J.B. Bickerstaff says Ricky Rubio is ‘pushing as much as he can’ to return to court for Cavs

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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff offered an update on veteran guard Rickey Rubio as he recovers from his torn ACL.

Rubio has been targeting a return early in 2023 for the Cavs, which would give the team some much-needed depth at the point guard position behind Darius Garland.

“Guys want to come back and want to play,” Bickerstaff said when asked about having to hold Rubio back. “He’s older and has been through more and having been through this injury before, he has a really good understanding of his body. He’s not going to put himself in that position. Our training staff and medical group, they lay a plan out and hold the guys to it.”

Rubio practiced with the Cavs on Tuesday, another step towards him returning in January. Bickerstaff believes that he’s on track to play early in the month, about a year removed from the surgery on his injured knee.

“He is ready to go,” Bickerstaff said. “He’s pushing as much as he can and doing all the things that he can — obviously, safely. He’s talking to the guys. He and I have had conversations. He is definitely looking forward to it.”

In 34 games with the Cavs in the 2021-22 campaign, Rubio had put up some of his best numbers in a few seasons. The former No. 5 overall pick averaged 13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game while shooting 36.3 percent from the field and 33.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Cleveland was 20-14 with Rubio in the lineup last season, but the team faded a bit down the stretch of the 2021-22 season with a lack of ball-handling and playmaking behind Garland.

Donovan Mitchell has helped make up for some of that this season, but the Cavs could still use another true point guard in the rotation.

A proven veteran, Rubio is a terrific playmaker, averaging 7.6 assists per game for his career. He should be able to open up easy looks in the team’s offense for Mitchell, Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, Caris LeVert and more.

Cleveland has gotten off to a fast start in the 2022-23 season, winning 16 of its first 20 games at home and posting an overall record of 22-13.

The team holds the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference, and it’s hoping that Rubio’s return will allow it to remain one of the top seeds in the East.

Rubio was a part of the trade last season that brought LeVert to Cleveland, but he came back to the Cavs as a free agent in the offseason, signing a deal that keeps him with the team through the 2024-25 season.

With a commitment like that, it’s clear the Cavs view the veteran guard as an important part of their team for this season and beyond.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.