Ever since the Wolves drafted Ricky Rubio in the summer of 2009, trade rumors have surrounded the precocious point guard from Spain.
Rubio was never supposed to play in Minnesota. He was never supposed to sign an extension after his rookie contract ended — though he did, leaving money on the table in the process because he wanted to “call Minnesota home for a long time."
"That's why I signed the contract,” he said, while his agent Dan Fegan was likely fuming in his failure to convince Rubio to wait until the summer to test free agency and likely look at bigger markets like Dallas and New York.
“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," said Rubio.
Ricky was supposed to be traded last year and he was supposed to be traded the year before, and yes, you guessed correctly, the year before that as well. The mysterious player who was never supposed come to the freezing North indeed came to Minnesota and he’s been here ever since. National media reports one thing and the organization never follows through with trading him.
Now in his sixth season, the constant rumors have surrounded him again. He’s like a participant on Survivor. Rubio is there season after season, but never gets voted off the island. Outwit, outplay, outlast.
After highly-touted point guard prospect Kris Dunn was selected fifth overall by new management in last June’s draft, it was widely believed Rubio would soon be on the move. But when media day came and training camp started, he was still here in the place he’s always been, surrounded by his most loyal followers and staunch defenders.
Under the New Wolves Order, the rumors have lingered; his future with the team has been in doubt more than ever before as the forces at play seem determined to get him somewhere else. Three days ago, news lit up the internet that the Knicks and Wolves were talking about a trade centered around Derrick Rose and Rubio.
Every reputable and trustworthy source reported on the deal; all the heavy hitters in the business said the Wolves’ pursuit of Rose was strong and his former coach who oversaw his outstanding seasons in Chicago wanted to get something done to reunite the two in Minneapolis.
But again, Rubio survived getting voted off Wolves island. Again he remains in the place his NBA career started, with his biggest fans desperately hanging on to the player that has meant so much to a broken down fan base that is tired of the incompetence, the consistent failure, the lottery picks, the epic busts, the prolonged losing streaks, and ultimately the 12 straight years without a playoff birth in a league that sends more than half of its teams to the postseason each year.
Eric did a wonderful job of writing about what this all means for Rubio’s future last night, and I encourage everyone to read his words. He parses through what’s going on here with the point guard situation the team has on its hands, among the other rumors from the past few days.
The only additional point I want to make in this space is that while we may, in fact, be watching Rubio’s final 25 games in Minneapolis — or maybe, against all the predictions, he survives another season and adds another coach to his list of non-believers turned believers — let’s enjoy them before another summer of rumors most certainly comes.
Rubio has brought joy to Wolves fans all over the world. He has been a positive energy through his time with the organization and one of the biggest reasons a lot of viewers have stood strong through the ineptitude. That’s something outsiders cannot identify with when his name is consistently cast around the rumor mill. They will never truly understand what he means to a majority of the fan base when all they can see is his field goal percentage and points per game.
They do not care that the Wolves have a +/- of -1,182 since his rookie season and over that same time span Rubio is +300 (h/t @loseehafer). His defense, and charisma, and ability to make the worst players look competent never seems to matter quite enough.
Rubio represented hope when basketball fans in Minnesota needed it most. He brought smiles back to Target Center as chants of “Ole! Ole! Ole!” filled a packed arena at the beginning of his career. A certain buzz returned upon his arrival, an aura that had been absent since Garnett’s last days in the house he built.
Six years later, Rubio’s improvements are subtle but he’s undoubtedly better now than ever before. His last two seasons have brought his two best true shooting percentages of his career (.529 and currently .530) and indicate he has found a way to become more efficient offensively (boosted by a high free throw rate). His flaws are well documented and he’s most certainly not a top point guard in the league, but for many of us he’s our point guard and winning with him would mean something much different than winning without him.
Anyone can attempt to predict what the future might bring but for now Rubio has survived another deadline, and the one thing abundantly clear to me is that Wolves Nation is very happy their Spanish Unicorn was not traded.