As was predicted, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Ricky Rubio came to terms on a contract extension. They had until 11:00 PM local time on Friday to get a deal done or Rubio would have became an Unrestricted Free Agent when the season ended. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports was first to report the deal was finalized. Rubio will be paid $56 million over the next four years and the deal includes $1 million in incentives.
"I want to call Minnesota home for a long time," Rubio told Jon Krawczynski. "That's why I signed the contract. My mom's going to get mad at me, but I don't leave home when I'm here. This is my second home. I really feel very welcome here."
Saunders sat aside Rubio and spoke first during a press conference after Saturday's shootaround announcing the extension.
"I've been so impressed in the four weeks i've worked with him. As a coach; his leadership, work-ethic, where he wants to be- which is as important as anything -you have to take things into perspective. We're not going to talk about the finances of it, because, what it boils down to is that, in our league, good players get paid."
"Good players also have the opportunity to make decisions. There's no question that, all along, Ricky wanted to be here. (...) It does say something about his character: He wants to be a leader."
Still, Rubio speaks using a soft and timid voice even with his coach beside him - an unorthodox trail for a leader to possess. On the court, though, Rubio is vocal and supportive of his teammates. He's competitive, eager to win and still just 24 years old.
"From the first moment I came here, I felt there was something special between Minnesota and me. I keep feeling it. I just want to stay here for a long time and try to take this team to the playoffs. We've had some tough seasons, but I feel we're on the right track and I'm just happy to be here."
There are undoubtedly some who believe Rubio is incapable of developing into a perennial scoring threat and therefore he will never be rated among the NBA's best point guards. This is despite the Wolves hiring "Shot Doctor " Mike Penberthy and Rubio's assurance he is ready to take the next step and become a vocal leader.
"Ricky has some things that, as coaches, you can't teach. I believe he has the opportunity to be a first-or-second team all defensive player. He works hard. He's mature. There's so much talk about his shot. His shot is improving. You have to look at the things he does do, not what he doesn't do. He's still young, you got to understand it, he's been here for four-years and been a part of two training camps. (...)
His ceiling is up to him, but I can guarantee you this: We, as an organization and as a coaching staff, are going to do everything we can to get him to become an elite point guard. I feel he's right there. There's a lot of great point guards. He's got a chance to be up there with all of 'em."
It will take time before Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Zach LaVine are bestowed with more responsibilities, but these three have shown they're capable of becoming exciting and explosive players. They, along with Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, appear to be the Wolves foundation moving forward.
We have some other young players, and right now, he's the leader of that.
Saunders said he became a bigger fan of Rubio coaching him. Rubio wants to become a better player and Saunders has committed to helping him do just that; he has control of the roster and decides who gets to play how many minutes. For Saunders, Rubio symbolizes an extension of his coaching philosophy on the court - he believes point guards are like quarterbacks. The Wolves future is promising but most don't expect great success right away.
Saunders is giving his point guard tools in order to help Rubio become a better player, although it will take time before anything comes to fruition. For now, though, fans of the Timberwolves can be happy Rubio is staying in Minnesota because, without question, this is where he wants to be.
"The fans have been great with me and with the team. I just want to give something back to them. I think staying here is going to make them happy. It's making me happy, too. Like I said, I think we have a special connection. I want to keep building that. I want to give them something to go to bed happy (about). Some games aren't going to be like that, but I think we're on the right track."