Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio will miss the rest of the NBA season and this summer’s Olympic Games in London after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in his knee during a collision with Kobe Bryant during the LA Lakers’ 105-102 win.
Rubio’s first season in the NBA could not have gone much better leading up to last weekend. The 21-year-old former Barcelona player had averaged 10.6 points, 8.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds this season. Delighting the Minnesota fans with his sleight of hand and energetic performances, Rubio was considered to be a leading contender for the Rookie of the Year award and played for Shaquille O’Neal’s team at this year’s Rising Stars Challenge during the All-Star weekend.
“It’s a tremendous blow,” said the LA Lakers and Spain center Pau Gasol. “I think it was the worst possible thing that could have happened. It’s a cruciate ligament injury, which will require surgery and a lengthy period of recovery. It will be difficult for him, especially during the first few days. I hope that everything goes well and he recovers. He shouldn’t worry about the Olympics or anything that is not his knee and his health. He’s 21 and has his entire career ahead of him.”
“There is no need to set dates, nor to talk about competitions he won’t be able to play in,” said Spanish Basketball Federation president José Luis Sáez. “It is the moment to wish him all the best for the best possible recovery.”
That Rubio’s injury is viewed as detrimental to Spain’s medal hopes at the 2012 Games is testament to the player’s vast improvement since his delayed move to the NBA. Rubio had agreed a deal with the Timberwolves in 2009 but negotiations with DKV Joventut over his buyout clause bore no fruit and he eventually agreed a deal with Barcelona, signing a six-year contract. By his own admission, last season Rubio was well below the previous standard that had seen him break records as the youngest player to debut in the ACB and to appear in an Olympic Games (at Beijing 2008).
Responding to messages of support on Saturday, Rubio stated that he hoped to return to action “quickly and stronger.”
“The only way to get out of this is to be positive and smile,” the player wrote on a social networking site. “I feel bad for Ricky having to miss the rest of this season. But Ricky is a competitor, and I am confident that he will work hard to get back on the court next year and continue his progression as one of the top point guards in our league,” said the Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations, David Kahn.