MINNEAPOLIS — Ricky Rubio says he’s “looking forward” to returning to his old stomping grounds Friday night when the Utah Jazz take on the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center (6 p.m.). But he’s also happy to be a member of the Utah Jazz, who started off the season with a 106-96 victory over Denver Wednesday night.
Rubio wasn’t spectacular in his regular-season debut, but he produced solid numbers with nine points, 10 assists and two steals. His 10 assists were more than any Jazz point guard had in a game all of last season.
Rubio played six seasons in Minnesota after being drafted by the T-Wolves with the No. 5 pick of the 2009 NBA draft. But rumors swirled last year that his days in Minnesota were numbered and when the T-Wolves decided to make changes in the offseason, he was traded to Utah.
With the move Rubio has made changes in his appearance, growing his hair out and occasionally wearing a “man-bun” and getting tattoos on his right arm.
“I had a great time in Minnesota, but I think it was time for the both of us to move on,” he said.
The Jazz are happy to have a pass-first point guard in Rubio and coach Quin Snyder praised him throughout fall camp. Earlier this week Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey gushed about having Rubio in the organization.
“He’s far surpassed my expectations,” he said. “He’s a serious basketball player, he has a serious approach in our training room and our strength and conditioning area. The development that we do is very collegiate in nature and he hasn’t been above that. He’s been very open-minded and with his mindset he’ll continue to move forward as a player.”
ASSISTING THE WIN: The Jazz had 28 assists on 41 made baskets in Wednesday night’s win, which is a great percentage for any NBA team. Only twice last season did the Jazz have more than 28 assists in a single game.
After the game, Snyder downplayed the accomplishment somewhat although he was pleased with the number.
“We have not been a real high assist team at times but we’ve been an unselfish team so I think it reflects a little bit about the way trying to drive the ball and kick,” Snyder said after the game. “I think we can be unselfish without getting a lot of assists but tonight the assists probably reflected the ball movement and unselfishness.”
PRAISE FOR BOLOMBOY: It got kind of lost in the shuffle earlier in the week, but the Jazz had to cut Joel Bolomboy, a second-round draft choice from Weber State in 2016 to get their roster down to 15 players for the opening of the season.
The Jazz liked the 6-9 forward a lot and played well in his limited preseason minutes, averaging 8.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in just 8.5 minutes per game.
Lindsey said it was especially tough letting Bolomboy go because he was a draft choice of Utah’s and a local player.
“It was a hard day for me,” said Lindsey. “Sometimes timing is everything in this league and in life. If he joins our team three years ago when we were a young developing team (he’d be on the team), but we’re not that right now. He’s got a great way about him, I say there’s a freshness and energy about him and his character. I told him yesterday, he’s a much better player than he was a year ago a better passer more experience. We’re paid to make tough decisions and that was a very tough one on a personal and professional level.”
JAZZ NOTES: In Wednesday night’s opening-game loss in San Antonio, the T-Wolves were led by Andrew Wiggins with 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Karl-Anthony Towns had 18 points and 13 rebounds, Jimmy Butler 12 and Jeff Teague 11 points. . . Rodney Hood played only 18 minutes Wednesday because of gastric distress and finished with 6 points against Denver . . . After playing Minnesota, the Jazz get back on a plane and head back to Utah for a game against Oklahoma City Saturday night. Then it’s back on the road for games Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers and Wednesday against Phoenix.