Ricky Rubio is back!
The former lottery pick scored nine points and grabbed three rebounds during the 10 minutes he played off the bench to help the Cavaliers beat the Trail Blazers 119-113. He also won the junkyard dog chain for his efforts in his first game since suffering a season-ending torn ACL in December 2021.
“It felt good,” Rubio said of his first game, per ESPN. “It felt weird in the beginning, especially the first time, but after that, it felt back to normal. Of course, rhythm and all that stuff will come, but today was a lot of emotions out there. Working hard all year just to be healthy and grateful to be out there playing basketball again.”
Ricky Rubio with his first bucket of the season!
— NBA (@NBA) January 13, 2023
The 32-year-old point guard was a critical part of Cleveland’s success last season. After he suffered his knee injury, he was traded to Indiana for Caris LeVert, but come back via free agency because of the chemistry and camaraderie he saw in Cleveland. Donovan Mitchell, who played with Rubio in Utah, was excited to see his teammate back on the court.
“I couldn’t stop smiling,” Mitchell said. “It felt like my rookie year. For me, it’s just a full-circle moment, but it’s great to see him out there after the ACL. And also, hitting two big 3s for us, leading the offense.”
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) January 13, 2023
Cleveland head coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters during a pre-game scrum that he wanted to play Rubio in two stints in the first half. However, Rubio played six minutes, so Bickerstaff played Rubio for a third stretch in the third quarter. After the game, Rubio said he felt good physically because the cardio workouts he did in rehab were more challenging than game action.
The Cavs admitted Rubio has been ready to play “for a long time,” but Rubio understood why they held him out. Regardless, Rubio said the process of coming back was “frustrating” but he’s happy to be “playing the game I love,” after 380 days.
“I didn’t work just to come back today,” Rubio said. “I worked hard to come back stronger than ever. It’s not just about today. I’m looking forward to having a strong season, not just a comeback season.”
Cleveland (27-16) is set to play the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road on Saturday.