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HELENE ELLIOTT

Minnesota rookie Ricky Rubio serves up dramatic flash

Don't compare Minnesota rookie Ricky Rubio to other players, his coach says. The point guard is developing into a great player on his own.

January 20, 2012|Helene Elliott
  • Minnesota rookie guard Ricky Rubio may not be worthy of legendary comparisons, but he's a talented young player who figures to play a prominent role in the Timberwolves' future.
Minnesota rookie guard Ricky Rubio may not be worthy of legendary comparisons,… (Carlos Gonzalez / MCT )

The comparisons between Minnesota rookie guard Ricky Rubio and Hall of Famer Pete Maravich can stop right now.

"No. No. Not even close," Timberwolves Coach Rick Adelman said emphatically.

Adelman also rejected the suggestion there might be similarities between the soft-spoken Spaniard and Terry Porter, the Minnesota assistant coach who had a distinguished, 17-year NBA career.

"I think we get in trouble in this league all the time trying to manufacture players into someone that you want them to be and not let them be themselves," Adelman said.

"He's a good young player who has a chance to have a very good future, but sometimes people try to mark him as something he's not right now. Let him develop, and so far he's doing great."

Rubio took a significant step forward Friday in a game that looked like it might be memorable only as his worst.

After missing his first 10 field goal attempts in the Timberwolves' 101-98 victory over the Clippers Friday he hit a three-point shot from the corner to tie the score at 98-98 with 20 seconds left, setting the stage for Kevin Love's 28-foot, buzzer-beating winner.

Rubio scored all of his nine points and recorded three of his six assists in the fourth quarter, the marks of a pressure player. He said he was confident on that tying shot, forgetting all the past misses and thinking only of what was possible to accomplish.

"We ran a great play. We shared the ball very well," Rubio said.

"I believe in that shot. I believe in myself. Because if not, nobody can believe for you. You have to trust in you and try to hit the shot, like we trust in Kevin on the last one."

Until the final minutes Rubio, a pro since he was 14 and a member of Spain's runner-up 2008 Olympic team at 17, played like a kid still learning his way around the NBA.

Fans who had cheered him during pregame introductions at Staples Center expected to see the sweet shooting that got him into Minnesota's starting lineup the last five games and launched him into Rookie of the Year conversations.

Instead, they saw Randy Foye -- starting in place of still-injured Chris Paul -- outplay Rubio from the outset while Rubio collected three fouls in the first half.

Rubio entered the game leading the NBA with 32 total steals and third in average steals per game at 2.29. He added three steals Friday in 32 minutes. He began the game averaging 10.7 points and 8.3 assists per game, but six of his nine points Friday resulted from free throws, and he had six assists and three turnovers.

Since he has been a pro so long it's easy to forget he's still young in many ways, only 22, proud of his new U.S. driver's license and looking forward to testing his skills in Minnesota's snowy winters.

That's one of the smaller adjustments he has made. Getting accustomed to a jampacked schedule tops his list.

"You feel your legs, they start to get tired," he said. "You have to be every night 100% because every game counts. You have to be ready all night. It's a little hard."

He was ready Friday when it mattered, in the fourth quarter.

"We were down all game. We fought all the way through until the end until we could win the game," he said. "We're happy about that and we have to enjoy it."

Adelman has liked what he has seen of Rubio's ability to run the floor and direct teammates to the spots they should be.

"You've got to give him rope and let him go because he's got that ability," Adelman said. "But I think probably the biggest thing I really love about him is he's a competitor. He doesn't back down from anybody. He gets a lot of attention but he keeps an even keel. He doesn't get too high, too low. He just plays. He's been better than I thought he was going to be."

Rubio needs to get better and can only do that by being himself, not the next anybody else. That just might be enough.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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