If you have been paying attention to this blog you’d probably have no idea that I love sports, especially basketball. I’ve played point guard my entire life and love when some one comes a long that makes a whole team better simply by passing the ball. In high school I was obsessed with Steve Nash. During study breaks I’d sit on the computer watching his highlights, trying to learn as much as I possibly could. He had incredible court vision and made passes no one else would ever consider. Lately I’ve loved what Rajon Rondo does with the Celtics. If it wasn’t for Chris Paul, he’d be the best point guard in the NBA (Sorry folks, Derrick Rose is not a point guard. Russell Westbrook is not a point guard. These players are scoring machines that are so talented they have to try and play point guard the best interest of their teams). A few years ago my excitement was through the roof because of this video:
This is Ricky Rubio. This highlight reel is made up of games when he was 17 years old. As you may or may not know Rubio started playing professional basketball at age 14! To put that in perspective, he would have been in middle school. When I was in 8th grade I was 5 feet tall and weighed probably 85 pounds. Can you imagine playing 25-35 year old men when you’re a little kid? Oh, he also started for the Spanish national team in the Olympic Gold Medal game against the U.S. in 2008 at age 17… with a broken wrist and played very very well. Needless to say, I could not wait for Ricky Rubio to come to the NBA.
I expected him to become my favorite player. A lot of people doubted him. His shot looked awful. He wouldn’t be athletic enough for the NBA, but he was still drafted 5th in the 2009 draft by the Timberwolves. Ouch… The Timberwolves don’t exactly have the greatest reputation. Ultimately, he decided to stay in Spain a couple more years to improve his game and prepare for the NBA. He was signed by the best team in Spain and something happened that his detractors must have loved. He really struggled. Last year while playing 22.7 minutes per game he averaged 6.5 points per game and 3.5 assists per game while shooting about 31% from the field and 22% from 3 pointers. Like any logical person who didn’t have access to watching his game I looked at those stats and said, “Oh, I guess I was wrong about Rubio.” All of a sudden all the nit picky critiques looked like legitimate concerns. Was Rubio a child star who was destined to burn out? When news arrived he’d be playing in the NBA this year I didn’t even think about it. But then something happened:
Those are highlights from his first two games in the NBA. From the moment I saw Rubio wind up and put english on a pass (something maybe two or three players in the NBA do) I remembered why I was once so excited about Ricky Rubio. But this was just a couple games. How much can that really say about a player. Maybe it was a fluke. Then this happened:
Whoa. I watched that Heat game. He was ripping them apart. Something you don’t see in that Heat highlight is Lebron James was guarding Rubio for the last 3 to 4 minutes of the game. Yes, Ricky Rubio received Derrick Rose treatment from the Heat. This kid has incredible vision. Like Nash he sees things no one else sees. He makes passes that surprise defenders. He’s so smart he’s capable of looking at another player and instantly figure out what that player is probably thinking in that situation and take advantage of it. He’s long, way more athletic than he was given credit for, and ultra competitive. Sure his shot looks pretty funny, but you know what? He’s already making shots Rajon Rondo couldn’t dream of making (yes this depresses me). Derrick Rose couldn’t shoot for his life the first year he played in the NBA, and he’s playing with Kevin Love. A perfect example of someone who was by no means a great shooter and now shoots the freaking lights out. I’m convinced Rubio will have coaches around him to make him at least a good shooter, and if he ever becomes a great shooter? Who knows.
So, I have to ask. What was going on in Spain? Why did he stink? People completely underestimate this, but when you play the way Rubio does the players around you are more important than anything. He needs good players around him to hit the open shots he makes for them. He needs players willing to move because if they move they will get open. He can’t be the number one or even two scoring option. A player like Rubio can score well because the defenders are so concerned with their passing, but if they get to concentrate on just your scoring it becomes much more difficult.
I don’t want to sound like an arrogant jerk, but I know this because it is exactly the kind of player I am (obviously no where near that kind of level). When I was in college I played pick up ball all the time and a lot of the time those players stunk. They wanted to play hero basketball or couldn’t hit open shots. When I played with those players I looked pretty bad. I was forcing shots I didn’t want to because I had to, but when I got to play with Team Oblivion (my intramural team) I was surrounded by very good players and I would rack up assists.
Rubio went from playing with players in Spain who could never play in the NBA to playing in the NBA. He’s surrounded by the most athletic people in the world and he is racking up the assists. He’s not even starting and he’s averaging 9 points per game and 7 assists while only playing 27 minutes. Playing in Spain took away what made him very good. He wasn’t playing the right style of basketball. Maybe the people around him didn’t like his young celebrity. Spain wasn’t the place for him. Ricky Rubio was always meant to play in the NBA, and now he’s here and he’s shocking people. He’s the real deal and a lot of people are being forced reconsider their thoughts. I’m so excited to see how he evolves and I hope the Timberwolves can keep this team together. Because Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio could be a duo for the ages, and you know what? I think you’re better off being a T-Wolves fan in the future than a Celtics fan because Rondo’s going to be stuck being that guy that wants to pass but has nothing around him. Excuse me while cry myself to sleep.