Jazz’s Ricky Rubio has mixed emotions in return to Minnesota

Utah Jazz's Joe Ingles, left, of Australia, and Minnesota Timberwolves' Andrew Wiggins chase a loose ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, in Minneapolis. AP Photo/Jim Mone)

For Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio, Friday night’s return to Minnesota to face the Timberwolves for the first time as an opponent represented a mixture of feelings. On one hand, he spent much of Friday’s pregame chopping it up with his old teammates, greeting Timberwolves assistants, hugging ushers and simply gazing around the newly renovated Target Center.

On the other, Rubio’s relationship with Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau was clearly icy. When asked if he had spoken with his old coach, Rubio simply said “No, I haven’t” and waited for the next question.

“Being in Minnesota was great from the beginning,” Rubio said. “The organization, the fans, they all accepted me and I’ll always be grateful for that. Of course tonight there are a lot of feelings involved. I will always have a lot of friends here. But at the end of the day, it’s basketball. I have to go out there and play hard and try to win.”

Rubio said he was happy that Minnesota popped up so early on the schedule. That way, he could get the game out of the way early in the season. On the court, he said his matchup with new Wolves guard Jeff Teague would be a big one, and that containing Teague from getting to the rim would represent a challenge.

He received a nice reception from the crowd, and a few cheers in the first quarter each time he touched the basketball. When he hit a runner in the second quarter, those cheers turned into full-on applause.

“Ricky knows he has a lot of friends that he’s made here over the years,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “But he’s mature enough to handle it. He’s excited to be back, but at the same time we are going to play these guys four times this year.”

Power ranger

With Joe Johnson playing power forward exclusively for the first time in his career, he knows that guarding power forwards comes with that.

That meant mentally preparing himself for the challenge over the summer. He’s no longer tasked with defending quick guys on the perimeter. But now he has to wrestle with some of the bigger players in the NBA.

In Friday’s first half against Minnesota, Johnson guarded Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the best centers in the league, for prolonged stretches. He did the same with Nikola Jokic in Wednesday’s win over the Denver Nuggets.

“I think it’s now knowing more what to expect,” Johnson said. “I know it’s going to be a battle in there every night, and it’s a challenge. The league is full of great players at the position.”

Bucks sign Bolomboy

Former Jazz player Joel Bolomboy, who the Jazz released earlier this week, has signed a two-way contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. Bolomboy will spend his year rotating between the Bucks and their G-League affiliate Wisconsin Herd.

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