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After last night’s game, the locker room saw a side of Ricky Rubio that many haven’t witnessed before. He stood up to the sulking and called the team out for its excuse-laden losing streak, claiming there are two ways to deal with the barrage of injuries, “We have two ways to do it. One (is) complaining. … I don’t think that’s the way. The way, it’s (to) be a man.”
Rubio’s right. When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and all that crap. The problem is that the injuries are so bad that even the ones that Rubio is challenging — guys like Dante Cunningham, Derrick Williams and Luke Ridnour — are doing all they can but sooner or later, over the course of a long, trying season, those immune to the injury bug grow weak in both flight and pluck.
Rubio’s comments are stirring and hopefully bring out the fight from the players that we’ve seen already this year against good teams like Brooklyn and Oklahoma City, but, more importantly, hopefully they ignite some inspiring and consistent play from the wounded point guard himself.
In the absence of coach Rick Adelman, assistant coach Terry Porter made the decision to start Rubio last night, in an effort to get him more comfortable with the starters and increase his minutes just ever-so-slightly. What we saw from the tattered returnee was yet another disappointing night, especially shooting-wise, going just 2-9 from the field.
Since Rubio’s returned to the court from major knee surgery he’s really struggled to put the ball in the hoop. He’s shooting just 22% from the field and has yet to make a three-pointer this season. His endearing court vision and ability to convert the flashiest of passes hasn’t been on display since his first game on December 15th against the Dallas Mavericks.
Obviously the most frustrating and visible part of his game is his poor shooting. He’s short on nearly all of his shots, which goes to tell you his knee, which is well documented, still isn’t 100%. Some might point to his three-point shooting as the reason for his shooting woes, which is fair considering he has yet to make one this year and he only converted on 34% of them last year. He still just looks incredibly uncomfortable shooting threes from the viewpoint of a naked eye (His form isn’t bad, but it lacks quickness and leverage).
But it might be fair to point out how poor Rubio’s finishing ability is, considering just under 25% of his attempts come at the rim, according to Hoopdata. And being the pick ‘n’ roll mastermind that he is, his attempts should continue to increase both from three-point range and at the rim.
Compare Rubio’s career numbers at the rim to that of Steve Nash last season (Which is my current guess as to Rubio’s ceiling). Last season, Rubio converted on 47% of his attempts at the rim, while Nash converted 74% of his 1.7 attempts per game. This season, Rubio’s reaching the rim 0.8 times per game and converting 50% of the time. It’s an improvement, certainly, but can you imagine only half of your essential layups going through? I mean, for me in an NBA game, sure, 50% would be outstanding. But when you’re 6’4″, shifty and possess outstanding court vision like him, getting to the hoop off of pick ‘n’ rolls, in particular, shouldn’t be all the difficult. So, compared to a two-time MVP that hits 70% of his layups over the last seven years, Rubio’s career 48.5% is extremely alarming.
This is just an example of what I’m referring to:
Okay, perhaps that was too cruel. But if you’re willing to call out everyone else and force them to step their game up, perhaps you might start with your own.
Rubio’s struggles in the paint are well-documented but it’s just so painful to watch along with the rest of this team’s effort. Rubio is right to call everyone out in an effort to spark some interest but he might be a little more credible if he worked on his own effectiveness as well. Injuries are no longer an excuse, according to Rubio, and if he’s willing to step up and be the leader, his game needs to start talking for itself.