Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Zach LaVine hasn’t played a lot of minutes in the first five games of the season, but that is about to change. Ricky Rubio suffered a severe left ankle sprain opening the door for LaVine to earn more minutes.
With Rubio out, LaVine will be Minnesota’s starting point guard since head coach Flip Saunders wants to keep Mo Williams in the sixth man role. Rubio went down with the injury late in the second quarter against the Orlando Magic on Friday night. At that point, LaVine had not played any minutes, but Saunders called upon him in the second half and LaVine was ready to play. In the eight minutes that he played, he contributed four points, two assists, one block and one steal.
“As a rookie you don’t like sitting on the bench and not getting a lot of playing time,” LaVine said. “You always sit and stay ready. I’ve been preparing myself to come in games whenever coach tells me to. When opportunity knocks you have to walk through the door.”
The opportunity is knocking and this is LaVine’s chance to show his teammates what he can do.
“He’s going to have to prove himself,” Corey Brewer told Basketball Insiders. “It’s going to be tough. He gets thrown in the fire right away but I think he’s been working his butt off.”
LaVine has been working hard on his game and has tried to keep himself ready. He says the best thing for staying ready is being comfortable and having the right mindset. The transition from college to the NBA can be tough physically and mentally, especially early on in the season.
LaVine was one of the best leapers in college last season and is very athletic but will need to learn how to use his strengths to help his team. Playing the point guard position and being 6-foot-5 will automatically give him an advantage over smaller point guards.
During the preseason, LaVine played significant minutes in every game. He slid in the starting line up when Rubio sat out to rest so he has some experience as a starter alongside his Timberwolves teammates.
“I feel really bad for Ricky, I hope he has a really speedy recovery,” LaVine said. “He’s the captain on our team so it won’t be the same without him, but I have to step up and so does everyone else.”
After the Kevin Love trade, a lot of the franchise-player responsibilities shifted over to Rubio and now they will have to be redistributed to the rest of the team. Veterans like Brewer, Williams and Kevin Martin will help, but some of the load will fall on rookies and second-year players.
LaVine and fellow rookie Andrew Wiggins knew each other before the draft, which has led to good chemistry on the court. Entering the season, the athletic duo nicknamed themselves the “Bounce Brothers.” As they develop their chemistry and their game, they could be a huge threat for any team to face.
The Timberwolves are a young team, with seven players in their first or second season. Having a group of young players that will develop, learn and grow together can take them a long way, but there will be some growing pains. Rubio’s injury will test this team to see if they can come together to fill the void.
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