Sessions Will Join Minnesota After Bucks Decline to Match T'Wolves Offer

After months of speculation and failed negotiations between the Minnesota Timberwolves and his Spanish Club team, Ricky Rubio has decided to stay in Spain for at least the next two seasons. The team must move on without him, which means signing Ramon Sessions.

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Bucks Decline to Match Offer

T'Wolves team president David Kahn can breathe easy - his master plan of acquiring every available point guard is back on track. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Bucks general manager John Hammond confirmed today he will not match the four-year, $16.4 million offer sheet tendered by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

The Bucks were facing a 4 p.m. deadline to match the offer or relinquish the rights to the 6-foot-3 point guard.

Now the 23-year-old Sessions will join the Timberwolves and could become the team’s starting shooting guard in a tandem with rookie point guard Jonny Flynn.

The T'Wolves seem intent on pioneering the two-point guard backcourt. Here's Kahn's statement about Sessions when they signed him to the offer sheet a week ago:

Ramon has the ability to play both guard positions, and thus will be able to complement the members of our current backcourt.

Here's Kahn on the recently acquired Antonio Daniels:

Antonio has the ability to play both guard positions and will provide a veteran presence and added flexibility to our backcourt.

Notice a pattern? Kahn seems infatuated with so-called "combo" guards who can play both backcourt positions. Sessions and Daniels are big enough point guards to play shooting guard in spurts, but you would not want to build your team around them manning that spot full time. Both would have trouble checking bigger shooting guards, and neither of them is a pure scorer.

With Jonny Flynn, Ramon Sessions, Antonio Daniels and Chucky Atkins all on the roster, the T'Wolves are overstocked with point guards who Kahn seems intent on masquerading as shooting guards. Not a particularly auspicious beginning for the new team president.

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Bucks Keeping Sessions?

Welcome to the exciting world of NBA capology. NBA Fanhouse reports:

[T]he Mavericks are discussing a deal to send Greg Buckner to Milwaukee. Buckner is a great little asset right now: he's on the books for $8.2 million over two seasons. But only $2 million of that is guaranteed. If his team waives him by November 30, Buckner is only owed $1 million this season -- and that applies to the cap space he takes up.

 

DB.com proposes Buckner to Milwaukee for veteran big Kurt Thomas, who could certainly help the Mavs. The trade (and a waiving of Buckner by the Bucks) would allow Milwaukee to match the Sessions offer without exceeding the luxury tax thresold. The Bucks have until the end of Friday to make a decision on Sessions.

Bottom line: the T'Wolves might be back on the market for a point guard. Earlier this week the T'Wolves did swing an under the radar trade for former Hornet Antonio Daniels (the sixth seventh point guard they have gone after this offseason, for those keeping score at home). Perhaps the T'Wolves heard rumblings that the Bucks would try to keep Sessions, and pursued Daniels as a replacement. Or maybe new GM David Kahn thinks the NBA is a 6'3'' and under league.

Lost in all of these moves is this question: why don't the T'Wolves just commit to developing Jonny Flynn. He's a very solid prospect. And if David Kahn doesn't agree, why did he draft Flynn?

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Kurt Rambis Is Cool With How The Rubio Thing Went Down

Is this crazy to anyone else? From the Baseline:

Speaking after the Rubio-to-the-NBA deal fell apart, Kahn said that it was Rambis who told him that if he made a list of reasons for Rubio to come and reasons for Rubio to stay in Spain, the list would be about even on each side. That seemed interesting, because, again, Rambis seems to have the most to lose by Rubio not being in Minnesota.

So I asked Rambis about it. “Yes, I told David that,” Rambis said. “It was as the whole situation, whether he would be in the NBA or not, was coming to a head. It came out of talking with my staff. We can paint a scenario that is just as positive with him being here as with him not being here."

Like I said, this is crazy to other people, right? It's not just me, right? Right?

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Fourth Year of Contract is Player Option

Marc Stein tweets:

CORRECTION: Last year of R. Sessions' new contract w/Wolves is a PLAYER option, not team option. Four-year deal worth $16.4 million

So if Sessions plays well he can hit free agency in three years instead of four years.

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Sessions Inks Term Sheet With T'Wolves

ESPN reports the T'Wolves have signed restricted free agent Ramon Session to an offer sheet:

The waiting and wondering is finally over for restricted free agent Ramon Sessions, who agreed Friday to sign a four-year, $16 million offer sheet with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

A source told ESPN.com that the paperwork on the deal was being processed Friday morning. After Sessions signs, the Milwaukee Bucks will have seven days to match the offer, which they are not expected to do.

On a positive note, the T'Wolves locked up an underrated, up-and-coming point guard with a very reasonable contract (assuming the Bucks do not match). But as Marc Stein tweets, a backcourt of Flynn, Sessions and Rubio in 2011 would be awfully crowded. Perhaps the T'Wolves are not so optimistic Rubio will ever come to Minnesota.

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T'Wolves Pursuing Sessions

Now that Ricky Rubio has spurned the T'Wolves to stay in Europe at least two more years, what will the T'Wolves do? Go after another point guard, naturally. Gery Woelfel of the Journal-Times reports:

According to some NBA officials, [Ramon] Sessions may wind up signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves are in the market for a guard after their top choice in the 2009 draft -- Ricky Rubio -- recently decided to play for Regal FC Barcelona.

Let's recap the T'Wolves' tumultuous offseason. After drafting four points guards, they have traded two, lost one to Europe, and are now going after the best one left on the free agent market. But unless they seriously plan on playing Jonny Flynn at shooting guard, why bring in another promising young point guard in Sessions? This makes no sense. Then again, nearly all of the T'Wolves' moves this summer have been inexplicable.

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No Rubio Until 2012?

Chris Sheridan at ESPN is reporting that Ricky Rubio will probably end up playing three seasons in his homeland as opposed to the previously reported two.

According to Sheridan:

Don't expect to see Ricky Rubio playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves -- or any other NBA team -- in the summer of 2011, two years from now.

The opinion here is that it'll be three years before Rubio leaves FC Barcelona, and there are millions upon millions of rea$on$ why this theory holds water

In case the dollar signs were not enough of a hint, the issue comes down to money. By staying in Spain for three years, Rubio would no longer be confined to the financial restrictions of a rookie contract.

In short, if Rubio comes in 2011, the rules say he can earn a maximum of $16.3 million in his first four seasons. If he comes in 2012, he won't be boxed into that rookie-scale deal.

If Rubio were to stay three years and tear it up in Barcelona, becoming Pedro Maravich, he would be eligible to sign a max contract and make $16.3 in his rookie season. Obviously that's a big if, but even more realistic scenarios have him making more money than he would be making after two years.

When asked by Sheridan what type of commitment Rubio had to the T'Wolves in 2011, Kahn answered:

"I have nothing but his word that he wants to come, but he doesn't have to."

Not an assuring response coming from someone who publicly insinuated that Rubio backed out of a deal earlier this week.

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Is Questioning Rubio's Mettle the Best Strategy?

Over at AOL Fanhouse, Tom Ziller checks in with a reaction to yesterday's statement from David Kahn, which cast doubt on the Spaniard's ability to make the transition to the NBA this year.

His words
:

More than 90 percent of the statements and decisions NBA team executives make are devoted to protecting their job. And this is fine. Job security is a top concern for most Americans -- not just NBA GMs. No one begrudges Kahn his self-defense.

I do wonder, however, whether it is the best step to take here. I mean, are Wolves fans expected to rally to Kahn's side now? Is getting snickerdoodled by an 18-year-old the best impetus for sympathy? Losing Rubio to Barcelona after striking a deal for Ricky's freedom does not speak of success. It speaks of failure.

Read his whole piece here, where Ziller (as always) captures the nuance in all of this.

Any criticisms of Kahn (here or elsewhere) are not meant to absolve Rubio or his family of any blame in this situation. But it warrants mentioning that Kahn's explanations have been far-fetched throughout, and while it may paint he and the Timberwolves in a positive light, his main goal is protecting his job and reputation. His narratives in the wake of Rubio's decision have been entertaining, but let's not forget that part of the story.

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Kahn: 'We Still Feel Like It was the Right Thing to Do'

David Kahn spoke to Dan Patrick on ESPN radio earlier today.

From Sports Radio Interviews:

He seemed like he wanted to come over on draft day and now this. What happened?

“I can only give you what I’ve been told by his agent, Dan Fegan. When they came in to the draft, they were only going to definitely come over, definitely, if he was top 2. If he wasn’t top 2, there was a consideration especially if he was 3 that he might come over because of implications with his Nike deal. But, actually Dan told me that night, when we made the selection that night, Dan was very clear: ‘He’s not coming this year.’ And, yes, as I’ve shared in the past, we still feel like it was the right thing to do. I think what changed was that he reconsidered and it was him that came to us and said, ‘You know, I am giving some thought to coming over now,’ and he was having problems, as many people probably know, with his club team, the one that had his contract controlled the buyout. And, I think he was starting to worry a little bit during the summer that he may not have a place to go.”

So more of the same, we-knew-it-all-along narrative from Kahn. Read the whole transcript here. So far Rubio has kept his comments to a minimum, and maybe that's telling. As anyone familiar with shaky alibis knows, the more you say, the worse you look.

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Jonny Flynn is Disappointed

Speaking to his hometown Niagara Gazette, the Timberwolves other lottery pick point guard expressed disappointment about missing out on the opportunity to play with a guard of Rubio's caliber:

"He’s a guy that could make me better, and make our team better," Flynn said Tuesday after playing in an open run at his alma mater, Niagara Falls High School. "And that’s the most important thing. We’re going to be missing a piece to our puzzle that really could’ve helped us out this year."

"It’s tough to hear you have to wait two years to play with a great player like that. You saw what he did against the Olympic team when he was only 17 years old. Now we just have to focus on what we can do to fill that void."

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T'Wolves Fans Defend Kahn, Rubio Says Minnesota Too Risky

As the reality of the Rubio news begins to set in around the league and in Minnesota, SBN's Timberwolves blog, Canis Hoopus, asks the operative question:

The Alpha and Omega in any discussion about Rubio and the Wolves is to answer the following question: What else was David Kahn supposed to have done? Had he passed on Rubio with not one but two lottery picks, he would have been ripped for not selecting the BPA.  Had he selected Rubio and traded him to the Knicks, he would have been ripped for exhibiting nepotism with his former boss (to say nothing of the lopsided nature of any Knicks-based deal that could be offered).  Had he picked Rubio and traded him for the rumored Houston package, he would have been ripped for not getting maximum value out of a hot commodity.  Had he made an under-the-table deal with Joventut, he would have been ripped for giving the Wolves and their fans Joe Smith 2.0.  On this particular issue, Kahn is to his critics as Barack Obama is to Glenn Beck: He's going to lose no matter what he does so why worry about the criticism?

The number one thing that can be taken away from any criticism of Kahn and his handling of the Rubio situation is that he is getting ripped for a) doing exactly what he said he would do from day 1, and b) traveling the most reasonable route he, and his team, could possibly traverse along La Route Rubio.  Again: What else would critics have Kahn do?

As for Rubio's role in all of this, the Associated Press emerged from Barcelona with a report this morning:

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Ricky Rubio prefers to keep playing basketball in Spain because joining the Minnesota Timberwolves is a risky move that would complicate his life.

The 19-year-old point guard was sent from DKV Joventut to Barcelona on Tuesday after the Catalan club paid Rubio's $5 million buyout.

On the subject of assessing Kahn and his role with the Timberwolves, I'll defer to actual Timberwolves fans like the folks over at Canis Hoopus. If they're happy with his performance throughout this ordeal and elsewhere in this summer's basketball operations, then perhaps that's all that matters.

I will say this, however: What's used as a throwaway introductory paragraph to a 250-word AP report is actually the most critical aspect in all of this. Rubio didn't want to be in Minnesota, and he still doesn't. Kahn either didn't realize as much, or he didn't care, and on draft night he ignored that detail. Drafting Rubio was a daring move on draft night--and made Kahn and the Timberwolves look good--but to anyone that had been paying attention, it was also a huge risk.

Rubio wanted to play in a major market. Because of his buyout constraints--which called for him to pay all but $500,000 of his $5 million buyout from his own pocket--you could argue that he needed to be in a big market. Drafting Rubio and penciling him in as the Timberwolves starter for the upcoming season was a pipe dream, and to pretend it was any different, or to allow David Kahn to pretend different, is equally naive.

David Kahn did all he could to resolve the Rubio situation and get him to Minnesota--this is true. But trying (and failing) to solve a problem that never had to be created in the first place is not exactly a winning achievement for someone in his first few months on the job. T'Wolves fans may be fine with David Kahn, but the team may have been better off with Stephen Curry.

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Kahn Speaks: 'Ricky Would Have Been Challenged on a Nightly Basis'

Cue the spin in Minnesota. David Kahn speaks:

This morning I met with Ricky and his parents and told them that I understood Ricky´s decision. It was clear to me yesterday and in this morning´s meeting that the pressure surrounding Ricky and his family to remain in Spain for at least two more years had only intensified as the summer wore on and was weighing heavily on them.

The NBA is the best basketball league in the world, by far. As an 18-year-old man, Ricky would have been challenged on a nightly basis to a degree he has never experienced. In order for Ricky to meet this challenge fully, I believe it is important that his family and other people important to him were comfortable with the move to the NBA and fully supportive.

I also agreed with Ricky´s position that two more years of competition in Spain and the Euroleague will only aid his development and that he will be much more ready for the NBA when he joins us.

On the night of the draft, I explained that the decision to draft Ricky was not difficult – that he was 18, the youngest player in the draft, and we were a building team that could wait for him. Nothing has changed. When we received signals from Ricky this summer that he was considering accelerating his path to the NBA and joining us sooner, we threw ourselves into this process willingly and energetically, including meeting with Joventut on four separate occasions.

So it was the plan all along for Rubio to stay in Spain? Sounds like a pretty convenient explanation. And considering Rubio's signature performance--at the heart of all this hype, really--came in the Olympics, against Team USA, playing in the gold medal game with a broken wrist, the arguments that he couldn't handle the challenges on a nightly basis seem a bit far-fetched.

Had Rubio gone to New York and Los Angeles, would his family advisers have been so cautious about making the transition to the "best basketball league in the world"? It's a moot point now, I guess. The party line, for now, is that Rubio isn't ready.

Ricky's less verbose explanation is below (with stilted English!):

The reason leading me to take this next step is to have a period of preparation to better take the challenge of the NBA in better conditions as a player. The Minnesota Timberwolves continue to be my first option and I wish to play with them in the near future.
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Rubio Backs Out...According to T-Wolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves/Ricky Rubio saga continues to evolve seemingly by the hour. According to T-Wolves President David Kahn, the fifth overall pick allegedly backed out of a deal which would have had him suiting up in the Twin Cities this year.


Rubio and the Timberwolves were informed late Monday night in Spain that Rubio's former club, DKV Joventut, had agreed to trade his rights to FC Barcelona, ending any chance the Wolves had of installing Rubio into their lineup this season.

According to Kahn, the Wolves negotiated a deal on Saturday night with Joventut and agent Dan Fegan to bring the 18-year-old to Minnesota this fall.

But Rubio informed Kahn on Monday night that he would prefer to stay in his homeland for two more years to better prepare himself for the NBA. Kahn says DKV Joventut has agreed to trade Rubio to Regal FC Barcelona, where he will play until 2011.

On paper, an Al Jefferson/Rubio duo could have potentially been the next great combo. In essence, the two could have been the '09 Garnett/Marbury, or at least what they were touted to be. The news comes only weeks before preseason action is set to begin and a disappointment to fans nationwide who wanted to see the foreign prodigy in action.

For the record, a situation similar to this is likely the reason Minnesota selected a baker's dozen worth of point guards in this year's draft. Don't fret 'Sota, look at the positive in all this. You've always got Brett Favre.

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Wolves a Victim of the NBA's Buyout Limit?

While many in the media have found fault with Wolves GM David Kahn for his inability to see these negotiations through successfully, Sean Devaney of the Sporting News suggests that the NBA's limit on buyouts of European contracts may be the greatest inhibitor.

What is easily overlooked is the fact that the NBA painted the Timberwolves into a corner on this. Collective bargaining rules limit the amount that NBA teams can offer foreign teams to buy out players from contracts. Originally, it was a mere $350,000. In the last CBA, it was raised to $500,000. The thought process behind the rule makes sense -- at least it used to. The league did not want expensive foreign players (Toni Kukoc, say, or Arvydas Sabonis) to simply go to the teams with the most money. Capping the allowable buyout payments seemed a good way to ensure that would not happen.

Thats a very 1990s way of thinking about this, though. The reality is, and you can ask Timberwolves president David Kahn, the cap on payments no longer makes sense.

Every year at the NBA Finals, David Stern heralds the dawning of an increasingly globalized basketball culture. The NBA has enjoyed an increased presence the world over, and indeed, stars like Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, and now Ricky Rubio, are the products of that expansion.

But with the benefits comes a cost. And as the flow of European stars into America continues to broaden, buyout difficulties figure to become increasingly common. And if Rubio's any indication, they won't be cheap. At the risk of losing future stars, the NBA may be forced to relax the buyout limit or simply discard it altogether. The limit exists to protect smaller market franchises, but if doing so puts the entire league at a competitive disadvantage, it may be time to loosen the reins.

"Yeehaw!" says Mark Cuban. "Let the free market ride!"

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Wait Wait Wait... Rubio to the Knicks?

This is a rumor from last night, and with major outlets reporting that he's signed in Spain, it seems unlikely that a deal of this magnitude could happen successfully. Still, murmurs have persisted into today, so pretend for a moment.

From the Jerry Zgoda at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

A league source tells me there’s plenty of talk floating that the Knicks again are pushing hard to deal for Rubio — probably with an assist from agent Dan Fegan — and there’s word of a Rubio for restricted free agent David Lee, Nate Robinson and a No. 1 pick deal.

Remember when the Vikings traded 3 players and 8 draft picks to the Dallas Cowboys for the rights to Herschel Walker? That was the most lopsided trade in history. If the above trade scenario played out in reality, that would suddenly be up for debate.

Is Isaiah Thomas still running the Knicks? No? Then let's not go crazy.

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Who the Timberwolves Could Have Had

Now that Rubio is officially staying in Europe for at least the next two seasons, Sporting News' Bethlehem Shoals imagines what the team may have looked like had they passed on Rubio. He lists several candidates that Minnesota could have drafted, but two, in particular, are most intriguing in hindsight.

From Shoals:

Stephen Curry: He doesn't have Ellington's size, and pairing him with Flynn would make for an awfully small backcourt. But Curry was once projected as high as third, and showed this past season that he's more than just a shooter. He's also a big name already, which would also help make up for missing out on the draft's biggest name. [...]

Terrence Williams: Put Williams with Love and you'd have enough non-Flynn ball movement to make possible an offense more wondrous than a thousand dancing Rubios. Williams may not have "possible All-Star" written on him like these others, but what team wouldn't want a bouncy, charismatic point forward with a nose for the ball and a highly-evolved basketball IQ?

He mentions a few other names, as well, but in either Curry or Williams, Minnesota would have gotten a player that would have helped create a frenzy on the court, not just on draft night. Back in June, I wondered whether David Kahn's zeal for creating excitement about the Timberwolves had eclipsed the more practical concerns over actually putting together a cohesive basketball team. After all, drafting two point guards in a row makes for a big story, but it's not exactly a tried-and-true formula for winning basketball games.

Would Curry and Williams have been better additions? I wonder.

With Rubio now ensconced on another continent, "wonder what might have been" is all any of us can do.

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Ricky Rubio to Stay in Spain; Buyout in 2011?

The last few weeks have seen rampant speculation regarding his future, but now, it appears the Ricky Rubio sweepstakes have come to an end, and David Kahn and the Minnesota Timberwolves have come up as losers. Kahn had spent recent weeks traveling to Spain in hopes of negotiating a buyout with Rubio's former team, DK Jovenut, but according to Yahoo! Sports, the Spanish club agreed to terms with another Spanish team, instead.

From Adrian Wojnarowski and Yahoo!:

Rubio – the fifth pick in the 2009 NBA draft – has agreed to a six-year contract with Regal FC Barcelona that doesn’t allow for an escape to the NBA until 2011. [...] Rubio, 18, apparently won’t play for the T’wolves until the 2011-12 season, and that’s devastating for the franchise’s new regime, which hoped to tout Rubio as one of its fresh-faced stars. Minnesota was able to legally pay only $500,000 toward the buyout, and the relative constraints of the Twin Cities’ market made the accumulation of endorsement deals difficult to close the gap on the buyout figure. Rubio would’ve made nearly $3.3 million in the NBA this season as the fifth pick in the draft.

The "relative constraints of the Twin Cities' market" are part of why the Timberwolves wanted Rubio, of course. Adding a player of his profile would have made them an instant national attraction--unfortunately, it appears it took more money to add him than the T'Wolves could muster. Now, they'll have to wait until 2011, instead.

Or longer, says Tom Ziller at AOL Fanhouse:

It's July 1, 2011. The Timberwolves have added only a second-round pick in the June draft [...] But the real focus is on Rubio, a gifted passer who has blossomed into an uncanny playmaker while developing in Barcelona.

There's just one problem: the league's owners have locked out the players. The union and ownership couldn't hash out a new collective bargaining agreement over the previous two summers, and the 2011-12 season is in jeopardy. The Wolves are not allowed to ink Rubio to his rookie deal, because there's no guarantee he'll have a team to play for if he ditches Barcelona.

With all the uncertainty swirling around the NBA, Rubio declines his Barcelona buyout option before the August deadline, and stays in Spain another year. Or longer. This, surely, wasn't what David Kahn had in mind.

Indeed, there's no guarantee that the Timberwolves will broker a deal in 2011. The NBA currently features numerous owners that are in dire financial straits, and it's unlikely the calamitous economic climate will improve enough over the next two years to allay the ownership's concerns about the current revenue model. Discarding the lofty financial-speak: we're headed for an impasse, and among a litany of implications for the longterm, that means Minnesota may have to wait even longer than expected to experience the majesty that is Ricky Rubio. Que mal?!

At least Minnesota fans can stay up to date on their other star rookie point guard, Johnny Flynn. Because he decided to "join the conversation" on Twitter! Yay.

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