PARK CITY — Technically, Ricky Rubio hasn’t dished out an assist since Jan. 7 before exiting the game in Milwaukee during the opening quarter with a mild right hamstring strain.
That’s only if you’re counting on the court, though.
As the Utah Jazz floor general continues to recover, he threw an off-court lob for the second year in a row to 10 local athletes from the Utah Special Olympics on Sunday in the Adidas Store at Tanger Outlets Park City.
Rubio gifted each of them a $200 gift card at the store as well as a hat and rubber wristband from The Ricky Rubio Foundation, while assisting them on their shopping spree for Three Stripes gear.
“Before the season starts, I always go to the calendar and look for spots where I can really go back to the community and help them,” Rubio said. “At the end of the day, we’re here to play basketball but to help the community, too. It’s something that makes me feel good and I do it more for me than for the others, but at the end of the day helping others helps yourself, too.”
Prior to that, Rubio also returned to practice Sunday morning for the first time since the injury. He was initially set to be re-evaluated on Tuesday after missing the last six games, but the team’s medical staff re-examined him following today’s practice, ruling him questionable for Monday's game versus Portland where he will also be donating 30 tickets to the Utah Special Olympics.
“I feel good. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow morning, then we’ll decide, but it’s been two hard weeks for me to watch the team, but at least we were winning and it was fun to watch,” Rubio said. “But you know how it feels being out. I can’t wait to get back to the court."
Not only has Rubio been out of action, the Jazz have also been playing without Raul Neto (left groin strain), Thabo Sefolosha (mild right hamstring strain), Dante Exum (left ankle sprain) and Tony Bradley (right knee surgery).
Sefolosha and Neto will be re-evaluated on Tuesday, while Exum is expected to miss another week.
“It shows the strength of the team is the team and it doesn’t matter who is on the court, we always fight and give everything we have,” Rubio said. “It shows in the winning streak where we didn’t have any point guards and we kept fighting and we won some games, some big games in LA and the Lakers here, too. And then the games we’re supposed to win, sometimes they’re not easy and we did and we keep going.”
Donovan Mitchell has been forced to pick up the primary ball-handling responsibilities without the Jazz guards in rotation, but he’s had help from Royce O’Neale, Jae Crowder and Joe Ingles as well.
Although the Jazz have won a season-high six straight games entering Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day game against Portland, Crowder was certainly happy to see Rubio back on the court at the practice facility.
“He looks very good,” Crowder said. “He had a good practice today, he’s running full speed. Obviously, the offense runs a little bit smoother with him on the court so it’s good to have him back.”
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder also said the team is for sure better with Rubio in the lineup despite the recent success without him. Rubio is averaging 12.8 points, 6.2 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 29.2 minutes per game in his eighth NBA season.
“Ricky’s a huge part of what we do and his ability to defend the ball, to lead and make clutch shots as well, he’s been finishing at the rim at a higher rate than he has in his whole career and he’s playing very well,” Snyder said. “Our team’s better when we have him.”7 comments on this story
And so is the Utah community. Rubio’s latest act at the Adidas outlet was part of his “One Month One Cause” campaign where he picks a local group to do something special for every month, in addition to his foundation and ongoing Ricky Rubio Academy.
“They’ve treated me well since day one. They treat me like a family,” Rubio said of Adidas. “When we signed the contract, one of the things was helping me with my camp, helping me with giving back to the community, and they’re always willing to do stuff like that so it’s great.”