SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been well-told by now that the Utah Jazz have been incredibly thinned by injury this month, especially at point guard, as all three of their floor generals missed the five games prior to Monday night’s contest against the Portland Trail Blazers, with Ricky Rubio missing six in all and Dante Exum seven.
On Monday night the Jazz made solid progress on that front, as Rubio returned from the right hamstring strain he suffered early against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 7.
Utah head coach Quin Snyder noted before the game that Rubio would be on a minutes restriction, and the Spaniard wound up playing 14 minutes in the first game he’s come off the bench since the 2012-2013 season, his second campaign in the NBA.
Rubio finished with 12 points on 3-of-6 shooting with two assists, two rebounds, a steal and four turnovers. He was one of just three Jazz players to have a positive plus-minus, as he finished plus-1 in a game Utah lost 109-104.
“It felt good,” Rubio said of his return. “The beginning was a little rusty and I was forcing too much. Felt good overall. Happy to be back.”
Indeed, Rubio did come out a bit rusty. Having entered the game with 4:15 remaining in the first quarter, he finished the frame with just a missed 3-pointer, a turnover and a foul.
The eighth-year pro got going in the second quarter, however, scoring the Jazz’s first six points before checking out at the 9:41 mark. He then didn’t return to the floor until 4:38 remained in the third quarter, but played the rest of the frame and scored six more points.
Rubio started the fourth quarter but exited with 9:34 left and did not return.
“He came in and competed,” Snyder said. “It’s good to have him back. You can feel his presence in the game. I thought he defended and just played the game. He didn’t try to come in and do too much. Just let the game come to him, and I think he was rewarded for that.”Comment on this story
As much as Rubio said he wanted to be in the game down the stretch, he’s taking a longer view at making sure he’s as healthy as possible later in the season, even if that means easing back into things now.
“You’ve got to trust the doctors,” he said. “You’ve got to trust their job. They’re one of the best in the business. I want to be able to see the big picture. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Tonight I wish I would have played more minutes, but I know this is a marathon. It’s not just today running. It’s a long season, and I’ve just got to take care of my body.”