Alright, Bleacher Report, you’ve had two years to add some “David Kahn” and “Ricky Rubio” tags in anticipation of this day, and still you’ve failed to do so. For a glorified blog site that aspires to be taken seriously, this has to get done.
Now with that out of the way, the real article can begin.
The day many of you fat cats from East Coast media outlets, who pine to see Ricky Rubio play in your major markets, said would never come finally has. Ricky Rubio is in Minnesota. You know who you are. We know who you are.
If you’d like names of who some of them are, there has been chatter on the Minnesota Timberwolves ESPN message board of bringing up old threads and starting new ones regarding those naysayers who were so adamant that Rubio would never play in Minnesota, and in fact, never wanted to play here at all.
Take a look at that middle finger we’ve reserved just for you.
Now with that out of the way, part two, we can really get to the core of this article, which is celebrating the fact that Rubio indeed actually arrived in the Twin Cities. By the time this article gets uploaded, tomorrow’s 10 a.m. press conference will have come and gone, but the feeling will remain no less special.
Ricky the Rock star
We knew this was coming, but even I have to admit the response was quite impressive.
200 members of the Minnesota media, including representatives of every news channel, Timberwolves front-office personnel, Minneapolis-St. Paul airport security, and Wolves fans themselves welcomed and clustered around Rubio and Wolves President David Kahn as they were escorted though the baggage claim yesterday afternoon. They immediately departed, Elvis-style, in one of those luxury hotel-looking shuttles, which the media referred to as a limousine van.
We know, New Yorkers, this is nothing compared to what you are used to, but guess what? It's not all about you, and the entire world doesn’t revolve around you either.
Still, with that said, it was quite impressive. People bringing signs, students climbing on one another’s shoulders hoping for a better view, college students pointing their iPhones at Ricky. For those of you thinking the Wolves have no fans, yesterday proved quite the opposite.
But then again, you are probably the same idiots making the lame and overused, “Minnesota still has an NBA team?” jokes that we’ve heard 10,000 times before. Your ignorance only shows all the more that you clearly don’t visit the Wolves ESPN message boards, which are updated constantly.
In fact, they are some of the more active boards on the site, even in the offseason. I know because I visit that site nearly every day, and in comparison to other team sites like the New Jersey Nets', where the message board hardly ever changes, there are sure a lot of people who seem to care for a team with supposedly no fans.
The Timberwolves home page at Timberwolves.com already has an entire “Ricky Rubio Central” page, along with several Spanish greetings and catch phrases that we are likely to see and hear this upcoming season.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if and when they add a Spanish translation link for the thousands of Spanish fans who are tuning in to see their countryman, who some of them have watched professionally since he was 14 years old.
Finally, the Pioneer Press already reports that Rubio’s #9 jersey is projected to be the most anticipated, highest-selling jersey in team history, which says a lot. Not only when you consider that you had a future Hall of Famer in Kevin Garnett on your team and a dozen years on which to accumulate sales, but also the fact Rubio has literally never done anything on this team or in this league.
David Kahn delivers
There are a few (less and less now) skeptical onlookers who think that Rubio could still be traded to another team if Kyrie Irving somehow falls to Minnesota Thursday night during the NBA draft.
David Kahn is many things, but on this issue, he is not an idiot. He’s literally tied at the hip to Ricky and has invested two years into pursuing him. Kahn is not about to bid adios to a man he’s literally chased on the other side of the world for a crappy first-round pick and a “veteran big man” we keep hearing about.
On top of that, Kahn knows Rubio has the chance to be something special. A sensation. The LeBron James (minus the choking) of the point guard position, our LeBron James, minus the arrogance.
Again, there is a reason everyone from Kobe Bryant to Chris Paul has said he’s the real deal. They’ve played against him. They should know. For more on this, check out an article I wrote last spring on the matter.
Rubio has a chance to be the Tsuyoshi Nishioka of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Nishioka is currently the Minnesota Twins' starting shortstop who, with his Japanese stardom, brought media and attention to Minnesota from overseas.
Even if he doesn’t work out at the plate, he’ll have more than made up for it at the box office and on the team’s bottom line, with international jersey and merchandise sales coming from Japan. Kahn knows he has this same prize in Rubio with the Spanish media and fan base.
Love him or hate him, Kahn already did his job and far exceeded many of our expectations on bringing the man over. I can’t say his predecessor, Kevin McHale, would have been as bold.
Heck, the franchise probably wouldn’t have allowed him to draft Rubio, knowing its own inability to market and develop such stars, not to mention its ability to get them to actually come over. Kahn took that risk because he knew desperate times called for as much, and the fan base needed a kick in the pants.
Yesterday was only the beginning.
Not Rookie of the Year, but “Ricky of the Year”
There is no doubt that many of you will jump on the Timberwolves bandwagon at the first sign of Ricky’s success, and while we can’t blame you, we’ll also have a pretty good idea who's legit.
I look forward to the ESPN Wednesday and Friday night matchups vs. Pau Gasol’s Lakers (if the team doesn’t snag him first to be Rubio’s teammate), or against Garnett’s Celtics, as a way to creatively cater to the Minneapolis market with juicy, poignant matchups.
As for the Gasol rumors, I don’t blame the team for trying this, even if it costs us the No. 2 pick and much more. This is all about selling tickets and making Rubio comfortable as he becomes a star, and this is all about easing his transition to give him the best chance at success.
What better way than to add an established, veteran countryman?
For those of you predicting Rubio will be a bust, consider Brandon Jennings' 2009 Euro stats. Euroleague is a lot different than NBA basketball. True, its not as elite as the NBA, but it's the best they’ve got.
All you hear is what talking heads like PTI’s Tony Kornheiser get from other outlets, which say he’s regressed (and he has) numbers-wise. But lets not kid ourselves, you don’t know anything about Euroleague or the Spanish leagues, and are just basing your conclusions on the fact his numbers went down and he didn’t even start on his own team.
Whatever. We’ve already heard that. I still say 6.5 points, four rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game are impressive. In fact, they are all the more impressive considering that he didn’t start. Just imagine if he did.
Oh, and did I mention that that team, Barcelona, won the Spanish League title, thus giving Rubio a championship at every level in every competition he’s ever played?
It's not like that team was dog meat like you seem to think it was, but then again you are only going by stats and are going to be sorely mistaken.
The guy has been playing professionally since he was 14. Think about that.
If Jose Calderon, a fellow countryman, can average seasons of eight or nine assists per game, I see no reason why Rubio can’t. In fact, this is about what I expect for his rookie season on the absolute high end: ten points (more likely six to eight), four rebounds, two steals, and eight assists per game.
Its not the points we are excited about. I highly doubt he’ll ever score 20 points a game, much less 15. In fact, on most nights, he’ll be in the single digits, but it’s the highlight-reel passes and superb defense we care about. He can simply do things others can’t, things we’ve only seen in video games, hence the analogy.
Are those Rookie of the Year numbers? No, and I’m sure we’ll hear from you a year from now about what a “bust” he was because of this.
Meanwhile, you’ll be ignoring his "NBA JAM"-like highlight-reel plays. Think “Razzle Dazzle!” “He’s heating up!” or “Boom Shakalaka!” from the 1990s video game. That’s the kind of impact I expect Rubio to have: flashy, gaudy playground basketball-type plays where the crowd literally "oohs" and "aahs" aloud.
This is why we choose to put so much faith in the kid. When you are coming off of a 17-win season and 32 wins in two years, you search for positives. If all goes well, it could be dynamite. A party at Target Center every time he plays, must see TV.
For a few days, its nice that Minnesota’s lowliest sports team, the one most in need of positive press, finally got it. Bravo.
Now the hard part begins.
Information from the Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Timberwolves.com, and YouTube directly contributed to the content of this article.