In a packed news conference at Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium, the Spanish guard ended two years of speculation
Friday, saying, "I have finally decided to start the journey to the NBA. It is my dream and I want to fulfill it," he said. "After thinking about it a lot, the time has arrived." The news of Rubio's signing is going over big in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Rubio's journey to Minnesota has been a long one. The team has worked for nearly two years to convince him to leave FC Barcelona to join the Timberwolves. Rubio's age and a hefty $6 million buyout clause at Barcelona -- of which an NBA team could pay only $500,000 under league rules -- made him stay in Spain until it came down to a more manageable $1.4 million. Minnesota's status as a perennial NBA bottomfeeder probably didn't help matters much either. Timberwolves president David Kahn has taken enormous flak for his decision to draft Rubio given the player's initial reluctance to come to the NBA.
But after suffering through two absolutely horrendous seasons with back-to-back records of 15-67 and 17-65, is it possible that Kahn’s vision for the 'Wolves might finally be coming to fruition?
"It will mean a change of mentality" Rubio said. "Perhaps we won't be fighting for the title, but we will have other goals. I am willing to do whatever the team needs to win as many games as possible."
"I felt very confident since we drafted him that he would start his career here,'' Timberwolves president David Kahn said in a statement. "There was never a moment where that really wavered. This is a day our organization and our fans have been eagerly awaiting from the moment we drafted him, and I couldn't be more pleased to welcome Ricky to Minnesota."
Let's take a look at the pieces that Minnesota now has in place for the near future.
First there is the arrival of Rubio, the Spanish phenom with the appearance, playing style, and flair comparable to former NBA player and five-time All-Star -- the late and great "Pistol Pete" Maravich -- who died in 1988 at age 40.
At this point, a position battle for Minnesota's starting point guard is a mere formality. Minnesota has two other point guards on the roster for next season: veteran Luke Ridnour and third year player Jonny Flynn.
Drafted one spot behind Rubio in 2009, Flynn has struggled with injury and grasping coach Kurt Rambis' triangle offense and has failed to materialize as a franchise point guard. Ridnour is a very capable veteran, but is better suited for a role as the back-up. That being said, you can pencil in Rubio as the 'Wolves starting floor general for next season.
They also have the double-double machine All-Star Kevin Love locked in at power forward. The two wings and center position, however, are still up in the air. That's where next Thursday's draft comes in.
The Timberwolves have the No. 2 and 20 picks in next week's draft, and they should be able to add two skilled players to help make Rubio's transition easier.
The Beard and Stache don't like to beat around the bush, so we'll just come right out and say it; former Duke point guard Kyrie Irving has locked up that No. 1 overall pick spot to the Cavaliers. That leaves Minnesota with many options at the No. 2 slot.
The team worked out 6-foot-11 Turkish center Enes Kanter on Thursday and assistant GM Tony Ronzone says he’s an option.
However, most observers believe that when push comes to shove, Minnesota will select the second best player in the draft - former Arizona forward Derrick Williams - with the second pick. Though Williams is a superb talent, taking him would create another logjam scenario on a roster that already includes versatile fowards Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, and Wesley Johnson.
Luckily for the Timberwolves, there may be another suitor for that second overall pick. Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says such a scenario could have Kahn wheeling and dealing once more on Draft night.
According to ESPN's Chad Ford, there are a number of teams that have already expressed interest in the pick, and one of them seems to be a good, logical fit, at least for Minnesota. For weeks, the most realistic partner appeared to be the Wizards if they were willing to part with JaVale McGee.
However, sources in Washington claim they don't want to trade McGee. The center is a talent, albeit one with an immature game. Finding young 7-footers is a difficult task, and the Wizards wouldn't have a natural replacement for McGee if they made the move.
Reports also came out last week that the Cleveland Cavaliers, who hold the No. 1 and 4 pick in the draft, were interested in swapping the fourth pick in order to get the second pick and take the top two players available in Irving and Williams.
Despite all of these captivating scenarios, the Timberwolves also seem prepared to stand pat and take Williams if he is indeed there. "You just can't pass up on guys and get creative and try to get another guy," Ronzone said. "He's a talent. He can play. You look at what he did this year at Arizona and his upside. He just started to play a few years ago, and every year he just keeps getting better and better. That's what I like about him."
If Minnesota chooses to keep the No. 2 pick and select Williams, it also opens the door down the line to move Beasley to shore them up at other positions.
But regardless of what Minnesota decides to do, we know one thing. Ricky Rubio is ready to take the NBA by storm and lead Minnesota's pack of 'Wolves to bigger and better things in the future.
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