PORTLAND — More than a year after tearing his ACL in December 2021 ended his pre-season, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio He was back on the court on Thursday, helping the Cavaliers to a 119-113 come-from-behind win over the host Portland Trail Blazers.
Rubio played 1 minute, saw 10 minutes of action off the bench, scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting and grabbed three rebounds.
“It felt good,” Rubio said of his first match. “It felt weird at first, especially the first time, but then it just felt like normal. Of course the rhythm and all that stuff would come, but today there was a lot of emotion. And grateful to be out there and play basketball again.”
Rubio’s teammates in Cleveland were equally excited to see him back on the court. He was a key part of the Cavaliers’ fast start last season, but was traded to the Indiana Pacers during his rehabilitation before returning to Cleveland as a free agent, citing the team’s chemistry as a reason to return.
An informal trade also reunited Rubio with newcomer Cavaliers Donovan Mitchellteammate for the first two seasons of Mitchell’s career with the Utah Jazz.
“I couldn’t stop smiling,” said Mitchell. “It felt like a rookie year. For me, it’s just a complete moment, but it’s great to see him there after the AFC Champions League. Also, he scored two big goals for us, leading the attack.”
At first, Cleveland coach JB Bickerstaff told reporters he planned to face Rubio in two periods in the first half. Because Rubio was on the court less than six minutes, Bickerstaff was able to bring him back for a third period in the third quarter.
Afterwards, Rubio said he feels better physically because his cardio training has been more challenging than his cardio.
The Cavaliers were cautious about the schedule for Rubio, who said he was prepared to play “for the long haul.” He said he understands that long-term mentality of a team that improved to 27-16 with a win on Thursday, good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
“I didn’t work just to get back today,” Rubio said. “I’ve worked hard to come back stronger than ever. It’s not just today. I’m looking forward to a strong season, not just a comeback season.”
However, Rubio can appreciate the milestone in his first NBA game in 380 days.
“It’s been frustrating since then,” he said, “but I’m finally getting to play basketball, playing the game I love. Being there, that’s how I speak, I will say, with my game and how I share that chemistry with [my teammates]. “
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