Our worst fears have been confirmed: Ricky tore his ACL and will undergo season-ending surgery. NBA stars from LeBron James to Kevin Durant are expressing their condolences and support via Twitter, and Bethlehem Shoals has already waxed poetic on the topic in ways that nobody else should even try. But since it’s a huge Wolves story and season development, it should be acknowledged and discussed here.
If you know people that are or were athletes, then you know people who have torn their anterior cruciate knee ligament. It happens. A lot. In my life experience, it seems to happen to soccer players the most, perhaps then followed by football players. Cutting on grassy surfaces with spikes under your shoes tends to produce this unfortunate result. Two of my best friends in high school played soccer and both had torn ACL’s on their resume’ before graduation. My sophomore-year college team had just secured the school’s first postseason bid in years when our point guard and emotional leader went down in a heap. ACL torn. This injury happens a lot, yet its news still carries a certain zap with it that makes it seem more devastating than it really is. I assume that there are different reasons for this. The reconstructive surgery, as far as I understand, has become fairly routine and successful in building back a functional knee. But it wasn’t always this way. Remember when William Gates tore his knee up, and it ruined his whole career? That doesn’t seem to happen anymore. Corey Brewer went through it, was making posters in no time. Al Jefferson seemed to struggle a bit more after his surgery, but eventually he’s come around and even learned the benefits of passing out of a double team. In short, the surgery seems to work and Ricky will be just fine. Eventually.
Well for starters, the proverbial show must go on. The Wolves tip off against the Hornets about two hours after I publish this post. At 21-20, they’re a half game out of the playoffs, barely behind the free-falling Houston Rockets. As much as the Wolves would (understandably) like to sulk about this news, there isn’t any time. The two big questions are:
1) Will they acquire a point guard before Thursday’s trade deadline?
2) How will they generate any offense without their playmaker?
The first question is difficult — impossible, actually — for me to answer. My guess is that nothing drastic will be done before the deadline by way of a point guard acquisition. If they did trade for a point guard, it would have to be one with an expiring contract (I think?) so as not to clog up cap space that will be needed this summer. Are there any free agents out there? I guess there is this guy. And this guy. Crazy as it sounds, a phone call to Iverson or Arenas might not be the dumbest idea in the world.
The second question is more troubling. Along with a sensible NBA offense installed by Rick Adelman, Rubio’s ingenuity as a dribbler and passer has led to the marked improvement in the team’s offense from a season ago. Assuming no major roster changes, how does this team generate offense? In my opinion, Ridnour-Love ball screens are not going to cut it. This has less to do with Love than it used to; I just don’t think Luke delivers those passes very well. He’s too little and not nearly the wizard that Ricky is in compensating for seeming shortcomings. Does Mike Beasley need to play more minutes? (He was pretty awesome last night, as a scorer for 16 minutes.) I don’t know. It’s the million dollar question. I guess we’ll get a sneak preview of an answer in tonight’s contest.
Of course, there are countless other layers to this sad sports story. Ricky won’t play in the Olympics to back up the tough talk he dished at Kobe a while back. (There’s painful irony in how this circumstance came to be.) There’s the Rookie of the Year Award, then can just as soon be FedEx’d to Kyrie Irving’s Cleveland address. Rather than dwell on all the bad, I’ll just wish Ricky good luck in recovery and look forward to his return next season.