Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rubio Changes Mind, Remains in Spain

The Minnesota Timberwolves thought they had a deal over the weekend to bring Ricky Rubio to the Wolves for the 2009-10 season. By Sunday night, basketball operations head David Kahn had reached a deal with Rubio's current team DKV Joventut on a buyout putting Rubio in Minnesota this season. By Monday, however, Rubio informed Kahn he had changed his mind and was choosing to play in Barcelona, signing a 6-year deal with Regal Barcelona.

The Barcelona contract contains a buyout clause which is less than the $8.1M clause he had with Joventut. He can opt out after two seasons, meaning the earliest Rubio can be expected in Minnesota is for the 2011-12 season.

This is disappointing to Kahn and the Timberwolves, who were hours away from having Rubio on board and being in a position to sell some tickets for the upcoming season. Instead, he'll develop in Europe for two seasons and join the Timberwolves, or another NBA team, at age 20.

The Wolves have a nice back-up option in fellow first round draftee Jonny Flynn. In the Jerry Zgoda piece linked above, Kahn mentions that Rubio will be "two years behind Flynn" when he joins the Wolves, which suggests the team will ride it out with its rookie point guard. Flynn's a nice player with tons of upside and he'll do well.

It's disappointing not to have Rubio in uniform for this season. After all, it was Rubio himself who declared for the 2009 NBA Draft, which meant he had every intention of playing in the NBA for the 2009-10 season. Instead, he opted for another European contract. Perhaps he just didn't want to come to Minnesota? That's not likely. More likely is that he is 18 and is want to change his mind, as many 18-year-olds are.

The Timberwolves are on the high road here. They drafted both Rubio and Flynn high in the draft and they play essentially the same position. They made a good-faith effort to sign Rubio, but it didn't work out. They said all the right things to Flynn all summer long, saying that they'll use both of them in the rotation. Flynn played well in the team's summer league and has a lot of potential. Most importantly, Rubio's path to the NBA goes directly through Minnesota, meaning they have options once he decides to play here. They can hold onto him and let him develop in Europe for two seasons, or they could trade his rights to another NBA team (the Knicks?) for draft picks and more cap flexibility. Either way, they'll be fine.

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