At this point, it’s difficult to hear an update on the Ricky Rubio saga without being appalled. “Rubio could stay in Spain for 2010.” “Rubio skips Minnesota press conference.” “Rubio talking with multiple NBA teams.”
After being drafted Thursday by the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Spanish point guard decided he really does not want to be a Minnesota Timberwolf. Some say that he will demand a trade, possibly to the New York Knicks. Others speculate that he will simply stay in Spain for the year, and retain his contract with DKV Joventut.
This dilemma has effectively cast a negative light on the concept of drafting international players. What general manager wouldn’t be ambivalent after a top-five pick from Spain said “No, thanks” to his drafting team, and got away with it?
It actually takes away from the magnitude of draft day in general. Teams now have to accept that by drafting a non-collegiate player, they do not necessarily have the rights to that player.
International players have options. They are in a different league in a different continent, and they have contracts with shoe companies that rival American endorsement deals. You can pick ‘em, but unless they like your city, you don’t get ‘em.
So what’s the point of a draft if your selected pick is allowed to choose where they want to go?
Rubio put himself out there. He entered the draft for the best basketball league in the world. He worked out for teams, fully acknowledging that he would be added by one of these professional organizations.
And now he contemplates backing out of that commitment. It is unacceptable. There are no player veto rights in an NBA draft! GMs select players: Players don't select cities!
The worst part about this whole predicament is that Rubio isn’t even that good. He’s 18 years old. His defense is mediocre at best. He does not have a pure jump shot or a decent mid-range game.
He has not exhibited the ball-handling or decision-making to be an effective NBA point guard right out of the gate. He has had arthroscopic surgery on his wrist. These are not elements of prospective superstardom.
Blake Griffin is the only true potential superstar in the 2009 draft class. If anyone has the right to be arrogant and egotistical, it’s him. But Griffin happens to be a class act. He accepts that the team that drafted him stunk last year (that’s generally how it works with top picks). The Clippers deserve a potential star.
They earned that by going through a horrendously disappointing ’08-’09 season. Griffin deserves the ability to carry out his potential with a team that needs him. That’s all he deserves. He hasn’t earned a thing in the NBA.
Neither has Rubio. All the Spaniard deserves is a spot on the Timberwolves’ roster. He doesn’t deserve the set of options that he’s contemplating. And Minnesota doesn’t deserve his disrespect—they deserve the services of their draftee. He could have pulled out of the draft, right up to the week before the big night, but he did not.
“I want to play here, it's my dream,” he said of the league as the draft approached. “It's the NBA. For me all the teams are OK.”
He sealed his own fate with that statement. But then, on draft night after being selected, he had the overwhelming audacity to say that Minnesota weather is colder than his dog’s nose, and that the city is not suitable for his mother.
He really played the mother card? Is this the Spanish version of Punk’d? He committed himself to the National Basketball Association, to be drafted by a big-boy team, and signed to an adult contract. Now he asserts his ambivalence and starts exploring his undeserved options because "Madre no le gusta el frio"?
The NBA should establish a league rule that any player seeking draft eligibility must buy out of their international league contract prior to the draft.
There is no way that it is fair to an NBA organization, trying desperately to improve their team, if their most promising addition turns his back on them because the weather is nippy where they play. There's no such thing as a 'no-cold clause.'
At the very least, Rubio should have been obligated to inform the teams with top picks of his intentions. He could have noted that, although clubs were willing to risk their futures on him, he might not want to risk his immediate future on them.
This is just another story relating to the complete lack of ethics in modern sports. How non-sportsmanlike is it to walk away from a team that drafted you? How classless is it to decline a roster spot because it isn’t the most promising team, in the warmest and most popular city?
Everyone has to play for less-than-average squads, in often-undesirable locations, at some point in their lives; it helps define great players. Naïve Rubio was born in the fall of 1990. He is apparently too young to know that the Chicago Bulls were 27-55 in 1983, the season before they drafted Michael Jordan.
MJ didn’t complain that Chi-town was too windy. He didn’t flee from the shoddy team. He sucked it up, played to the best of his abilities, achieved greatness, and transformed an NBA organization into a dynasty.
Hell, Rubio’s even too young to remember the beginning of the Kevin Garnett story. Like Ricky, KG was 18 years old when he was drafted as the fifth pick by Minnesota. Garnett’s draft date was June 28, 1995. Rubio was five years old.
The difference in scenarios: Garnett stayed in Minnesota for 12 seasons, many of which were losing campaigns. He blossomed into an elite talent with a subpar team, and he became a star in its chilly city. He made the team better, taking the Timberwolves deep into the playoffs on more than one occasion. He was their man.
But "team" always prevailed over "ego" with Garnett. With Rubio, the ego triumphs; he is not willing to focus on anything but himself. He does not want to make himself great—he wants to be good on a great team, or in a great city.
In the Spanish language, “caballerosidad deportiva” means “good sportsmanship.” Ricky Rubio has clearly never heard of the term, and it is not something he is concerned with learning in the U.S. All that he knows is “mi” and “dinero.” If Minnesota knew he was so fluent in arrogance, they might have passed on him in the first place.
Instead, they will have to pursue trade talks with one of the many interested teams. Maybe that was Minnesota GM David Kahn’s objective all along. It would certainly explain why the T-Wolves picked true point guards in consecutive top-10 picks (after Rubio, they selected standout Syracuse point man Jonny Flynn).
Two lottery picks limited to one position cannot coexist, especially when one is an egotistical mama’s boy. Some sort of trade was inevitable from the get-go.
The basketball nation will have to wait and see how this Spanish soap opera unfolds. Until then, Kahn has ignorantly stated that he doesn’t mind his current overabundance of point guards.
Complexes are so widespread in this world! Some people lock and unlock their front door fifty times before leaving their home, some people draft too many point guards.
Maybe Kahn and Rubio deserve each other. They both seem to stick out like sore thumbs in the NBA—Kahn among responsible GMs, Rubio among primed professionals. Whatever the outcome of this current saga, they each have a lot to learn.