Minneapolis • Asked at pregame shootaround on Wednesday afternoon if he still had a home in Minnesota, Ricky Rubio responded that he did, but he was looking to sell.
“You wanna buy it?” he joked.
The Jazz point guard, who spent the first six seasons of his NBA career with the Timberwolves before being traded to the Jazz in the summer of 2017, said that while he had fond memories of his former team, his connection to it was waning after more than a year in Utah.
“It’s always special. The first time [back] was a little different, but still I got a lot of friends, a lot of good memories here. I love it,” he said. “Last year, I followed more closely, I had more friends; I still have friends now, but it’s not the same as time goes. It’s tough times right now. But they still got a good team.”
Those last two sentences were a reference, of course to the turbulence currently taking place within the Timberwolves’ organization after star Jimmy Butler demanded a trade during the offseason, while the team has claimed that no offer has been worth dealing him away yet. And so an awkward situation lingers.
On Wednesday morning, it was announced that Butler would sit out the Jazz game due to “general soreness and precautionary rest.”
Rubio said he could empathize with the difficulty of maintaining focus in such a scenario.
“Every day is different news. … I got ‘traded’ like 10 times when I was here, and until that [actually] happens, you can’t think about that every day,” he said. “When it happens, it will happen. The players who are here gotta play to win every time.”
That, at least, makes him all the happier in his present situation.
He has zero doubts, after all, about his Jazz teammates playing to win every game. The Jazz players’ familiarity with one another, he added, has convinced them all they’ve got a really good thing going.
“We can be really good. … We’ve got great confidence in what we can do and what we can achieve,” Rubio said. “Our goal — of course we want a championship — but at the end of the day, it’s get better every day like we did last year, and the outcome will come.”
The other side
Tom Thibodeau, the Wolves’ coach and chief basketball decision-maker, went into some detail about what led him to trade Rubio to the Jazz for a 2018 first-round draft pick, which became Georgia Tech wing Josh Okogie at No. 20 overall.
“Like with all trades and things like that, free agency, it’s in totality — one thing leads to another. There was also cap space involved in that for us. And so it led to adding more depth and starting-caliber players to our team, which we felt we needed. So there was a lot that went into that,” Thibodeau said. “And Ricky’s done well, Ricky’s a good player — he’s been a good player in this league for a long time.”
Okogie came into the game averaging 9.8 ppg and 5.6 rpg, but shooting just 34.5 percent overall and 21.7 percent on 3-pointers.