Last season, NBA fans were treated to two entertaining point guards: Ricky Rubio of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks. Both players' respective games had a fast-paced, dynamic nature about them, and both players appeared to be on track to fruitful NBA careers.
Lin's journey began in February, when star teammate Carmelo Anthony suffered a groin injury and had to come out of a game. Fellow star Amar'e Stoudemire was away mourning his brother, who died in a car accident, so the Knicks were beyond short-handed. The Harvard grad quickly adapted to then-coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced, pick-and-roll heavy offense, and for the next eight games infected New Yorkers with a condition known as "Linsanity."
It all ended once Anthony and Stoudemire returned and D'Antoni resigned shortly afterward, thanks to a feud with Anthony. Mike Woodson took over and eliminated the point guard-friendly offense, and Lin's production dropped. Today, he plays for the Houston Rockets, a team that is still struggling to recapture the lightning of last season.
Rubio's career, on the other hand, took a much different path. Instead of being a benchwarmer who came into a game and got lucky, he was in the Timberwolves' plans from the get-go.
Team management saw him as the key to the team succeeding, as he was a pass-first guard by nature and also brought some incredible defense to the table. More importantly, they drafted him with the fifth overall pick in 2009 and then waited over two years for him to make his NBA debut.
Sure enough, the Timberwolves did indeed look a lot better with Rubio at the point. Instead of trying to take control on offense, a la Lin, Rubio instead focused on creating plays for his teammates and only scoring when absolutely necessary. As a result, he averaged 8.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game, compared to 10.6 points.
Minnesota was 21-20 and contending for a playoff spot last season before Rubio tore his ACL and was lost for the year, and they slumped terribly once he was gone.
However, it is now a new year and NBA fans worldwide are about to learn one key lesson: Linsanity was last season, but Rubio is forever.
Yes, that eight-game stretch during which Lin starred was fun to watch, but it pales in comparison to what Rubio will do in his career. Whereas Lin was a glorified scoring point guard, Rubio is a leader in the making. He is a truer floor general, a better athlete and a better all-around player.
Rubio is two years younger than Lin, but he still has a higher basketball IQ than the Harvard grad will ever have. This stems from him playing professionally in Spain for six years prior to debuting in Minnesota, starting at age 14 with DKV Joventut Badalona of the Asociación de Clubs de Baloncesto, the main professional league in Spain.
Granted, the ACB's structure is very different from that of the NBA and could easily be used in an argument against Rubio's skills. The league itself contains only 18 teams, and its regular season is just 34 games long, with the top eight making the playoffs and each team playing each other twice.
The ACB's schedule is definitely not as demanding as that of the NBA, but look at it this way. Every game counts in the ACB. Teams only get to make so many mistakes, and the window of playoff opportunity is only open for so long.
This is why Rubio is going to be a greater phenomenon than Lin. Ever since he was 15, he has played in a high-octane competitive environment. On top of that, he also played against tough opponents who have thus gone on to become solid NBA players in their own right, namely Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.
Even though he's now an NBA point guard and playing in an 82-game season, that attitude and sense of urgency are never going to leave his mindset. He's going to play every game as though it's Game 7 of the NBA Finals, stopping at nothing to bring home the win and never playing at less than 100 percent.
Rubio is all about making the team better and being a great all-around player, but Lin is more of a scoring point guard who only passes when necessary. The irony of it all is that Lin is indeed trying to become more of a distributor, even though he isn't that type of player. Though the exact opposite of him, he is indeed trying to be a lot more like Rubio.
That all said, it's clear that Rubio is well on his way to becoming a greater phenomenon than Linsanity. Not only is he a better player as a whole, but his approach to the game is far superior. Instead of just running one play again and again and hoping for the best, Rubio will not be afraid to take risks if it means helping his team under any circumstance.
Lin fans may not want to hear it, but their man is simply overrated. Everything he has left to learn about being an NBA point guard, Rubio learned years ago.
Years from now, when it is time to look at this generation of point guards, the experts will touch on Jeremy Lin and his eight games of stardom, but likely won't dig too deep into his legacy. Regarding Rubio, however, it will be a different story.
They will discuss his early beginnings in Spain, to his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves and any other teams he may have spent time with on the NBA level. They will talk about his amazing creativity on the court and his commitment to his and his team's excellence, and how point guards like that are such a rare breed.
In them doing just that, Rubio will have become a greater phenomenon than Jeremy Lin. Linsanity will be a distant memory, remembered only by small pockets of fans.
The legacy of Rubio, however, will be fondly recalled by many.
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