For those who don't know or haven't been following Barcelona has been taking part in the King's Cup tournament in Madrid the past two games. They played Caja Laboral (defending ACB champion) in the semis today in a rematch from last year's finals and I figured I'd tune in. Since there isn't frequently a Rubio recap on here unless Ming comes to say "Scrubio still sucks" I figured I'd share my amateur opinion with all of you.
For what it's worth I've been watching ACB games for a few years now. Whoever said the best way to learn Spanish is to watch TV is crazy because I still can't follow a word the announcers are saying unless they say "Ricky 3 3 3 no entra." Since I can't really remember the chronological order of the game I'll just give my overall take and some good and bad from Rubio and Bjelica.
I guess I'll start with the game. Barcelona won 92-73. They got up by 10+ early in the 1st quarter, but let Caja Laboral get back into the game during the 2nd with a solid run led by Stanko Barac and (gasp) Nemanja Bjelica. Barca won the 3rd quarter huge and maintained their lead through garbage time.
The first impression I had to take away was JC Navarro was a monster. He's a completely different player than he was here. If you haven't seen him play for Barcelona you might want to treat yourself someday because he's pretty special. He had a couple of nice floaters and some deep 3's. His willingness to take runner-3's is unlike anything in the NBA (he didn't make it). He also hit a nifty 4-point play on the way to a 26 point game on 11-16 (3-7 from behind the arc). However, nobody really cares so I'll get to our Wolves.
For what it's worth I am not buying into the opinion that Rubio's been worse this year. He's obviously not the 1st or 2nd option for Barcelona and they're very much a half-court oriented offense. That being said he's significantly less flashy with the ball than he was with DKV Joventut. This could simply be the maturation of a player who's learning to take the easier play. His turnover numbers rose every season with Joventut coming to a peak with 3.0 in 23 minutes per game when he was drafted. Going to Barca his usage went down (not sure where to find usage ratings for euro, just know from watching) but his turnovers also dropped. This year he's playing 5 minutes more a game with only .1 turnover more and the best assist/turnover ratio in his career.
All that being said, in this game I was pretty impressed with him (even with my high expectations). I came in knowing I wouldn't see the Freebird Rubio that we know and love. What I did see was a smart, efficient (in this game) point guard with skills that will translate to the NBA. He hit a couple of open 3's (and missed another one). As the first quarter was ending he drew a foul and threw up a prayer from half court that I thought was simultaneous. I couldn't understand if the announcers agreed, but they were talking louder about something. He didn't get the call. He took a JC-esque floater with deft touch from the free throw line. While I was talking with a friend in Spain online I must have missed an and-1 that Rubio had as well. He finished with 10 points on 4-6 shooting (2-3 behind the arc) and his only miss from 2 was with the shotclock winding down on a shot he normally wouldn't take. He also missed a wide-open 3, but as has been established, he will do that. He didn't have any brain bending passes, but he had a great alley oop to Fran Vasquez on a pick and roll, and he almost had another from half court on an inbound to Ndong (Rubio missed about a foot too low for an alley oop, but Love or Pekovic would have finished on layups instead of trying to dunk an undunkable ball). His on-ball defense was pretty good, but Caja lacks NBA athletes at PG, so I'm still skeptical there. Overall a very good game for Rubio. If you'd like to watch him play tomorrow they'll play Real Madrid for the King's Cup at (hopefully) 11 and that game should be available on the stream formerly known as firstrow.net (now www.soccertvlive.net/).
I was very surprised to see Nemanja Bjelica get some time tonight as well. He came in (I believe) in the 2nd and helped spearhead a run against Barcelona that helped bring them back into the game. He's very skilled on offense and they even had him play some point forward (he didn't do too great at that) but he had some effective drives with some silky smooth finishes for a 6'11" guy. On the ball defense was alright, off the ball he looked lazy and confused. He was standing straight up 3 feet away from the ball carrier when he could have aggressively doubled on more than one occasion. Overall he was still very skilled and finished 4-6 (1-1 behind the arc) for 9 points. I was curious to see his stats from this year and was surprised to see he's shooting over 40% from behind the arc in ACB competition. He does still seem very raw for the NBA and another year for Caja should help him out. His defense worries me a little but all the tools are there (especially offensively).
Sorry if this got long-winded but I am tired of hearing about Rubio's trade value and figured more people than just me would care to hear how Rubio's playing on a game-by-game basis.