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And when they all come together a

MINNEAPOLIS - It can be easy to forget the electricity that crackled through Target Center every time Ricky Rubio walked to the scorers table to check in during his rookie season with Minnesota. Randy Johnson Diamondbacks Jersey .That was way back in 2011, a lifetime in the NBA. The flashy Spaniard was a game-changer that first season, breathing new life into a downtrodden franchise and had the lowly Timberwolves nearing a playoff berth when he went down with a major knee injury in early March.Three years after his debut, essentially two years after his left knee was surgically repaired and three days before the deadline to extend his rookie contract, Rubio feels like hes as close as hes ever been to recapturing that old magic.If you look at the stats, Im not a big guy to put up a lot of numbers, Rubio told The Associated Press on Tuesday before boarding a plane to Memphis for Wednesdays season opener. I think what I do is change the game. I can do it from defence. I can do it with a couple steals. I can do it by getting the ball to a player who is hot. ... Winning games — thats what I want to do.Thats what he did as a rookie. His long-scrutinized shooting has never been worse than it was that first season (35.7 per cent), but he found numerous other ways to impact the game.With his hair flopping and the ball zipping to open teammates, a team that had won just 32 games combined over the previous two seasons and had not made the playoffs for seven straight years was 21-19 and nearing the eighth seed when Minnesota hosted the Lakers on March 9.I was coming from a winning team and coming here, knowing they only won like 17 or 15 games the season before, it was kind of shocking. But I was trying to bring everything I learned during my years overseas in Europe and try to change the mentality, he said.That night, Rubio tore two knee ligaments in the closing moments of the close loss, and the Wolves season quickly swirled down the drain. Kevin Love was injured as well and the team would only win five more games.Rubio returned to play in 57 games in the next season and all 82 last year, but he wasnt the same player. He shot 36 per cent in 2012-13 and 38 per cent last season. Critics point to those numbers as reason for the Wolves to be cautious in signing him to a big-money extension.The whole season last year was trying to get back that feeling, Rubio said. I was feeling 100 per cent healthy, but you never know when youre healthy 100 per cent. I think this summer I could finally workout on my body, could make a couple steps forward. I felt pretty good in the (FIBA) World Cup. My quickness was 100 per cent back.In six preseason games this year, Rubio averaged 11.3 points in 22.5 minutes and shot 43.5 per cent from the field, but only 20 per cent on 3s. He also averaged 4.8 free throw attempts while showing more aggressiveness.Coach Flip Saunders said Rubios new-found mentality is a product of a different system that puts the ball in his hands more and gives him more responsibility for where the shots come from. That, coupled with Loves departure for Cleveland, has given Rubio more freedom to call his own number than in the past.Hes shown good leadership, Saunders said. I like the fact that hes a willing learner. I like the fact that he works hard. Like all young players, they all have things they have to work on. But he works at his deficiencies. Hes extremely competitive and he wants to win.If the Timberwolves are going to avoid taking a huge step back after trading Love, Rubio is going to have to lead the way. Youngsters Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett arent ready for that responsibility and have yet to show they can make a difference in a regular-season game.Rubio did that once before, and he can feel it coming again.A lot of people put us in the 15th seed in the Western Conference, Rubio said. If they believe that, Im not agreeing with that and were going to show everybody.___Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: ;Welington Castillo Diamondbacks Jersey . The Major League Soccer teams were scheduled to play on Saturday night, but their game was rescheduled after Stu Tudor was hit during a pregame storm. The 54-year-old lieutenant in the Columbus Fire Department is in critical condition in the intensive care unit of the Ohio State Medical Center. Chris Owings Diamondbacks Jersey. Advancing to the Champions League quarterfinals should be a formality after Lionel Messi scored a penalty and Dani Alves added a late second to secure a commanding 2-0 advantage over City in the round of 16 on Tuesday.SUNRISE, Fla. -- When Roberto Luongo learned he wouldnt be starting the Heritage Classic, the disappointed goaltender asked agent Pat Brisson to call Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis just to get a read on his future. When Gillis gave Brisson permission to seek out a potential trade partner for the goalie and his massive contract, the attention turned quickly to the Panthers -- and not just because Luongo calls South Florida home. "It had to be a hockey move," Brisson said. "Roberto wants to play, wants to win. He wants to compete and win. ... When Roberto asked me, I said, I do believe that theres a light at the end of the tunnel for (the Panthers)," Brisson said. "I do believe theres a place where this team is going to go in the right direction." While the Canucks head in the direction of a rebuild, the Panthers look like a team on the upward climb thanks to new owner Vinny Viola and a cadre of young prospects GM Dale Tallon has assembled in the NHLs southernmost market. Through two games with his new team, Luongo has already caught a glimpse of what he and many hockey people believe is a bright future for the Panthers. Luongo sees potential stars in Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad and a handful more young players around the locker-room. At 34 years old, he wants to contribute to the revival of the franchise rather than riding coattails. "Its all about making a commitment to bringing some people in and trying to build a winner," Luongo said Sunday night after facing the Boston Bruins. "Thats what its all about for me. Im not here to fade into the sunset. I want to be part of something special coming here." Something special in the short term might just mean making the playoffs after missing in 11 of the past 12 seasons. Even as the Panthers head toward another early off-season, Bjugstad hopes its just "growing pains" as part of an important learning experience. Thats to be expected for a team whose top players include 18-year-old Aleksander Barkov, 20-year-old Huberdeau, and 22-year-old Erik Gudbranson. Players were on a bus in Boston when they found out Luongo was coming and represented something of a safety valve for mistakes of youth. "Any time you can have a solid goaltender behind you, it gives you confidence that you can make some plays," said 20-year-old forward Vincent Trocheck, who made his Panthers debut the same game Luongo returned. "If you do make a mistake, you know that hes back there to save your butt, basically." Yet in the larger scope, Luongo is not being asked to save a franchise by himself. It is, however, Tallons hope that trading for him "sets the tone" for the organization. The message of taking on the final eight-plus years and over US$28 million of Luongos contract was that the Panthers are willing to spend. Hours after making the move, Tallon said it was about making good on all the talk about wanting to win a Stanley Cup because "talk is cheap." Doing so could be expensive, but its not out of the realm of possibility that Florida has a better chance of winning a Cup in the next four or five years than Vancouver. "You never know," Luongo said. "Its tough to say. You hope so. Thats why Im here. I think the pieces are definitely here, just a matter of making sure that we bring the right piece to complement these young guys that are talented and theyre going to be stars in this league." Tallon has a plan. After already taking the goaltending gamble that was Jacob Markstrom out of the equation and getting Luongo, he has his sights set on signing, drafting or trading for two power wingers to support Barkov, Huberdeau, Bjugstad and Trocheck. Chris Owings Jersey. The Panthers payroll is the lowest in the league at just over US$50 million, but with Viola in charge, Tallon expects to be "a cap team or close to a cap team" next season. Having almost $30 million of cap space could help the Panthers continue down the path to being a contender, but it also helps to have Luongo as a salesman and a symbol of the clubs all-out push to get better. "Its hard to recruit anybody if they dont think youre doing the right thing," Tallon said. "I think the commitment of making that deal and the commitment that Vinny Violas going to make ... will really influence a lot of decisions as far as players wanting to come here, seeing that were really committed to winning." Luongo didnt keep close tabs on the Panthers rebuild while he was playing for the Canucks because he didnt expect to get traded, let alone back to Florida. But Brisson, who just negotiated a two-year extension for winger Brad Boyes, had a good sense of what was happening. New ownership meant a new opportunity for Luongo. "If it was back to the former ownership where they werent sure what they wanted to spend, what they wanted to do, I wouldnt have recommended it at the time -- absolutely not," Brisson said. "If you look at good ownership and willingness to spend and the right chef, so to speak, the right cook in the kitchen, its an attractive place for Roberto and the players that are there." Tallon is that chef, and he has quite the recipe on his resume. Even though Stan Bowman was the general manager when the Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup, Tallon orchestrated much of the turnaround in Chicago. "It went well for them," Bjugstad said. "Thats kind of what were banking on." For every Blackhawks success story theres another example like the Edmonton Oilers, who are set to miss the playoffs for the eighth straight season despite three straight No. 1 picks and six in the top 10. They provide a cautionary tale for the Panthers, even as Tallon rattles off prospect after prospect who could make a difference. Each one of those young, unproven players represents essentially a raffle ticket for Florida, another chance to hit it big. But theres plenty of risk and uncertainty in that. "Obviously weve got to prove ourselves before we can get too excited," Bjugstad said. "Theres a ways to go." In Luongo, the young Panthers get a goalie who is already established. Even if his play is not Vezina Trophy-calibre, he could instill plenty of confidence on and off the ice. "I think maybe as more of an experienced guy in the locker-room to bring whatever I have learned over the years and maybe help them out along the way as far as just being a pro and all that kind of stuff to help their development," Luongo said. That team-wide development and progression toward a playoff team is still in the "early" stages, according to Tallon. Luongos addition speeds it up, but theres still no set goal on when he figures the Panthers will get over the hump. "I dont put numbers on that," he said. "I just let the players start to develop and see when theyre ready to make a real hit on the team as far as moving forward. And when they all come together as a group, as a team, not just in a group of individuals, thats when you pretty well know when youve got something special." Cheap NFL Jerseys nfl jerseys china ' ' '



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