It’s been an eventful two seasons with Ricky Rubio in a Utah Jazz uniform. Much like the entire team last season, he started out slow and then started playing out of his mind towards the end of the season. His play helped the Jazz work themselves back from a 19-28 record and landed in the playoffs as the fifth seed, matching up against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He had, in my opinion, one of the most memorable playoff performances in Jazz history in game three of that series. He became the first Jazz man since Karl Malone to post a triple-double in the playoffs, and had an arena full of red, orange, and yellow gradient-based fans chanting his name, “RUBIO, RUBIO, RUBIO as he led them to victory. Being at that game in person was one of the craziest things I had ever witnessed. Watching Rubio play as well as he was in that game, hitting 35-foot buzzer beaters off of one foot; it was literally magic. He was undoubtedly a key piece in the Jazz taking a 3-2 series lead back to Utah for a closeout game. Just a few minutes into that game six, he tweaked his hamstring, and that was that. He was done for the rest of the playoffs.
The Jazz would go on to win game six without him, eliminating the Thunder from the playoffs and advancing to face the Houston Rockets. Rubio did as much as he possibly could to get back on the court during that series, including rehabilitation treatment for over 10+ hours in a single day. But it just wasn’t healing quickly enough. Rubio sat on the bench and watched the Jazz lose in five games, cutting short their season. He said it was one of the hardest things he ever had to do, watching without being able to help his teammates on the floor. Fast-forward a year later, and Ricky Rubio is about to get his shot at playoff redemption.
Although Rubio missed four of the last five games of the regular season with a quad injury, it’s believed that was mostly precautionary with the playoffs approaching. Rubio should be locked and loaded, ready to pick up where he left off last year in the playoffs.
... let the fun begin— Ricky Rubio (@rickyrubio9) April 11, 2019
What version of Ricky Rubio will the Jazz get this postseason? Will they get the Ricky that struggles to shoot and is careless with the ball, or the Ricky that is triple-doubling on reigning MVPs as the crowd chants his name? In the five games he played before getting injured in the playoffs last season, Rubio averaged 17 points, 8 assists, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals. Watching those games, Rubio’s impact was even greater than the stats he was putting up. Will we get magic Rick once again? Assuming he is healthy enough, the Jazz will need every bit of magic they can get out of Ricky Rubio.
It’s pretty tough to just assume that Rubio will be able to perform at the level he was in the playoffs last year, because of a few reasons. First off, we really don’t know how healthy he is. As mentioned previously, he’s been dealing with a quad injury which caused him to miss some games, as well as a nagging hamstring that had him sidelined for several games a few weeks ago. If he’s not all the way healthy, it’s tough to expect he can do those same types of things he was doing last year. Second of all, he isn’t coming into the playoffs on an absolute tear like he was last season. Over the final 27 games of the regular season last year (Feb-Abril), he was averaging 16 points per game on 46/43/86 shooting splits. That’s crazy. In case you forgot, Rubio was straight fuego over the last quarter or even half of the season last year. He got rolling at just the right time.
This year he experience a little bit of a bump in the second half stretch, but no where close to last season. Although his value in its entirety is not all related to shooting and scoring, it’s definitely a big portion of it. But even if Rubio isn’t able to shoot as well as he was last year, he still has tools that can help the Jazz beat the Rockets in this series.
Ricky Rubio’s shot at redemption is not solely about getting revenge on the team that bounced the Jazz from the playoffs last season. It’s also not totally about avenging his injury which caused him to miss the series last year. Rubio is playing in what might be the most important games of his basketball career in the coming days. His contract expires at the end of the season, and as an upcoming free agent, these playoffs are huge for him. He has mentioned his desire to stick around in Utah, and has publicly voiced his admiration for his teammates, the Jazz organization, and the city of Salt Lake. Ricky wants to be here. But the Jazz are in win-now mode, and as it stands he may not be a part of that plan, as sad as it might be for some (like me, a Rubio stan). He’s got one last chance to show us what he’s got. Once last chance to whip up some of that Rubio magic. One last chance to make 18,300+ chant his name in unison as he raised his arms to them.
It’s now or never for Ricky Rubio.