Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NBA [Print without images]

Thursday, September 19, 2013
Rubio, Timberwolves a playoff team?

By Mark Woods
Special to ESPN.com

Ricky Rubio thinks the offseason moves made by the Minnesota Timberwolves can turn them into a playoff team for the first time since 2004, even in a loaded Western Conference.

After going 31-51 last season, and missing the postseason by a country mile, the Timberwolves are looking to make grand steps forward under new general manager Milt Newton.

They will count on a fully healthy Kevin Love -- who played only 18 games due to a broken hand in 2012-13 -- as well as improvements from Rubio, who struggled to match the flashes of brilliance he showed in his rookie year before it was cut short by a severe knee injury.

With center Nikola Pekovic agreeing on a new contract, the other big summer move in Minnesota was the signing of Kevin Martin as a free agent from Oklahoma City, a backcourt partner for the Spaniard who should give his team much-needed 3-point shooting help.

"He's great," said Rubio, who is currently playing for his country at EuroBasket. "He's doing great things for the team. But I hope he can step up even more and help lead us."

The other big plus is that Rick Adelman will be back as coach, despite the health issues for his wife that had left his future uncertain.

The 67-year-old has been in charge of the team ever since Rubio arrived from FC Barcelona in 2011 with one of his key challenges to guide him through his transition from Euro prodigy towards becoming a consistent NBA performer.

Last season, Adelman was forced to take a three-week leave midseason to help his wife, Mary Kay, who was suffering from seizures.

Rubio says it is a huge lift for the Timberwolves that he has opted to return.

"It's great news," he said. "He's great for us. He's doing a great job. He had a tough time last season but I'm just happy because I owe a lot to him. I love the way he wants us to play."