In the least surprising story of the NBA offseason, Ricky Rubio is once again the lead story of the Minnesota Timberwolves in June.
Trade rumors initiated from ESPN’s Ian Begley have linked Rubio to the New York Knicks for what seems like half of a decade.
Begley’s most recent report suggests that members in the Knicks front office would still like to pursue Rubio in a trade with Minnesota.
Rubio is coming off arguably his best NBA season, setting career highs in field goal percentage (40.2%), free throw percentage (89.1%) points per game (11.1) and assists per game (9.1). Additionally, Rubio averaged 16.5 points and 10.3 assists per game on 42.1 percent shooting combined in March and April.
Rubio’s name has popped up once again after an interview with the Spanish website Ara.Cat. In the interview, as translated by Eurohoops.net here, Rubio spoke about his role as a leader within in the organization.
“I feel I have the role of the leader off the court and experience helps me to know how to do it,” Rubio said. “Since childhood, I liked to lead the team. Both on and off the court. I’m not a man of many words, I don’t like to talk much. I prefer deeds, sacrifices and showing that what matters is the team.”
Rubio also expressed an interest in carrying more influence in front office decision-making. He also added that his play in the second half of the season should add merit to his claim.
“Yes, I would like my opinion to have more weight on things that affect the team. And I think that is linked to the performance on the court. My second leg of the season gave me more power. And I want things to go well,” Rubio said.
These comments describe the heart of the ongoing tug-of-war between Rubio and the Timberwolves front office, specifically Tom Thibodeau.
Rubio has spent five and a half seasons in Minnesota as the team’s starting point guard, showing steady progression each season. Sure, there are weaknesses in his game, but he has been a leader and run the offense smoothly — despite playing for four different head coaches — without a hint of negative off-court behavior for his entire career. He believes that deserves further responsibilities in building the franchise into a contender.
Meanwhile, Thibodeau’s rebuilding plan doesn’t seem to include Rubio at all. He drafted Kris Dunn with the fifth overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft presumably to take over for Rubio when the time is right. New Rubio trade rumors have sprouted on what seems like a weekly basis since Thibodeau took over.
Moreover, Thibodeau has consistently hinted at the “Big 3” — Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine — as the cornerstones of the franchise. If any player or players will have a hand in front office decisions, it will probably be one of them, not Rubio.
Looking at this more positively, we might infer that his desire to have input (which was in response to a direct question) suggests that he is eager to continue to be part of the project that is the developing Timberwolves. And even perhaps that he expects to remain part of the team going forward.
Is this another relatively meaningless Rubio clicker that is being blown out of proportion? Maybe. But at the very least, this gives insight into where Rubio feels he belongs within the organization.
It doesn’t appear that Tom Thibodeau agrees, but we’ll see what develops.