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Ricky Rubio was back on the floor for the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday night and his teammates couldn’t have been happier.
On Thursday night, Ricky Rubio made his season debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers, just over a year since he suffered an ACL tear. In the ensuing 12 months while he was recovering, he was traded to the Indiana Pacers, became a free agent and re-signed with the Cavs.
His teammates have been thrilled for his return and he made a big impression in his first game back, being rewarded with the Junkyard Dog Chain. It’s an award the team came up with last season, handed out by the coaching staff to the player who best represented the mentality of scrappy intensity.
How will Ricky Rubio change the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Rubio played just over 10 minutes, scoring 9 points with 3 rebounds and an assist, shooting 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. The Cavs outscored the Blazers by six points in the time he was on the floor. As Mike Shearer pointed out yesterday, Rubio’s return will help lighten the load for both Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell and give them more opportunities to thrive in off-ball settings:
“Garland and Spida are comfortable playing off the ball, and both have played with Rubio before — Garland last year and Mitchell in his breakout second-year campaign back in 2018-19. Rubio is the skeleton key to unlocking both players as off-ball scorers, weaponizing their outside shooting and (particularly Mitchell’s) cutting in a way that is difficult right now unless both are on the court together. Although Mitchell’s scoring has hardly been impacted by Rubio’s absence, it can’t hurt to deliver Donovan some easier buckets.”
Rubio overlapped with Garland for just 5 minutes and Mitchell for just 2, all of which were net positives. With plenty of regular season left, the Cavs will have lots of time to integrate Rubio and keep experimenting with different lineups to build chemistry.
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