It's been nearly three months since Ricky Rubio severely sprained his ankle in a Nov. 7 game against the Orlando Magic – the Timberwolves' fifth game of the season.
Rubio, who earlier this week took part in live-contact drills for the first time since suffering the injury, has been rehabbing an injury "far worse" than a bad ankle sprain. Head coach Flip Saunders told reporters that Rubio also suffered muscle and ligament tears in his foot, and rushing his return to the court could result in a stress fracture, as reported by NBA.com.
"Anyone that's been around the team knows that there's no one that works harder than him," Saunders said before Wednesday's game against the Dallas Mavericks, per NBA.com. "Him not playing right now - I want to clear the air - has nothing to do with him not wanting to play or not working to try to play. He's doing everything he can. We as an organization have been the ones that have tried to hold him back."
Risking an aggravation of his injury by returning too soon is just one element of why Judd Zulgad of 1500 ESPN believes Saunders should hold Rubio out as long as possible.
"There is another element that Saunders likely keeps in mind as the losses mount. The Wolves' .171 winning percentage is the second-worst in the NBA, better than only the New York Knicks' .163 percentage.
With each defeat, the Wolves improve their odds to win the NBA draft lottery this coming spring. Saunders, by all accounts, is able to comfort himself with the thought that he might have a shot at being able to grab Duke's Jahlil Okafor this June."
The Wolves lost again Wednesday night, falling to the Mavericks by 23 points. The game marked the official midway point of the season, and with a record of 7-34, the Rubio-less Wolves are tied for the worst first half of an 82-game season in franchise history, according to the Pioneer Press.
Minnesota also started the 1991-92 and 2007-08 seasons with a 7-34 record.