MINNEAPOLIS -- With the first training camp practice just five days away, Minnesota Timberwolves general manager Milt Newton put a stop to any speculation about point guard Ricky Rubio as rumors circulate that the team is looking to trade its flashy playmaker.
"We're not talking to anybody about trading Ricky," Newton told The Associated Press. "We expect Ricky to be an integral part of our team this season. We expect him to be here come training camp and leading our team."
Last year was miserable for Rubio, who played only 22 games because of a severe ankle injury after signing a four-year, $56 million contract extension prior to the season. It wasn't any better for the Timberwolves, who won an NBA-worst 16 games.
Rubio has spent all summer recovering from surgery and gearing up to return with a vengeance. His ability to bounce back from his ankle injury and get back to his old form is one of the biggest keys to the Timberwolves' season as they seek to make big strides forward from the injury-plagued failures of last season.
"He's one of the best facilitators in the NBA," Newton said. "We've got a young team of guys that are athletic, that are going to get up and down. And we're going to utilize those talents that they have. Who better than Ricky to be the one leading the charge, pushing the pace, pushing the ball and getting our guys easy opportunities and getting the ball where they can be their best? We're looking to him to be that person."
The team has a young core highlighted by Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns -- the last two No. 1 overall picks -- and accomplished veterans like Kevin Garnett, Andre Miller and Kevin Martin on the roster.
Rubio has had two of his first four seasons short-circuited by serious injuries and has struggled mightily to consistently knock down open jump shots. But when he has been healthy, Rubio has proven himself to be a difference maker.
He energized the franchise as a rookie in 2011, helping push them into playoff position before the team faded when he tore an ACL in March.
Rubio played all 82 games in 2013-14, and the Timberwolves scored 5.3 more points per 100 possessions than their opponents when he was on the floor -- the second-best net rating on the team, according to statistics compiled by NBA.com.
When Rubio was off the floor that season, the Wolves were outscored by 6.7 points per 100 possessions, the biggest drop of any player on the team.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.