during the opening 11 games of the regular season other than a downtrodden vibe. Their 5-9 record reflects those struggles. The current three-game winning streak signals growth. The postgame locker room smiles and comments displayed some sense of relief.

“I think we needed that, obviously,” Satoransky said to NBC Sports Washington. The reserve point guard was part of the second quarter surge that saw the Wizards outscore the struggling Cavaliers 20-2 for a 61-34 lead.

“They were on a back-to-back and they haven’t been playing well this year. We felt like with a day off after our last win we could come out aggressively, and just keep it going,” said Satoransky, who had eight points, four assists and three steals in 17 minutes. “Trying to turn the season around.”

The Wizards aren’t naïve enough to think all problems are solved. The three wins came against teams with losing records. Victories over Miami and Orlando included shaky stretches. The big picture hole remains.

“We still have a lot of work to do – we still have to get better,” said Beal, who led Washington with 20 points. “We’re still not content with where we are. We put three [wins] together, but we still have a couple more at home that we have to take care of.”

All of that is true. Numerous gloomy statistics remind the reader of the rough beginnings. Washington entered Wednesday allowing a league-high 118.5 points per game. At least now, the Wizards can contemplate their issues without the weight of the world on their shoulders. For now, the league-wide media will find another target after pillaring the Wizards for weeks. Finally, positive momentum arrived and did so with the Nets, Clippers and Trail Blazers rounding out the homestand.

“I hope we can continue winning,” Satoransky told NBC Sports Washington. “We have three more games at home. I think it’s a good moment for us to turn things around. Brooklyn has been playing well and those two [Western Conference] teams are going to be tough, but I think we’re in a good way now.

“It’s great to experience something like that [blowout]. It helps you mentally. It helped just being able to win three in a row. You can feel it. Whenever you step on the court after that you feel more confident, so that’s good.”


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Don't look now but Redskins drafts are starting to produce among the NFL's best


Don't look now but Redskins drafts are starting to produce among the NFL's best

For years, maybe decades, the Redskins did not treat the NFL Draft with the seriousness of the best teams in the league. 

The organization often traded away important picks for veterans, and when Washington did make picks, they missed. 

T.J. Duckett for a third-round selection? Sure.

Malcolm Kelly, Fred Davis and Devin Thomas in the second round? Sure.

A second-round pick for Donovan McNabb? Sure. 

The trade to acquire Robert Griffin III doesn't even need to be mentioned. That trade, while giving up a boatload of first-round picks, at least produced an NFC East title, even if it ended spectacularly. 

Anyway, enough about how things used to be run. Things are run differently now, and the results are obvious. 

The 2018 Redskins defense contains plenty of draft picks. The team found first-round success with Daron Payne and Johnathan Allen, but also late round picks like Greg Stroman and Matt Ioannidis.

Offensively, many of the biggest names came through the draft, even if some are injured now. Jordan Reed, Chris Thompson, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Josh Doctson. All draft picks, some early, some late, some mid-rounders. 

Add it all up and it shows the Redskins have overhauled their personnel philosophy. The NFL draft has become the centerpiece of team building, not free agency. 

This procedural change was a long time coming, and it's working. 

Keep in mind the above stat means draft picks still playing in the NFL but doesn't necessarily mean still playing on the team that drafted them. For the Burgundy and Gold, that means players like Kendall Fuller of the Chiefs, Ryan Grant of the Colts, Spencer Long of the Jets and Brian Orakpo of the Titans. 

Bigger picture, however, it means the Redskins are drafting and drafting well. Nearly half of the current 53-man roster came from Redskins draft picks, and that doesn't include undrafted success stories like Quinton Dunbar, Maurice Harris and Danny Johnson. 

The Redskins have become a team focused on acquiring more picks in each draft, even letting their own home grown players walk to pile up compensatory picks. 

It's a formula many successful teams like the Packers and Patriots have used for a long time.

In Washington, it's a relatively new way to design the roster, but it seems much more effective than the old way.