Wolves Tuesday: Rubio watches and learns from Lakers' Nash
FEB 04, 2014 2:26p ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ricky Rubio says Steve Nash is impossible to emulate.
But that doesn't mean the young Timberwolves point guard is averse to trying.
"Everybody has his own style, but of course you look at the best and try to -- not imitate, because you don't have the same body or same athleticism as the others, but try to get some of him and try to get better watching them," Rubio said Tuesday morning. "It's something that Steve Nash, he's one of the best ever, and he shows what he can do."
Operating under a strictly regiment minutes limit, the 39-year-old Nash will return from a back injury to start opposite the 23-year-old who in many ways reveres him -- his control of an offense, his lightning-quick decision-making in transition, his ability to execute the pick-and-roll as well as any point guard to play the game.
All were staples of Nash's heyday with the Phoenix Suns. Now, the bearded, grizzled veteran is just attempting to make one final run at directing Los Angeles' attack.
"I'm not going to take anything for granted," Nash said after his team's own morning shootaround. "I'm just happy to get a chance to play tonight. One game in the grand scheme of things is something I'm just happy to have."
And Rubio's happy to have had Nash to take after.
The two possess similar styles of play, especially when they get out in the open court and deftly find a teammate for a highlight-reel assist. Like most NBA stars, Rubio has picked and chosen different facets of their game and incorporated them into his wide-open, pass-happy style.
But there's a special admiration for Nash, a two-time MVP and three-time all-NBA first-teamer.
Rubio, from Spain, even joked he should start copycating some of Nash's famous soccer drills to improve his footwork.
"I know how to play soccer, so if he got better playing soccer, I will, too," Rubio grinned. "It's something that everybody has his own technique to do it."
Out since Nov. 10, Nash isn't the only guard returning Tuesday for the injury-ravaged Lakers. Steve Blake will be back after missing 26 games with an elbow injury. Jordan Farmar -- who's played in 22 games this season and torn his hamstring twice -- will dress for the first time since Dec. 31.
Center Pau Gasol is out at least a week with a groin injury. Rubio didn't have a chance to catch up with his old friend and countryman this week, because Gasol stayed in Los Angeles for treatments.
"All I wish for him is a speedy recovery," Rubio said.
Kobe Bryant remains out until further notice with a knee injury.
Chasing progress: All throughout his rehabilitation from a second left-knee meniscus surgery in the past calendar year, Chase Budinger stressed the word patience.
In 13 games since his return, it's become more important than ever.
Budinger enters Tuesday's game shooting just 31.9 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from 3-point range. He's scored in double figures just once, the product of many shots clanging off the front of the rim.
His knee is fine. His conditioning, though, is not where and the team had hoped it would be almost a month after his first appearance of the season.
"It's tough trying to find my rhythm right now, just offensively," Budinger said. "I feel that, every game, the same thing's going on shooting-the-ball-wise; everything's just being short. That's just due to fatigue. My legs get tired, and when I shoot the ball and they're tired, everything's short."
Budinger's minutes restriction was lifted a while ago, and coach Rick Adelman has used him about 16 minutes per game.
The 6-foot-7, 218-pound small forward was re-signed this past offseason due in large part to his perimeter scoring threat. He missed the better of last season with a meniscus tear, then reinjured the knee during pre-training-camp workouts.
Playing for Houston in 2011-12, he hit better than 40 percent of his 3s. Hopefully, Budinger said, he can get back to a similar clip within the next few weeks.
"It's really tough to work on that right now during the season, because we have so many games, and I'm still getting sore, so I can't really get the extra time in, because I need that recovery time," Budinger said.
Adelman laud's Loves leadership: It's not always easy being the superstar of a team while ranking lower on the seniority totem pole, Adelman contends.
But Kevin Love has handled it admirably, the coach said.
"He's been tremendous," Adelman said. "I think he's getting comfortable with the status he has in the league and what he has to do."
When asked, teammates say Love is indeed the Timberwolves' unquestioned leader. That includes point guard J.J. Barea, who's been in the league two more seasons than the 25-year-old Love and expressed displeasure at a couple things he said in the media earlier this season.
With All-Star status comes respect. With that respect comes a voice that carries a little heavier throughout the locker room -- even with guys like Barea (eighth season in the NBA), Kevin Martin (10th) and Ronny Turiaf (ninth) around.
"Everybody has to follow the All-Star," Barea said earlier in the year.
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