Before the hype for the NBA Draft began six plus weeks ago – when the Los Angeles Clippers won the lottery – how many of you out there knew about Ricky Rubio? Sure, some NBA writers wrote a couple of blurbs about him being the next Pete Maravich. And, yes, there were some grainy videos of Rubio that were getting a lot of hits on Youtube. But, really. How many of you out there really knew all about Ricky Rubio?
I’d venture to say not many.
Over the years, European players have been hyped like they were the next best thing since sliced bread. Six years ago, Darko Milicic was supposed to be the man. He’s been anything but – Detroit, Orlando and Memphis have given up on him. The Knicks think they can turn him into something, but I doubt that will happen.
There are many others who have tried to come over from Europe. Most have them have failed. Dirk Nowitzki is the exception to the rule. Pau Gasol is the exception to the rule as well.
So, while there is hype surrounding Rubio, there are plenty of question marks as well.
“I don’t see Rubio being that dynamic player now,” said Danny Ainge, general manager of the Boston Celtics. “I think he’s got a lot of potential. He’s a flashy player. I don’t see him — just physically, and because he doesn’t shoot the ball very well — I don’t see him having an impact as a rookie.”
Ainge isn’t the only one who has his doubts. Some players – including those in Rubio’s draft class, do as well. Milwaukee’s first round pick – Brandon Jennings – has seen Rubio up close and personal. Jennings is the kid who decided to spend a year in Europe as opposed to going to college for a year before entering the league. To say he’s not impressed with Ricky doesn’t even begin to clue you in to how he feels about Rubio’s game.
“The only thing I’ve seen him do sometimes is when he has a home run pass or something like that. I think the dude is just all hype,” Jennings said recently. “I can’t even front. I’m just going to be real with you guys.”
There were other questions surrounding Rubio before the draft last week. They included his willingness to come to this country if the team that drafted him wasn’t to his liking (his camp had already informed the Memphis Grizzlies he wouldn’t play for them). Then there is the buyout of his contract, which might be more expensive than some teams want to talk about considering the economy right now.
That’s why Rubio fell to Minnesota at #5. The T-Wolves never thought he’d be there. They made the trade with Washington before the draft so they would have ammunition to go and get Rubio with the second overall pick. It turns out they didn’t need that ammo. It also turns out that they might never see Rubio put on a Minnesota uniform. The kid wants no part of Minnesota, just like he wanted no part of Memphis.
“It’s too cold,” he said, a day after announcing that his mother also thinks the city is too cold. “I have to think about that … I’m going to talk with my agent about that and we are going to see.”
Rubio also told a Spanish newspaper, “I wouldn’t rule out at all returning to Spain.”
His father also has been quoted as saying that Rubio could remain in Spain for the next couple of years.
Then the Knicks went public and said they were going to try and trade for Rubio. Rubio is reportedly going to meet with Minnesota officials to talk about his NBA future amid reports he has offers to play in Spain and Turkey as well. Something tells me those two options – much like the Minnesota options – are not what Rubio or his people have in mind. The Big Apple, though, is a different story.
New York is a team that Rubio would love to play for. It’s not even really about the team. It’s the city. Rubio and his camp want to be in a city that’s slightly more cosmopolitan than Minneapolis is. It doesn’t matter how bad the team is (and the Knicks are far from being good). It’s all about money. Rubio and his advisers believe playing in New York will bring more endorsement deals than playing in Minneapolis. Kevin Garnett might beg to differ.
Rubio doesn’t realize this, but he actually has to produce before that endorsement money starts rolling in. No one in this day and age is going to hand this eighteen year old question mark millions of dollars if he doesn’t become the next Maravich. No one handed money to Nowitzki until he became a star.
Rubio thinks he’s special. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. We’ll all find out over the course of the next few years. Right now, the only think you can say about Rubio is that he’s acting like a spoiled little brat.
The NBA doesn’t allow kids to enter the league and pick and choose which team they want to play for. That’s one of the reasons they have a draft.
Rubio and his advisers obviously think they can control the situation here. They might want to talk with Yi Jianlian of the New Jersey Nets.
Yi was drafted by the Bucks two years ago, and this was after he and his camp told Milwaukee they didn’t want to come to Wisconsin. They wanted to go to New York, Houston, or Golden State. The Bucks ignored Yi’s request and drafted him anyway.
Yi never really warmed up to Milwaukee. He came for one reason on one reason only. The Bucks told him he either played for them or he stayed in China. It wasn’t long afterwards that Yi decided to drop his attitude and signed with the Bucks.
It didn’t necessarily work out for him – he was traded to the Nets after one year – but you had to like how the Milwaukee organization drew a line in the sand (ok, snow) and told Yi that they weren’t going to be told what to do.
It’s exactly what Minnesota and GM David Kahn should do with Rubio. There’s a good chance that it’s exactly what he will do.
There was a reason Minnesota drafted back to back point guards last week (they took Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn at #6). Flynn is insurance against a Rubio boycott. And, if Rubio gets off his high horse, takes the silver spoon out of his mouth, and signs with Minnesota, the T-Wolves will move Flynn somewhere else and get a pretty good haul in return. It wasn’t clear what Minnesota was doing when they drafted Rubio and Flynn back to back on Thursday night. It is clear now.
So, Minnesota doesn’t have to give in to an eighteen year old that hasn’t done anything in the league to warrant special treatment. If Rubio wants to play and make his mark in the NBA, it’s going to have to be in Minnesota. Rubio needs the NBA more than the NBA needs Rubio. Sure, there’s money to be made overseas, but it’s not the kind of money to be made here. The stage is nice overseas, but it’s bigger here. If I were advising him, I’d tell him to drop the brat act, sign with Minnesota, and prove that he’s worth the hype.
And if I’m the T-Wolves, I don’t give in. Just like Milwaukee didn’t give in to Yi two years ago.
It’s one thing to be a star and have a sense of entitlement. It’s another to be a spoiled brat with a sense of entitlement.
And Rubio – at least as of now – isn’t a star. Yet.