I’ve been working on that for the past couple of years. I’ve been feeling better than ever and I trust myself. I feel good with confidence. —Ricky Rubio on his shooting
SALT LAKE CITY — When Ricky Rubio missed his first 13 shots in a Jazz uniform in three preseason games last week, it likely made a lot of folks question why the Jazz acquired the veteran point guard in the offseason. At the very least, it made fans squirm in their seats watching shot after shot clang off the rim.
When Rubio finally sank his first basket, a 3-pointer from out front in his 10th quarter of action in Utah, the Jazz faithful let out a cheer, with some of the cheers undoubtedly of the “yeah, he finally made a shot!” variety.
Rubio ended up making one of his next three, finishing 2 for 9 on the night to get to 2 for 17 on the season.
Maybe it was just the Vivint Arena baskets. Because three nights later in Phoenix, Rubio came out on fire, knocking down his first four shots en route to an 8-for-10 night as he led the team with 20 points in a win over the Suns.
Then on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers, Rubio started off strong again, making 4 of his first 8 shots before ending up at 6 for 18 on the night, missing his last five shots.
While the young Spaniard has brought some excitement to the Jazz offense with his flair for passing and a defensive mindset, he’s also proved that you never know what you’re going to get from him in the shooting department.
It’s nothing new for his career, as he’s a 37.5 percent shooter in his six years in the NBA and 31.5 percent from 3-point range. His numbers in Europe before the NBA were similar — 38.5 and 32.3, respectively.
Last week, Jazz coach Quin Snyder was defensive in talking about Rubio and his shooting woes. He said he didn’t want everyone falling into the “trap” of evaluating Rubio after every game, particularly his shooting.
“I’m good if Ricky was 0 for 10 from three tonight, I don’t care,” he said. “There is a tendency ... we’re waiting for him to show us something. If he plays that way, if he’s trying to prove something or please someone, that’s just the wrong approach.”
Snyder says he wants Rubio to take open shots, which he may get a lot if he keeps missing because opposing teams won’t guard him on the perimeter.
The fact is, despite all that Rubio brings to the team with his defense and passing ability, not to mention his free-throw shooting, which at 89.1 percent ranked No. 11 in the NBA last year, he’s not a great outside shooter. His career percentages are worse than any other point guard in the league that has played a comparable amount of seasons in the NBA.
Check out the other point guards who have played at least six years in the NBA: Kyrie Irving 45.7 percent; Isaiah Thomas 44.3 percent; Jeff Teague 44.7 percent; Jrue Holiday 44.1; Kemba Walker 41.1 percent. And all are at least 35 percent from 3-point range.
Rubio shrugs off talk about his shooting and says it’s been improving, as shown by the fact that he was over 40 percent in a season for the first time in his career last year at 40.2 percent.
“I’ve been working on that for the past couple of years,” he said. “I’ve been feeling better than ever and I trust myself. I feel good with confidence.”
The Jazz emphasize that they acquired Rubio more for his defense and his ability to pass. “He thinks about everybody else so much,” said Snyder, a trait not many NBA players have. As long as he can keep that attitude and contribute defensively, the Jazz will put up with some off-shooting nights.
“The goal is not for Ricky to go 4 for 4,” said Snyder. “The goal for Ricky is to become a better player, every week, every month throughout the course of the season. The way to do that is to play the right way and continue to be aggressive and then work. There’s a lot of things he can do to get better. I think he’s excited about that and I’m excited about that.”