Dancing With Noah

Just messing around, getting triple doubles

Tag Archives: Ricky Rubio

Ain’t no Sunshine when Ricky’s Gone

Up in Minnesota where winter is perpetual and ice ages are annual occurrences, the most intriguing pro athlete is banged and bandaged, unable to share his gift with the native Minnesotans who love him. It’s not future Governor and Minnesota Twin, Joe Mauer. Nor is it the switch-wielding Adrian Peterson of the Vikings. It’s not a hockey player either and if it was I wouldn’t know him. Ricard Rubio I Vives (said with the Spanish accent of an American, the words pop with flair and gusto), aka Ricky Rubio, is the most special of all Minnesota’s pro athletes. And after destroying his ankle on the night of November 7th, he’s shelved for no one knows how long as Minnesotans cope by listening to “Ain’t No Sunshine” by the late, great Bill Withers because if Elton John taught us anything it’s that sad songs say so much.

With the immaculate outlet passing of the wide-bottomed Kevin Love gone to the rosy environs of Cleveland, Rubio’s natural joy and effervescence has quickly become the guiding light of the young Wolves’ identity. In the four full games they played before the ligaments of his ankle shredded, Rubio infected his team with fun – laughing, smiling, sharing, competitive fun. They were 2-2 and showing the earliest signs of young definition. Always a great passer, Rubio was assisting even more with a career-best 55.5% assist rate and 11 assists-per-game in the four full games in which he appeared. His rebounding was up, his three-point attempts cut in half. Historically a sub-40% shooter on two-point field goals, he was up over 44%, but most interesting was his scoring on assisted plays. Prior to this season less than 18% of his two-point buckets came on assists, but this season it more than doubled up to nearly 37% which is significantly above the norms we see from point guards. In the tiniest of a sliver of sample sizes, Rubio’s prodigious talents were merging with patience and improved decision making and the entire team was benefiting.

111714 - Rubio faces

But what does it mean to lose the jewel of the 10,000 Lakes, that bright and shining beacon of the great snow blanketed north? Aside from the young Wolves (seventh-youngest team in the league) going from one of the most exciting teams to watch with Rubio they’re suddenly like a canoe of fisherman floating through the frigid Great Lakes with frozen snotsicles hanging from noses, men without spears and without oars, hunting for game which they can’t find, lost in the chilling mercilessness of a brutal voyage. Minnesota is a winless basketball team without Ricky, his absence felt in nearly every aspect of the game, but most notably his infectious positivity which can keep a team sane through the leanest of times.

111714 - rubio stats

The Wolves are now shooting more threes, but making less, unable to find the easy shots which Rubio creates. They’re guided by a 19-year-old wing miscast as a point guard in uber-athlete Zach LaVine. Not surprisingly, turnovers are up and assists are down. ORtg and points-per-game are falling like sad snowflakes alongside dips in shooting percentages. Most telling is the hit to DRtg. With Rubio, the team had a 104.5 DRtg which is better than the league average, but without the maestro that number leaps to 121.6 which is worse than the Lakers’ miserable 117.8. To be fair, the two drivers of that spike are a couple of blowouts against New Orleans and Dallas, but with Rubio, those blowouts are maybe mere six-point losses with character building competitiveness.

Stats from Basketball-Reference.com

Stats from Basketball-Reference.com

The timetable for Rubio’s return from this severe Grade three ankle sprain has been listed as 7-8 weeks which puts Minnesota at a Rubio-less disadvantage until sometime around Christmas or New Year’s. While 7-8 weeks can fly by in metaphorical blinking of eyes, that same time for a maturing team can seem like ages, particularly if the losses keep piling up like thick layers of ice. No one had great expectations for the Wolves this year, but missing out on 25 or more games of prime gelling opportunities is sickening and saddening for Wolves disciples and b-ball fans alike. So as much as Ricky is missed and we want him back as soon as physically possible, let’s hope he doesn’t rush and risk further injury. To paraphrase Mr. Withers, “ain’t no sunshine when Ricky’s gone, only darkness every day.”

 

Guess Ricky’s Strange

In the midst of all the Father/Sonning that’s been going on here at Dancing with Noah, real life actual NBA games are still going on and that means players are still doing strange things at strange times. Last night I was out and about until 9:30 PST and when I arrived home, I saw this intriguing stat line by Spain’s own wonderchild, the imaginative visionary Ricky Rubio: 19pts with 5-6 from deep, 12 assists and 8 steals. Say word? Word.

It’s pretty damn phenomenal if you start wrapping your head around it and not just in NBA historical terms (as you’ll see below, Rubio’s the only player in league history to accomplish 12sasts/8stls/5 3s in the same game), but in Rubio terms as well. A little over a year ago on March 9th 2012, the rookie Rubio, all of 21 years-old, tore his ACL. At that time, his career highs in the aforementioned stats were 14 assists, 6 steals and 2 3s. And in the 49 games he’s played this year he hadn’t bested any of those career highs. Then last night shows up and the Bucks and maybe some Brandon Jennings, maybe some Monta Ellis, maybe some JJ Redick are splayed wide open in front of an attacking Rubio who didn’t just exceed his career-high of 2 3s, but more than doubled it. The steals are equally impressive for this opportunistic defender who’s been averaging over 2.5 steals/game from February to now. And all this occurred in a mere 34 minutes of play.

rubio

In the spirit of keeping things fresh and avoiding that stale cracker (no racial reference) texture, I guess Ricky’s strange:

You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello

I know Ricky Rubio will come back to us in six to nine months like most victims of torn ACLs do, but it doesn’t ease the pain, the sense that we’re all being deprived of something or someone with rare abilities. Ricky Rubio is that someone and it sucks that he’s gone too soon, but when we get out of bed in the early morning hours and walk out the door, we put ourselves at grave risk every single day. Ricky was doing what he what loved when he tore the aforementioned ACL…just like so many blessed basketball players before him—and my fiancée when she tore her ACL on a trampoline last year.

So instead of sitting in a windowless room with the light of a single candle burning while Michael Jackson’s “Gone to Soon” fills the silence and I swallow Xanax to calm my worried mind, I decided to get tough and force myself to see a bright side of this situation. The truth is there is no bright side to Rubio tearing his ACL.

Oh, brother.

But there are other truths. Like this one: Today’s NBA is cram packed with men of average-to-just-above-average height (worth noting that the point guard position, based on the physical pre-requisites of the position, has a larger pool of humans to select from than all other positions combined) who play the point guard position extremely well. For my buck, none of them have that je ne se quoi that Rubio possesses, but what they may lack in some poetic Spanish essence, they make up for in burst and tenacity, abruptness and precision. As much as I want to stack rank these players (it feels so damn natural), I realize that rankings obfuscate the point and result in arguing and debates that have nothing to do with this celebratory acknowledgement that I wish Walt Whitman and Curtis Mayfield could collaborate on instead.

We’re in the midst of a point guard boon and even with the loss of one of its most joyfully entertaining members (it’s temporary!); it remains a group bound together by ability and time. To investigate the “why now?” is to embark on a Freakonomics journey that I’m not presently being paid enough to embark on. In place of said investigation, I’ve included an homage to the shabooya roll call, giving out respect and love to the architects who laid the blueprints for this position and the torch bearers who continue to shed light on its borders:

Bob Cousy: One handed, but he greased the wheels of the most successful machine we’ve seen.

Oscar Robertson: Elgin Baylor at the point. The Big O would’ve been big for a PG in today’s game. In the 1960s, he was pretty much a predecessor to LeBron.

Isiah Thomas: Lord lord lord, the original baby faced assassin. I hated his guts, but Zeke was the last great point guard (Rondo?) to lead his team to a title … 20+ years ago.

Unseen 80s buddy flick: Zeke and Billy's Wacky Summer

Magic Johnson: The greatest nickname for the greatest point guard of all time.

John Stockton: Slow and steady wins the race. Watching Stockton and hearing stories about him, you get the feeling he has a cockroach-like ability to survive any situation. If and when the nuclear holocaust happens, Stockton will be one of the few to survive and re-build our civilization.

Tim Hardaway: It was all about the UTEP Two-Step, but little Timmy was a founding member of RUN-TMC and was one of the original jitterbug point guards. If Rubio needs inspiration during his recovery process, he need look no further than Timmy who tore his ACL and bounced back to become one of the most dynamic points of the 90s.

Jason Kidd: Cut from the Magic mold, Kidd could’ve retired five years ago and still made the Hall on his first ballot. Still ticking away and winning a title in his late 30s, he makes me wonder what Magic could’ve accomplished if he hadn’t retired prematurely at 31—I’m 31 and I know I’ve still got some good hoops left in me.

Nate Archibald: I don’t know much about Nate except he preceded Hardaway at UTEP and led the league in scoring and assists. How you do that?

Steve Nash: When Nash was decked out in Santa Clara red, I never would’ve imagined he’d be a two-time MVP and retire as one of the greatest passers and consummate PGs in league history. Not knowing is what makes this game so lovable and addictive. Who’s going to fuck up your misguided misconceptions next?

Kevin Johnson: Fred Hoiberg’s already got the “Mayor” trademarked, but KJ acting as the savior for the NBA in Sacramento exceeds anything he accomplished in a Suns uniform… although Hakeem might disagree.

Mark Price: Bobby Cremins’s original point guard extraordinaire. Price has won free throw competitions in all 48 of the contiguous United States as well as Hawaii.

Stephon Marbury: Sticking with Georgia Tech, Marbury’s resume is debatable, but he was one of the original one and done players and is a poster child for the mid-90s malcontents. Hate if you must, but there’s a place in the point guard pantheon for Marbury; I just don’t know where it is.

Gary Payton: Yakety yak, Payton loved to talk smack. A 6’4” point with a post game, Payton is regarded with universal positivity. The northwest adores the man to this day and his NBA TV partnership with Chris Webber is as entertaining as his partnership with Shawn Kemp…albeit for completely different reasons.

Mark Jackson: It’s not fun to watch a man start backing another man down at the half court line, but Jackson made a career out of utilizing his superior size and apparent “old man” strength. The league changed the rules because of his constant abuse.

Jason Williams: The grainy high school clips of a scrawny Williams throwing lobs to a pencil-legged Randy Moss are cultish in the same way the Blair Witch Project was cultish. Just some good ol’ boys; who knew he’d take those same talents to the highest peaks of the world’s greatest league and become the conductor of the most exciting team of the early 2000s.

Maurice Cheeks: Mo Cheeks was a definitive point in the early 80s, but his finest assist came when he helped a stage-frightened teenager sing the national anthem as coach of the Blazers.

Chris Paul: In terms of pure point guard-ability, CP’s my preferred flavor for today’s game. He might be a dirty player, but he controls the timing and tempo of any game he’s in. The only drawback to his game is when he over point guards—that’s a term for point guards who are so insistent on getting teammates involved that they essentially remove themselves as scoring threats and allow the defense to play 5 on 4 basketball: *Over point guarding*.

Deron Williams: Hard to believe the Hawks passed (no pun) on Deron and CP3, but they did. Deron’s a fullback of a point guard at 6’3”, 200lbs+. He can score, pass, provide court generalship and plays Lex Luger to CP’s Ric Flair.

Rajon Rondo: People should be nicer to Rajon. He’s a point guard who can’t shoot worth a damn, but I don’t remember Mark Jackson or J-Kidd hitting too many jumpers either. Rondo’s an underappreciated innovator…with a ring.

Chauncey Billups: Is a he a Hall of Famer or isn’t he? Should he really be called “Mr. Big Shot?” These aren’t the questions to consider. Instead of questioning, let’s all appreciate Billups for being a power point guard whose value always exceeded the conventions of a box score.

In all seriousness.

Derrick Rose: An MVP at 22 and completely incorruptible by the LeBron-led “cool kids” clique. Rose is a point guard version of Kevin Durant—a young man wholly committed to the game of basketball. Let’s just hope his back is up for the task.

Russell Westbrook: The pressure he applies on the offensive end is unrelenting and suffocating. He plays point guard, but if he was two inches taller, he’d be a younger, more explosive D-Wade. As it stands, we’ll just have to accept him as the league’s most explosive point guard (sorry, Derrick).

Rod Strickland: He might have a serious problem with drinking and driving, but nonetheless Strick enjoyed a 16-year career as a pure point guard.

Kyrie Irving: His game doesn’t match his age at all and I’m probably the first who thinks someone should check his birth certificate, but my paranoia aside, Irving is taking the right steps towards a career of accomplishment and accolades. When you think Kyrie, think poise.

Mike Bibby: Maybe had the best mid-range game of any point guard here. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Dennis Johnson: He wasn’t the best passer on his own team and he left us far too soon, but DJ’s completion of “a steal by Bird!” is a signature moment of the 80s NBA.

Anfernee Hardaway: Injuries robbed Penny and robbed us of what appeared to be a HOF career in the making. What’s not to be won’t be and we’ll have to settle for memories of Butch McRae tossing lobs to Neon Boudeaux while Coach Pete Bell watches; anxiously waiting for the other foot to fall.

Ricky Rubio: It was love at first pass. I have a terrible memory, but like LeBron James’s debut several years ago, I can remember exactly where I was when I saw my first Rubio NBA highlights.

Baron Davis: When I was in college (early 2000s), I got in an argument with someone about the similarities between Baron’s game and Allen Iverson’s game. I disagreed Davis would ever be an Iversonian scorer then and I disagree now. Unfortunately, that’s my first thought when Baron’s name comes up. It’s not his fault, but he’s definitely to blame for regularly showing up out of shape.

Lenny Wilkens: I’ve only seen faded clips of Lenny playing ball, but his sideburns and coaching (most losses in NBA history) have embedded memories that can’t escape.

Doc Rivers: He’ll always been remembered more for coaching the Celtics to the title, but when I was six years old, Doc averaged a double double running point for the Hawks.

Mookie Blaylock: The original inspiration for Pearl Jam, M-m-m-m-m-m-Mookie played integral roles on mediocre teams. Does that make him mediocre? I say no.

No doubt, Omar picked up 3 assists on this one pass.

Omar Cook: Some people might scoff at Omar’s inclusion on this list, but just know that for the one year he played for St. Johns, Cook was a point guard prodigy who broke Mark Jackson’s single-game school assist record with 17—as a freshman. While I’m hesitant to question any of Cook’s decisions, he most likely could’ve benefited by staying at St. Johns for a few more years and fine-tuning his all-around game. Omar Cook, we won’t forget.

Walt Frazier: If you have League Pass or watch Knicks local broadcasts, then you’ve no doubt heard Clyde’s legendary vocabulary narrating their games. And then there’s his game seven Finals performance in 1970: 36 points, 19 assists and five steals.

Michael Adams: If a baseball player’s career stat-line followed the diminutive (5’10”) Michael Adams’s, someone would be pointing the accusatory PED finger at him, but since pro basketball players would never take PEDs, no one ever questions anything. Anyways, Adams was mostly known as a shoot first, shoot second, shoot third point guard with good, but far from great talents. He averaged 14.7ppg and 6.4apg for his career. And then there’s the blip on the radar that I remember all too well. In 1991, his 6th year in the league, Adams exploded (over 66 games) for 26.5ppg and 10.5apg.

Scott Skiles: 30 assists in a single game is good enough for me.

Derek Harper: Harper was his best playing alongside Rolando Blackman with the Mavs, but I remember him more for his redefined role as an enforcer of sorts on the 90s Knicks.

Norm Nixon: What do I know about Norm Nixon except he was pretty much forced out by Magic? Not too much.

Terry Porter: Porter was firing threes before it became the popular thing to do. He was never a speed/quickness-modeled point guard and I have my doubts that he’d be as successful in today’s game, but in the late 80s and early 90s, he was a key component of Rick Adelman’s Blazer squads.

Micheal Williams: Still holds the record for most consecutive free throws made at 97.

Micheal Ray Richardson: A victim of the 80s drug explosion. Everyone who saw him gushes about “Sugar,” but sadly isn’t that the case for most of the players who are either corrupted by drugs or tragedy? Despite my skepticism, there’s no arguing with Richardson’s stats: 15ppg, 2.6 steals/game, 7apg and 5.5rpg.

Brandon Jennings: The fact that Jennings probably isn’t a top-10 point guard is more reflective of the league’s depth at the position than it is an indictment of Jennings’s abilities. He’s Chris Rock skinny, but he’s got the stones of a leader.

Tony Parker: No one said you had to be a model citizen, friend or teammate to make the shabooya roll call for point guards and that’s a good thing for Parker. He’s been and done everything the Spurs ever asked from him and then some.

Fat Lever: One of the original triple double machines. Lever played for 80s version Mike D’Antoni in Denver’s Doug Moe and his stats reflect it. Over a four-year stretch in the late 80s, Lever put up 19ppg, 8.9rpg and 7.5apg.

Damon Stoudamire: Mighty Mouse won a rookie of the year award, shot over 3,000 threes and was pulled over with Rasheed Wallace for speeding and driving under the influence of reefer while driving from Seattle back to Portland after a game against the Sonics. Stoudamire’s also notable for statistically declining season over season as opposed to the natural bell curve we see with most players.

Kenny Anderson: Bobby Cremins strikes again. Kenny was a second overall pick and was supposed to be the next great NYC point guard. He never lived up to the lofty expectations, but he did marry Tami from the Real World.

Muggsy Bogues/Spud Webb: Both were great players who unfortunately can’t escape the association of being short men in a tall man’s game.

Nick Van Exel: My fond memories of Nick the Quick chucking ill-advised threes with that cock-eyed lefty release are accompanied by the hand-held Rodney King-quality video clip of Van Exel and some cronies of his stomping the shit out of some poor guy. Of course, I can’t find any reference to this on the internets, so I can only assume it’s a figment of my imagination (wink wink).

Ty Lawson/Jrue Holiday: A pair of speedy, talented, under-represented guys. Holiday and Lawson are perfect examples of the league’s depth at the position. They’re 21 (Holiday) and 24 (Lawson). The future is bright.

Andre Miller: The future might be bright for some, but we keep expecting the sun to start setting on others. Andre Miller refuses to recede into the horizon. He’s tough as pollution (ask Blake Griffin), knows his role and gets the job done every night. Is he underappreciated? Most likely, but even in his under-ratedness, he knows his role and plays it well.

John Wall: I feel bad for this kid who’s forced to play with mind benders like JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, Nick Young and Jordan Crawford. Then I see him pull shit like that behind the back dunk he ripped off in the rookie/sophomore game and I’m like, “Hell no, I don’t feel bad for him.” I feel bad for us for not getting the chance to see what Wall’s all about. Until the Wizards finally bite the bullet and push the reset button all the way in, “How good is John Wall?” will continue to be asked on message boards and in cubicles.

Steve Francis: Is Steve Francis gay or isn’t he? I don’t think it matters, but typing his name into a search engine, the first few recommended searches include “Steve Francis gay.” Where does this it come from? I don’t have time to worry about it as I’ve already spent 2500+ words taking a trip down memory lane and present day boulevard to revisit point guards who have stepped on NBA courts in NBA jerseys over the past seven decades. Francis isn’t memorable because he was possibly gay. He’s memorable for doing things like driving for a game-winning dunk and disintegrating from NBA relevance overnight.

This was never meant to an all-encompassing list of NBA point guards (it was meant to be about Rubio), but rather players who, for one reason or another, stood out to me. If there was a question mark around a player’s position (Iverson, Jerry West, Steph Curry, the Jones boys from the Celtics), I left them off. Like Monica sang, “don’t take it personal.”

Tune in next week as I tie Hamed Haddadi and Omri Casspi into America’s foreign policy in the Middle East.

Cause for Excitement

If you’ve read any of my team preview posts, you probably picked up on the theme of excited curiosity that surrounds the unknown. We all know what Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard and Samuel Dalembert are capable of doing, but we’re still learning about young players and guys who have switched uniforms.

With that that in mind, I was tickled last night as I sat on my couch, New Castle in hand, feet kicked up and landed the remote on the OKC @ Minnesota game. There was that Russell Westbrook whipping and snapping all over the court, a new haircut for Nick Collison, a DC battle between Beasely and Durant, and then the Spanish question mark Ricky Rubio. Yeah man, I was all skeptical about Rubio. Skeptical about his defense. Skeptical about his foot speed. Skeptical about the hype. I wasn’t quite hating on the kid, but I wasn’t supportive either and I can make a case that I wasn’t even fair in regards to his NBA potential.

I’m fully aware that 26 minutes and 18 seconds doesn’t count for much of a sample, but watching Rubio thread passes through the tiniest and tightest of lanes and openings had me stroking the stubble on my chin and nodding in agreement: Yes, that’s a man who can pass. The passes he made were hard enough to see let alone execute and he repeatedly threw these passes without making a single turnover. Ahhh … it was a breath of fresh air and for Minnesota fans, you people (whatchu mean, you people?!?! – it’s not even like that) should be rejoicing in the name of all that is round, leather and flies through a steel rim:

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