Ricky Rubio's return to the Minnesota Timberwolves is coming. His rehabilitation from reconstructive left knee surgery is on schedule. He's just not sure exactly when the process will be complete.
"I'm trying to do as much things as I can do. They have to stop me sometimes because I want to do more. Sometimes it's bad for my knee to do more," Rubio said Thursday at the team's practice facility.
He could be playing in games by December. Or maybe not until January. Just as long as he doesn't try to come back too soon and risk re-injury or be too rusty.
"I don't want to say a time because I don't want to rush it. I just want to be ready when I'm ready," he said.
Rubio started running three weeks ago, about 6 mph on a treadmill. Jumping is still prohibited, so his shooting is essentially limited to the free-throw line for the next few months. Agility work will come in three or four weeks. He's at that point in the anterior cruciate ligament recovery when patience becomes even more difficult to maintain. Missing the end of last season was tough enough. Then he had to skip the Olympics with his native Spain. Now he has to continue to watch while the work on the court goes on without him.
"You always have doubts and think about how you're going to come back. You just have to trust. I'm doing my best to be ready to be as strong as I can. I can't do more. I just want to be back soon as possible, but healthy as possible too," Rubio said. "You feel how lucky you are when you're playing. So I'm going to be blessed when I come back and play."
Rubio was hurt at the end of Minnesota's game against the Los Angeles Lakers last March 9, when he tried to plant his leg while defending Kobe Bryant. With one awkward bend of the point guard's most important joint, Rubio's impressive rookie season was over.
And so was that realistic chance the Timberwolves had of making the playoffs for the first time since 2004. They went 5-20 after Rubio was hurt.
The team's core of Rubio, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Derrick Williams stayed intact, but only seven of the 15 players on the roster at the end of last season are still around. Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic, Anthony Randolph, Anthony Tolliver and Martell Webster were let go when their contracts expired. Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy were the headliner acquisitions, and Rubio sounded excited, noting Roy's 24-point, five-assist performance in the 2011 playoffs for Portland in a first-round win against eventual NBA champion Dallas.
"If he can be that good, we're going to get to the playoffs for sure," Rubio said.
Rubio turns 22 next month. He averaged 10.6 points, 8.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals in 34.2 minutes, but the energy and confidence he brought to the Timberwolves was equally important. His teammates, he said, will give him the same boost this fall as he pushes toward completion of his recovery.
"During the rehab back in Spain I was missing that feeling, being a team. I love when you are in a team and you get to the locker room and just hear voices laughing," Rubio said. "We don't have Beasley anymore so we don't have to hear him singing songs. But it's going to be fun."