Let’s hop around the league for some of the NBA’s best, brightest and worst:
Well, that was fun. Before leaving Thursday’s game with an injury, Ricky Rubio had hit double digits in scoring in five of Minnesota’s previous six games while dishing 13 assists per game in that stretch. Rubio was playing with flair again after a moribund few weeks where it appeared he let his shaky shooting — and perhaps uncertain future in Minnesota — sap the zest from his game.
Rubio was jacking his midranger, and driving to the rim with a little more authority — at least by his standards. He flashed some dribbling derring-do, and launched Kevin Love-level outlet passes:
This sounds hokey, but Rubio represents something larger than himself. He was a source of mystery and anticipation, and then of joy when he finally arrived here. He plays with such smiley exuberance. He cares about his teammates. He is happy in their success.
He is historically bad at the most basic and selfish basketball act, but otherworldly brilliant at dozens of tiny selfless things that make his teammates better — passing a half-second early so that someone has more space to shoot, spotting a cutter on time, or taking an extra dribble into the lane to shift the defense the one last step that makes all the difference.
He is a vessel for our belief in a certain basketball magic: that a connector can lift his team to a higher place by empowering everyone around him — by effectively spreading joy. Maybe that sharing carries a multiplier effect more powerful than the drag of Rubio’s horrid shooting.