April 16, 2012
NBA notes: Rubio's recovery begins
By Frank Zicarelli, QMI Agency
A lot was expected from Ricky Rubio given all the hype that ushered in his long-awaited arrival to big-time hoops.
And to his credit, Rubio delivered more times than he would falter until his world came crashing down on March 9, a day that changed the fortunes of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
When Rubio suffered a season-ending knee injury during a tip against the L.A. Lakers, a pall was suddenly cast on a franchise that was finally making inroads.
There are no assurances that Rubio will be fully healthy when training camp begins this fall, no word on whether he’ll be able to pick up where he left off, showing a flair for the game that endeared him to teammates and to the North American public.
“The most important thing is to make sure when I come back it’s 100%,’’ Rubio told reporters in his first media availability since he went underneath the knife a month ago.
“I don’t know if it’s training camp, I don’t know if it’s first week (regular season), second week. I don’t want to put a date. It depends how my knee feels.”
The hope is that Rubio won’t lose a step when he does return to the court.
Admittedly, Rubio doesn’t know if he’ll be the same player.
“You just have to be strong and do your best to come back even harder,’’ he added. “I love basketball. I love playing basketball. I’m going to do my best.”
BYNUM COULD DOMINATE IN POST-SEASON
When he isn’t heaving self-serving three-balls or dealing with bouts of immaturity, Andrew Bynum is as good as it gets in the NBA when it comes to legitimate bigs.
Dwight Howard is more athletic and imposing in the paint from a defensive perspective, but Bynum’s offence on the block is much more advanced.
You can flip a coin when trying to debate which centre is better, but when Bynum is putting up a 30-rebound night it’s hard to overlook the Lakers’ starting centre.
With Kobe Bryant dealing with a shin injury, Bynum is the first option, pouring in 30 points in a win over the Denver Nuggets just days after his 30-rebound night in a win over the San Antonio Spurs.
No player since Minnesota’s Kevin Love, who turned the trick against the Knicks in 2010, has hauled down 30 boards.
For Bynum, he joined a pretty exclusive list in L.A.’s storied history, becoming only the fifth Laker to grab 30 rebounds and the first since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1978.
There’s a reason why the Lakers will be a tough out in this year’s playoffs and it has nothing to do with Kobe Bryant’s presence and knack for stepping up in the crunch time.
Size eventually prevails in the NBA and there’s no better one-two punch in any frontcourt than the tandem of Bynum and Pau Gasol.
Gasol’s ability to handle the ball on the perimeter and feed the post are skills that complement Bynum’s game.
If Bynum can somehow play to his strengths and eliminate the baggage, there’s no reason why he can’t emerge as a dominant force in the post-season.
He’s that good.
BLAZERS BULLISH ON NEXT SEASON
With so much going awry in Portland this year, it’s hard to look forward.
The Trail Blazers, though, are one of those teams in the NBA that can reverse its course if the right moves are engineered this off-season.
There’s a new general manager to be hired, a new full-time head coach and LaMarcus Aldridge’s hip injury must be mended, but there will be options as changes await.
There’s the potential of two lottery picks, the cap flexibility that will allow Portland to be big-time players in free agency and a vow by team president Larry Miller that the franchise will contend.
“We are dreaming big,” Miller said.
The dream plan is to secure a top-flight point guard and centre.
Obviously, Miller isn’t about to name names.
“We can’t say: ‘We are going after this guy, that guy, and this guy,’” Miller said. “But we have positioned ourselves to compete for those big-name players. And this is a strong draft.
“Whether we trade our picks or use our picks, we are going to get better going into next season.”
Deron Williams and Steve Nash are the two point guard jewels, while restricted free agents Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert are two centres that will command a lot of attention and demand a lot of money.