Tonight he wanted to play well and he wanted his new team to play well. I love to see the passion in his game. We saw that tonight I expect well keep seeing it. —Jazz head coach Quin Snyder on Ricky Rubio
MINNEAPOLIS – Before Friday's game, Utah Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio said it would be “a little weird” playing on the court he’s played for six years as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He also said he wondered what kind of reception he would receive from the Minnesota fans.
Well, he got a tremendous ovation from the Target Center fans when he was the first Jazz player introduced and an image of him on the video board was shown to the sold out crowd.
However, by the end of the night, those cheers had turned to jeers as Rubio got in a couple of altercations with T-Wolves' players and then nearly led a spirited comeback by the Jazz that fell just short.
On the night, Rubio finished with 19 points, 10 assists and five rebounds, while fighting foul trouble for much of the night. He outplayed his counterpart, Jeff Teague, who was acquired in an offseason trade with Indiana, as Teague finished with 10 points and four assists in the same number of minutes as Rubio.
Afterwards, Rubio talked about how it was fun seeing old friends, but he was disappointed he couldn’t come away with a win against his old team.
“We didn’t play our best tonight, but we had a chance,” he said. “When you have a chance on the road in this league it’s a lot and especially against a team that’s one of the best in the West.”
Earlier in the day, the 26-year-old Spaniard had talked to more than two dozen media types after Utah’s morning shootaround. He was gracious in greeting reporters he knew from his days with the Wolves and talked about his mixed emotions of being back in Minneapolis, while playing for the Jazz.
“It feels a little weird, but it’s a business,” he said. “I have a lot of friends on the other side, but tonight it’s about winning. A lot of emotions . . . I’ve spent a lot of time here, I create a family here, I love it.”
Rubio said he wasn’t surprised to be traded, commenting, “When there’s rumors for two years, you believe the rumors and then they come true.”
He also said he was happy to be in Utah and that the Jazz have treated him well since the day he was traded back in June.
“They were amazing from Day One,” he said. “They were texting me and emailing me almost every week though the process all summer long and ever since I came to Utah. It was amazing knowing they are on the same page.”
Coach Quin Snyder said it’s always a challenge for a player going back to his former club and friends, but thought Rubio handled it well.
“Tonight he wanted to play well and he wanted his new team to play well,” he said. “I love to see the passion in his game. We saw that tonight I expect well keep seeing it.”
ANOTHER RENOVATION: Like Utah’s Vivint Smart Home Arena, the Target Center has been renovated since last season.
The $145 million renovation, slightly more expensive than Utah’s, includes new seats, a state-of-the-art scoreboard, new premium and hospitality spaces, refurbished concourses, upgraded concessions, a new box-office lobby, additional entry points, a five-story glass atrium, an updated sound system, all digital signage and additional gathering locations for fans as well as improved locker rooms and training facilities.
“It’s amazing what they’ve done,” said Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau. “We’re thrilled with that. I think it’s good for everybody, certainly our players appreciate it and our fans are going to love it.”
JAZZ NOTES: The Jazz and Wolves play four times this season. They’ll play at Vivint Arena Nov. 13 and March 2 and return to Minnesota on April 1 . . . Last year, the Jazz were 3-1 against the T-Wolves, winning both game at the Target Center . . . Raul Neto was cleared to play after sitting out with a sore hamstring, but never got in the game as Donovan Mitchell got the backup point guard minutes . . . Joel Bolomboy, who was waived by the Jazz on Monday, was picked up by Milwaukee and signed to a two-way contract and will be eligible for the G. League Draft on Saturday . . . Everyone in the arena was given a white T-Shirt that read "All Eyes North" before the game . . . The Minnesota Lynx were honored during the third quarter for winning another WNBA title last week.