Friday nights contest was a typical preseason game, with the Bulls avenging last Saturdays loss in Minneapolis by beating the Timberwolves at the United Center. It may have been more notable, however, by its absences.
No offense to Minnesota All-Star power forward Kevin Love, out for six to eight weeks with a broken hand, but eyes across the league are on the ongoing recoveries of two of the games premier floor generals and elite young players, Bulls point guard Derrick Rose and his Timberwolves counterpart, Ricky Rubio.
Everybody in Chicago knows the saga of Rose, who suffered an ACL injury in the Bulls playoff opener against the 76ers last spring. Rubio suffered a similarly devastating injury in March, but with a couple months head start, hes closer to coming back to the court and therefore, worth monitoring for anybody with even a passing interest in either Rose himself or the Bulls as a whole.
Ive been working every day and Im dying to come back. I want to come back soon, but I know that if I come back early, its hard for me, so I want to make sure everythings fine, said the affable Rubio before the game. Im close to start practicing with five-on-zero, no contact. I dont know how long, maybe a month from that, but I want to come back as soon as possible. But like I said, I want to be healthy, so Im at a stage now where I can do more things, like running and I think Im close to being athletic again.
Im able to jump a little bit, so I can start practicing some jump shots, but only moving forward, not lateral yet, continued the native of Spain, who added that he cant do any cutting yet. I hope in two weeks. I dont know yet. Lets see when I start running harder and longer, and see if I dont have swelling at all. Then I can do more things.
Chimed in Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman: Hes doing fine. Hes progressing every day. Hes been moving up, as far as his running. Its still just straightaway running; its not cutting or anything. He was just shooting set shots now. Hes jumping a little bit. I talked to him today, this morning, and he said hopefully in the next couple of weeks, hes going to increase his running, his acceleration.
Im sure were just like Chicago. You want to get him back, but you want to be sure theyre comfortable coming back. But I think hes probably just like Chicagos guy. Theyre going to work their tail off to come back and thats what Rickys been doing. Hes been working, hes around the team all the time and were hoping when he does come back, that he can play, but even when he does come back, its going to take some time and hes going to have his ups and downs, and were going to have to find a way to work him in. But its going to be good to have him back.
At the time of his injury, Rubio had established himself as a budding superstar, was challenging Clevelands Kyrie Irving in the Rookie of the Year race and had Minnesotas long-suffering fan base thinking playoffs. But as he said in reference to Loves ill-timed injury We have so much bad luck on this team.
Still, the point guard remains optimistic and expressed high hopes for not only himself, but Rose, as well.
I know its tough. Its a tough injury. Youre six, eight, nine months without playing your favorite sport, and sometimes playing basketball is where you forget about everything and you just enjoy it, so I wish him a healthy recovery, he explained. Ive talked with Spanish guys who have had the same injury like Raul Lopez, who was in the NBA for a couple years and every player is different. Nobody has the same injury maybe a little more meniscus or two ligaments so every player is different, every recovery is different. We dont have to look at somebody else to see where one can come back, so you just take your time, but work hard every day to come back.
Well, in the beginning, it was physical because you were in so much pain and you had to fight every day, and you had to bend the knee, and every day was painful and then, when that pains goes away, you just have to work out and see your teammates, and all your friends playing. Not just basketball games, but basketball in the street, Rubio went on to say.
Added Adelman: I think you have to be a little bit cautious, for sure, when youre bringing him back. Its not like Kevins injury, where its a broken bone. He can still run and everything. But weve got to be careful. Thats why I say, when he comes back, you dont know what the timeframe is going to be, but its still going to be good to have him when he does come back, but we have to be cautious with him and make sure. But thats down the line.
Ironically, Minnesota also has former All-Star Brandon Roy on its roster. Roy was one of the elite shooting guards in the league before his recurring knee issues got to the point where it was bone on bone and he temporarily retired, before launching a comeback and signing with the Timberwolves during the offseason, over interest from the Bulls, among others.
Just going through the mental grind of being back in the league, the ups and downs. Some nights feel great. Some nights, not so great, so physically, I feel really good. Right now, mentally, Im just trying to learn the team, learn the system and then get used to playing the game day in and day out, said Roy about his own progress, before giving some advice to be passed along to Rose.
The biggest thing for him that I would say is just to be patient. Hes a young guy, hes got his whole career ahead of him and again, being patient and being mentally tough I think is the biggest challenge.