Ricky Rubio is planning to return from the torn ACL he suffered last season on Thursday, when the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Portland Trail Blazers, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Rubio has missed more than a calendar year recovering from the injury, which occurred on Dec. 28, 2021. The Cavaliers never lost faith in his recovery. Despite the injury, they re-signed him to a three-year contract as an unrestricted free agent last offseason.
Rubio was a key part of Cleveland's resurgence last season. His counting stats were fairly pedestrian at just 13.1 points and 6.6 assists per game, but his veteran presence was essential to one of the NBA's youngest teams. He served as an important secondary ball-handler on a team without much behind Darius Garland, and the Cavs surprisingly made the postseason in 2022.
The team he is returning to is very different from the one he last played on. Now, Donovan Mitchell is Cleveland's primary ball-handler, but that shouldn't be a difficult adjustment for Rubio. Mitchell and Rubio played together in Utah and are close friends, according to Wojnarowski.
It is unclear what role exactly Rubio will be walking into. Mitchell and Garland obviously play significant minutes, and the Cavaliers also added Caris LeVert in a significant role at last season's deadline. That would make Rubio, at best, the fourth guard, and all three of the ones ahead of him on the depth chart need the ball quite a bit. Rubio, as an inconsistent shooter, will have to adjust to a lower-usage role.
But Cleveland is seemingly confident in his ability to do so. Wojnarowski reports that Rubio will become part of the rotation, and considering the contract he signed over the summer, that's no surprise. He is one of the NBA's best locker room leaders, and now, he will make his long-awaited return to the court.