No matter how you cut it, this is going to be a tremendously important year for [Ricky/Marco] Rubio. He began his career as a breath of fresh air, an exciting upstart who promised to bring a dash of flair to a long moribund organization, the [Minnesota Timberwolves/Republican Party]. But that was years ago, and he has yet to build on that initial promise. There have been stumbles and road blocks: an ill-fated [knee injury his rookie year/drink of water during a State of the Union response], troubles with [shooting/money] and being overshadowed by other members of his [draft class/party].
The challenge before Rubio now, though, is to prove that he has more than just the requisite skills to be a [basketball player/politician]: it’s time for him to prove that he can be a leader. The early going has been rough. Rubio was held [out of most of the preseason/up as disappointing in early debates] and it looked for all the world that another chance at redemption in the public eye would go squandered. In the last few [weeks/months], we had seen nothing to discredit the idea that Rubio was simply a poor man’s [Rajon Rondo/Rand Paul]: promising during his meteoric rise, but ultimately undone by fundamental flaws before landing on the lunatic fringe, the [Sacramento Kings/Tea Party].
But things have begun to change. A strong showing in the [first few games of the season/last Republican debate] have given those wondering whether Rubio will ever step up reason to pause. Although [Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns/Donald Trump and Ben Carson] remain at the front of the [Timberwolves’/Republicans’] rebuilding effort, Rubio has made strides toward real improvement. He’s bumped his [shooting percentage/polling numbers] from a meager [35.6%/4.1%] last year up to a respectable [39.3%/10.1%] in the first week of November.
These signs are encouraging, but Rubio is notout of the woods yet. Ultimately, a trick of timing may mean that even if he’s not the best candidate for the job of [franchise cornerstone/Republican candidate for president], he may bethe best option the [team/party] has. [Wiggins/Trump] has overcome early doubts about his viability as a true [basketball/political] superstar, but until he can provide more tangible [results on the court/policy ideas], his [decision making/decision making] is going to be called into question. [Towns/Carson] has come on strong recently, but until he shows he [can do it night in andnight out/has an even elementary grasp on logic and scientific principles], he’s a question mark.
And so, surveying the field of candidates to lead them, the [Timberwolves/Republicans] may find Rubio’s mix of youth and experience to be the right blend right now over both more unproven newcomers to the field and more seasoned veterans. Every player in the game has weaknesses, and they can’t all be rigorously filed away until perfection emerges. In what could be a pivotal year for a beleaguered organization, it’s time for Rubio — flaws and all — to step up and seize the moment.
Follow Steve McPherson @steventurious