It's 2011 now, and with the Minnesota Timberwolves bundled in mediocrity for the millionth consecutive winter, the New York Times added a little more insult to injury when they profiled Ricky Rubio this past weekend. In case you missed it, there were a few key takeaways.
First and foremost, though, there was this, from an anonymous source close to Rubio:
"The bottom line is, why would he want to play in Minnesota? He’ll continue to say all the diplomatic things, and Minnesota needs to keep his value up for trade purposes, but the family’s preference is to be on the East Coast, specifically New York, Miami or Boston. He wouldn’t be troubled if he has to stay another year."
Okay, before we move to Minnesota's role in all this, let's think about Rubio and the Heat. First of all, you'd be hard pressed to find a better basketball situation. Rubio would be murderous in the fast break next to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and in the halfcourt offense, his biggest weakness--unselfishness--would be mitigated by Miami's superstars. Plus, given that he'd be signing a rookie contract, Rubio would be cheap for the cap-strapped Heat. And could you imagine his appeal in the city Miami? In a perfect world, this guy wouldn't play anywhere but Miami:
Of course, in a perfect world, Minnesota's lottery pick from two years ago would have spent the past two years playing for Minnesota. Instead, as the T'Wolves have waited patiently for Rubio to marinate overseas, the impasse remains unchanged. If anything, Rubio's just added more teams to his wish list. What used to be a fixation with the New York Knicks is suddenly a three-team race that suddenly includes Minnesota's evil and more glamorous twin, LeBron and the Miami Heat. Umm... Hold on a second.
WHY IS LIFE SO UNFAIR TO THE TIMBERWOLVES?
Oh, and about that whole "marinating in Europe" thing... He's actually getting worse. First there was the World Championships, where "he shot 28 percent from the field, including 2 of 17 from 3-point range, and averaged 4 points in 25 minutes over nine games. Spain, the defending champion, lost in the quarterfinals." Then there's this season back in Spain:
Though 28 games in the 2010-11 season, Rubio has continued to struggle. He is shooting just 32 percent from the field, including 11 of 61 from beyond the arc, and his team has lost more games in the ACB and in the Euroleague than it did all of last season.
It's not to say Rubio's a lost cause, but like I said last summer, with a league suddenly replete with mind-bending talent at the point guard position (Rose, Rondo, Westbrook, Evans, Wall, Jennings, etc), the myth of Ricky Rubio seems more flimsy than ever. From afar, he looks more like Darren Collison than Derrick Rose. And for the Oliver Twist of our Heat and Hopeless series, it can't be all that encouraging.
Even if they trade him to a team like Miami--where, you gotta admit, Rubio makes a lot of sense--it's probably just as disturbing that his time in Europe isn't helping his trade value. And here's where things get really screwy for T'Wolves fans.
What if Rubio's struggling in Europe because of the style, and he's still the top 5, Maravich-like talent that spurred everyone to madness a few years ago? What if he hurt his trade value the past few years, called Minnesota's bluff, and still winds up being the player we expected all along? It's not as if there's no track record here. Brandon Jennings struggled in Europe, too. When he shot 38% from the field and 22% from three point range, Jonathan Givony--the same writer who penned this weekend's Rubio profile--saw the silver lining:
All the bumping and hand-checking he’s been learning to deal with all season long from European defenders might make life a lot easier for him once he reaches the NBA, where everything is much more open thanks to the defensive 3-second rules and much tighter officiating on the perimeter.
So why wouldn't that apply to Ricky Rubio? He's still a 20 year-old kid. And again, that's where things get screwy for Minnesota. Here's this kid that's holding your franchise hostage, and while the rest of the league watches him struggle in Europe, it's not crazy to think he can still be an NBA star. But why would any team play along? More and more, it's looking like Ricky Rubio has no intention of ever wearing a T'Wolves uniform. And more and more, it's looking like David Kahn will wind up getting fleeced no matter who they trade him to.
If that trade ends up adding to a championship nucleus in Miami, the franchise that joined the NBA a year before the T'Wolves but holds a million times more allure for star players like LeBron James and Ricky Rubio... I mean, seriously. Why is life so unfair to the Timberwolves?
(And what if LeBron also convinces Kevin Love to leave Minnesota to join him?)
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: KEVIN LOVE'S ACTING CAREER
Finally, while we're talking Timberwolves, it's important to note that this actually happened. As Kevin Love told GQ: "My other big news—and I know you guys were all waiting for this one—is my guest appearance on The Disney Channel show, The Suite Life With Zach and Cody. ... We filmed it this past summer, right before I went home to Portland for the 4th of July weekend. I had heard of the show, and my sister was a fan, so when they asked me to come on I was like, 'Of course.'" OF COURSE.
Fun with NBA superstars begins at 1:10, and Love appears around 1:50:
And if you want to get really crazy, watch the full episode here.