Spanish basketball prodigy Ricky Rubio has shown signs of regression this season and appears willing to remain in Europe rather than play for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Rubio, the fifth overall pick of the Timberwolves in the 2009 draft, was compared to Pistol Pete Maravich after making his professional debut in the Spanish leagues at the age of 14. His basketball acumen and play-making abilities had Minnesota fans dreaming of the powerful one-two punch the point guard would make with power foward Kevin Love. However, reports like the one published in today's New York Times by Jonathan Givony are cause for concern.
According to Givony, in 28 games this season, Rubio has shot a paltry 32% from the field, including an uncharacteristic 11-61 from three-point territory. There is no one reason for this dip in field-goal percentages, but one possible explanation stems from the young point guard pressing this season to show he is capable of being the main offensive threat on a team--carryover from this summer's World Championships where, without national teammates Pau Gasol and Jose Calderon, Rubio struggled mightily and the defending champion Spanish team lost in the quarterfinals.
Shooting woes aside, the Timberwolves organization and its fans are much more likely to be worried when they read the comments coming from those closest to Rubio. As Giovony notes:
The bottom line is, why would he want to play in Minnesota? a senior member of Rubio's camp said this month. 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.
This has long been the rumor concerning Rubio, which certainly was not helped by him remaining in Europe instead of playing in the NBA the last two seasons. But the Timberwolves still hold his draft rights and are the only team that can negotiate with him.
Rubio's next move is destined to be a gamble. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, if a rookie remains unsigned three years after his draft class, that players is no longer bound by the rookie wage scale the NBA has in place and could then sign for as large a contract as allowable according to the team's salary cap. However, the current CBA expires on June 30, 2011 and that particular provision is not guaranteed to be included in the revised version. If it were excised, and Rubio were to sign a contract with the Timberwolves after June 30, he would be bound by the rookie wage scale of the 2011 draft class. Moreover, Rubio would be tied to this strictures even if he was traded to one of his preferred teams. If it were kept and a larger contract was what Rubio was after, he would have to sit out next season as well.
Fans shouldn't expect a quick resolution to the Rubio saga, but they would be wise to consider a future where he never suits up for the Timberwolves, either because he remains in Europe or is able to force the trade he evidently desires.