One day, Ricky Rubio will be my favourite player in the NBA.
It was about time that I wrote this. See, every thoroughbred basketball fan has that one player that, for some inexplicable reason, he or she supports no matter the circumstances. Whether the player succeeds, fails, or spends his career in the purgatory of the mediocres, the fan will side by him, give him the benefit of the doubt, and write in a vote for him in the all star game.
In April 2007, Lang Whitaker of the SLAM Magazine found a lanky little 16-year-old kid in Spain named Ricky Rubio and exposed him to me and the rest of the world. The title of this article was something close to 'El Prodigio: The best player in the world you've never heard of'.
At his young age, Ricky was being compared to everyone from Pete Maravich to Drazen Petrovich to Steve Nash to Magic Friggin Johnson. He was six days short of his 15th birthday when he became the youngest player to ever play in the Spanish ACB League, probably the most competitive basketball league in the world outside of the NBA. Ricky appeared for the side DKV Joventut for four years.
With Joventut, Ricky was named FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year in 2007 and 2008, was voted the Spanish League's best point guard in 2008, and was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year in the 2008-09 season. In his four years, he won a FIBA EuroCup championship and the ULEB Cup championship with Joventut. Ricky was recognized as Europe's overall best basketball player by being named Mr. Europa in 2008.
He was 17.
The more I followed his game, statistically and on YouTube, the more I liked it. Here was a youngster who overpowered opponents with his basketball IQ more than any other weapon. He seemed to be a intelligent floor leader who did whatever was necessary to win, with a delicate balance of efficiency and spectacular flair to the game that recalled the Maravich/Nash/Magic comparisons. In his fifth year as a pro (all in his teenage years), Ricky has largely dominated the game against talented full-grown adults in his prolific young career.
2008 was the same year that Ricky was selected in the Spanish senior national team for the Beijing Olympics. The team was one of the favourites of the tournament, and Ricky stood amongst experienced NBA-known names such as Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez, Raul Lopez, Jorge Garbajosa, and Juan Carlos Navarro. This was the first time that I got to watch Ricky play outside of grainy YouTube videos, and he impressed me tremendously. At 17, he was playing point guard maturely for essentially the second-best team in the world. He started in the final against Team USA, and showed incredible offensive and defensive vision in a losing effort. Ricky was later part of the Spain team that won the EuroBasket 2009.
At 18, after declaring for the NBA draft, and promptly taken by the Timberwolves as their 5th pick, Ricky decided not to go to the NBA, or rather the Timberwolves, and his contract was bought from Joventut by FC Barcelona, with whom he announced that he will stay for at least another two years before crossing the Atlantic.
His Barcelona squad are now the best team in Europe, and Ricky is probably the best point guard in the entire continent.
Still only 19, Rubio is sure to be one of the most exciting players to watch in the future. My Knicks have always had an interested eye on him, and tried several times after the draft to snag him away from the Timberwolves.
It now seems that they're trying again, says the NY Post:
Ricky Rubio, whom the Wolves drafted sixth, is playing in Spain this season, switching teams to FC Barcelona. That actually turned out well for the Knicks, who are still marking his progress.
Knicks international scout Kevin Wilson, who's responsible for their pick of Danilo Gallinari, lives in Barcelona and the Regal Barcelona team is his hometown club. It has been well-documented Wilson is friends with the Rubio family and Ricky's parents would love to see the Timberwolves deal him to New York.
Wilson is in town this week as the Knicks have their scouting meetings as a prelude to the Feb. 19 trading deadline and discussing available point guards will be a priority.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh told The Post the last time he spoke to Wolves president David Kahn, his former assistant in Indiana, he was told Minnesota wasn't accepting trade offers now. Rubio is averaging 5.6 assists for Barcelona and showing marked improvement, but he's still leery about spending his career in Minnesota.
"David has told me he wants to bring Ricky over for next season," Walsh told The Post.
Beyond signing a maximum free agent, the Knicks will be in the market for a point guard this offseason since Chris Duhon and Nate Robinson will become free agents and aren't likely to be re-signed.
Come on, Donnie, bring down the future best PG in the league to the MSG. LeBron/Wade/Bosh could use his help. Hell, if the dream offseason turns out to be a nightmare, at least Lee, Gallinari, Chandler, etc. will be assured that someone decent is bringing the ball upcourt every possession instead of useless Chris Duhon. D'Antoni could use Ricky's style well, too...
See for yourself, non-believers:
Whether he joins the Knicks, or the Timberwolves, or anyone else; and whether he comes to the league this offseason or in 2011, I know that I will be voting for him in the All-Star team, senselessly defending his slumps, and buying my nephew his signature shoes for years to come...
Update: A representative for Rubio's agency in Spain believes that the Knicks don't have much of a chance of getting Rubio. Oh, well...