Rookie sensation fuels Timberwolves turnaround

By Patrick Murphy

The Minnesota Timberwolves have won more games than they have lost. Note to reader: this is not a typo. As of press time on Wednesday night, the Timberwolves had a record of 13-12, marking the first time the team has been above .500 after 25 games in the last six years. While I admit that 5th graders may not be reading about the 2012 Timberwolves in their US History textbooks anytime soon, this is nothing short of a monumental achievement to anyone who has ever had the misfortune of calling themselves a Timberwolves fan. In a Mac Weekly that hit newsstands back on Friday, Dec. 2 2011, a certain sports writer whose name rhymes with Hat Trick Furfy wrote, “I stand firm to my belief that the Timberwolves will go from a .200 team to a .500 team this year.” But don’t take my word for it– see for yourself in the December 2 Weekly that you’ve been saving with all of the other old issues for kindling and puppy housetraining. Am I a psychic? No. Am I a basketball expert? Far from it. I was cut from my 8th grade team. Am I a witch masquerading as a grungy college student? Maybe. But before you burn me at the stake or throw me off a cliff, I must confess that I was only confident the T-Wolves would turn things around this season for one simple reason. That reason was a 21 year-old Spaniard with eyelashes and bounce passes that make women (and many men) weak in the knees. Ricky Rubio turned professional at 16, playing in Liga ACB, the premier Spanish Basketball League. Rubio’s skill, particularly his passing ability, was the stuff of legend– drawing comparisons by NBA scouts to the legendary Pistol Pete Maravich. The Timberwolves took notice, drafting Rubio fifth overall in 2009, making the shaggy-haired teen the first player born in the 90s to be drafted in the NBA. It’s a real shame that Rubio, who is younger than virtually every member of the Macalester senior class, didn’t get to enjoy the wonders of the job search in which my fellow seniors and I are currently partaking. But I digress. Rubio wound up staying with his Spanish club, FC Barcelona, for two more years before finally deciding to travel across the pond to join the Timberwolves this season. The early going was frustrating as the team showed promise, but lost their first three games by a combined nine points. I remained optimistic, though. After attending the third game of the season, a 101-103 loss to the powerhouse Miami Heat, I could sense that something was different. I hadn’t felt such an energy level at a Timberwolves game since Kevin Garnett departed in 2007. The raucous crowd in a sold-out Target Center wasn’t there to see Lebron James. They were there for Ricky. Every time the first-year point guard was anywhere near the ball, the crowd erupted. Against the most talented team in the NBA, the Spanish sensation recorded his first double-double of the young season with 12 points and 12 assists. As I walked through the streets of Minneapolis following the game, it dawned on me that Ricky Rubio was more than just a pretty face. He was a pretty face who was damn good at basketball. As the season has progressed, so too has Rubio. Hoping to bring his young point guard along slowly, new head coach Rick Adelman attempted to limit Rubio’s minutes by keeping him out of the starting lineup for as long as possible. However, the more he played, the better he got. Just over two weeks into the season, the inevitable became reality and the entire NBA took notice as the skinny kid named Ricky finally got the nod as a starter. The team won, and the rest, as they say, is history.