The Minnesota Timberwolves are once again losing their seesaw, back-and-forth battle with the .500 mark. After breaking even yet again at 18-18 on Jan. 10, the Wolves have lost two straight to fall to 18-20.
More concerning than the record—which still isn't that bad—is the effect this season seems to be having on point guard Ricky Rubio. The third-year guard vented his frustrations to reporters, courtesy of the Associated Press' Jon Krawczynski.
Rubio: "I'm going to be honest. I'm not feeling comfortable out there."— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) January 17, 2014
Rubio: "I'm not being myself and the team is noticing. I just have to be back where I was, be myself. I'm working on that."— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) January 17, 2014
Rubio: "It's basketball. I love it. But I'm just not having as much fun as it used to be."— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) January 17, 2014
Uh-oh. Those are troubling statements, particularly the last one. Rubio usually plays with such singular vision and enthusiasm. Win or lose, he seems like a kid who plays for love of the game.
It was that vision and enthusiasm that first drew American basketball fans to Rubio when he lit up the stage at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a precocious 17-year-old playing for the Spanish National team.
It was that vision and enthusiasm that drove Minnesota to draft Rubio fifth in the 2009 NBA draft and hold on to him for two lost seasons as Rubio tried to get them to trade him to a different team.
Certainly, Rubio still plays a crafty, high-energy game...at least on defense. Per Basketball Reference, he ranks first in the league in total steals, steals per game and steals percentage.
But with Rubio, the question is always about his shooting. His field goal percentage is a career-low 34.6 (though he's shooting a career-high 36.4 percent from behind the arc). Perhaps all the criticism over his shot has drained some of his passion for the game.
Of course, Rubio isn't the only Timberwolves player who is carrying around negative energy. Star forward Kevin Love ripped teammates J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham following a Jan. 8 loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Minnesota might not be out of the playoff race, but there seems to be a dark cloud hovering over the franchise. For the sake of the fans, here's hoping it lifts soon.