Ricky Rubio: Magic, la Pistola, or Rondo?

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Ricky Rubio: Magic, la Pistola, or Rondo?

by Jay Mariotti
Not much in sports makes me cringe these days, but describing Ricky Rubio as the next Pistol Pete Maravich -- legend and cult hero forevermore -- certainly is hard on the frown lines. So the Mane from Spain has flowing locks and a flair for the flashy, sexy pass. Does that make him remotely equipped to wage battle in a league loaded with elite point guards, from Chris Paul to Deron Williams to Jason Kidd to Derrick Rose to Rajon Rondo?

Pistol Pete was a one-and-only, never to be replicated in any era, a prolific scorer and exquisite passer whose showmanship would have thrived in a time when entertainment and SportsCenter hits seem to trump winning championships. Rubio? He's 18. I have no idea how much he'll improve his shaky jumper and adapt to the raw physicality of NBA ball. He very easily could be a Eurobust who has brainwashed us with YouTube reels that conveniently ignore his turnovers and no-look flips with no-chance recipients.

"I don't see Rubio being that dynamic player now," said Danny Ainge, general manager of the Boston Celtics. "I think he's got a lot of potential. He's a flashy player. I don't see him -- just physically, and because he doesn't shoot the ball very well -- I don't see him having an impact as a rookie."

Yet they insist he's Maravich. And he's jazzy. And he's major box-office. Oh, and did they mention that his skin is white? Shame on anyone who projects Rubio as a superstar based on wishful thinking, stereotyping and nostalgia.

And shame on Rubio for exploiting this premature, unjustified man-love by acting like a brat. Only minutes after he was selected by the Timberwolves with the No. 5 choice in the draft, there was Rubio, threatening not to play in Minnesota because most winter nights in Minneapolis are considerably colder than his dog's nose.

"It's too cold," he said, a day after announcing that his mother also thinks the city is too cold. "I have to think about that ... I'm going to talk with my agent about that and we are going to see."

Later, he told a Spanish newspaper, "I wouldn't rule out at all returning to Spain.''

David Kahn Minnesota Timberwolves general managerWith those words, any enthusiasm mustered by the team's new general manager, David Kahn, fizzled away. The public-relations mess worsened Thursday night, when Rubio's father, Esteve, was quoted on the Spanish sports site Marca.com as saying his son might play in Spain the next few years and blow off the Wolves.

Meaning, Ricky might play a season or two longer in Europe, with the Rubios intending to chat with the Minnesota front office about a tenuous future there. How fascinating that Europe has caught on to what I call John Elway/Eli Manning syndrome -- punky demands by athletes who want to circumvent the draft system and refuse to play for a certain team.

The thing about Elway and Manning was, we had an idea of their track record and assumed they could play. Who in the hell is Ricky Rubio?

At the Olympics in Beijing, I watched him first-hand and thought he handled himself well at times, while also wondering why he struggled to dribble past halfcourt under pressure from the U.S. Redeem Team of NBA superstars.

There is more than a wee element of overhype here, as suggested strongly by Brandon Jennings, who went to the Milwaukee Bucks with the No. 10 pick after jumping to Europe straight out of high school and facing Rubio, among others.

"The only thing I've seen him do sometimes is when he has a home run pass or something like that. I think the dude is just all hype," Jennings said recently before backtracking last week, maybe under mandate from the league. "I can't even front. I'm just going to be real with you guys."

I do like how Rubio responded when asked about the shots. "I don't think about what they say about me," he said. "I only think about my objective. I have my own dreams, and I don't listen to people who say you're going to be in the top or you're going to be all hype. I don't care. We're going to see what they can do on the court. I talk on the court."

Where will that be? As expected, the Knicks already have made inquiries, with New York seemingly a more desirable destination for Rubio and his big-city dreams. Kahn is a disciple of Knicks GM Donnie Walsh, who was as befuddled as anyone Thursday night when the Timberwolves took Rubio at No. 5 -- then followed at No. 6 by selecting another point guard, Jonny Flynn. Later, Kahn took two more point guards, trading Ty Lawson to Denver but keeping Nick Calathes. Suddenly, Minnesota was the land of 10,000 point guards.

"It's surprising that, aside from me, they chose another point guard at number six, but let's see what they want,'' Rubio said.

This is what happens when you let a former sportswriter and NBC executive run an NBA team. Chaos ensues. Kahn once wrote about the Trail Blazers and the league for a newspaper in Portland, which I suppose makes him as qualified as two other former sports scribes -- Ned Colletti of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Marty Hurney of the Carolina Panthers -- who have fared well as GMs. But Kahn has lost me. First he dumped franchise icon Kevin McHale as coach, even though the team's two young stars, Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, like playing for him. Then he traded the team's top scoring guard, Randy Foye, and veteran shooter Mike Miller to Washington for the No. 5 choice, which he used on Rubio when he had every intention of also taking Flynn. Huh?

Even Love was a critic, asking on his Twitter page during the draft, "What are we doing????? We better trade. I don't even know."

Kahn says he will wait up to two years for Rubio, if necessary.

As any good sportswriter realizes, Kahn should have done his homework before drafting Rubio. Did he know Minnesota doesn't fit Mrs. Rubio's weather standards? Did he know Ricky likes the big cities? If he's using Rubio as a drafting asset, OK, Kahn is savvier than we thought. Still, this isn't the next Magic Johnson or -- cringe! -- the next Pete Maravich. This is an adventure into the unknown. No one is giving David Kahn the house for a teenaged point guard who might be another Darko Milicic.

"It will be an interesting ride," Kahn said. "If any team can afford to be patient, it's us."
my opinion:

Ricky Rubio is a "pure passer" as opposed to a "pure scorer" who looks to score all the time, Rubio looks to pass

he can probably be a Rajon Rondo type, but he is not going to be a 20ppg, 10 apg type of guy

he is 6'5 but at 6'5 don't you want him to cover multiple positions? Jason Kidd can do it
that's where Rubio fails imho

if anybody trades a Rudy Gay or an Iguodala you know an actual scorer for this guy
It will be highway robbery

if anybody gets duped into taking Rubio for a scorer
It will be highway robbery
with the disproportionate availability of "legit" wing scorers dominating the MVP chase

there's no avoiding the topic, sorry , this guy is a facilitator a passer, and can only defend 1 position

that is why he did not want to come to the Timberwolves he would have been exposed as a normal guy with strengths and weaknesses

and he probably would have had to defend shooting guards playing next to Flynn

that's why he stayed end of conversation

Disrespect_Me's picture
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he's a good passer but he's not a combo guard,

eric palmer
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Mariotti says that the Wolves kept Calathes...didn't they trade his rights to the Mavericks on draft night?

But I have to agree with him on this article. I really don't see Rubio amounting to a ton as an NBA point guard. He could be a top 10 or 15 PG, but I think it is just as likely for him to end up being a 2nd PG on a mediocre team...

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