Where Art Thou Rubio.
That’s what I changed my profile signature to in 2017 after the Wolves’ former brain trust decided to move on from Ricky. I sat there totally dejected in my Northeast, Minneapolis apartment trying to find the right words to properly say goodbye to the Spanish Unicorn.
I wasn’t ready to move on from the player who played such an integral role in shaping my fandom. I wasn’t prepared to embrace the idea of another point guard, let alone Jeff Teague for $57 million. The trade hurt for a variety of reasons, including the realization that leadership (Tom Thibodeau) was about to blow everything up for short-term success.
A part of the basketball me died the day Rubio was finally voted off Wolves island, not because he was perfect, or ultimately the best point guard to lead the revival, but because he was perfectly Wolves—an infectious underdog, a special leader, supremely skilled, unquestionably imperfect, laced with flaws, dynamite in both the best and worst ways.
Ricky was uniquely OURS. There’s nobody like him, and that’s why I’ve always loved him.
Even if Rubio’s departure felt inevitable years ago, seeing your favorite player leave town is never easy to digest. I watched him grow up in Minneapolis, just as I was growing up in Minneapolis. I’ve dreamt about his return for years if only to see how everything would go the second time around.
The national media always said Ricky was never going to come to the North in the first place. He did...though Bill Simmons never drove from Los Angeles to Minnesota to see it. After being traded away from his first NBA home to Utah, Ricky would never return. That was the prevailing notion. Running the show as a Wolf at Target Center, once again, was merely a pipedream.
On 2020 Draft Night, Wolves President Gersson Rosas took advantage of an opportunity to add talent at a discounted rate. In the process, he axed down those assumptions.
The return of Ricky is real. He’s back.
For a lot of diehard Wolves fans, that’s the kind of news that reinvigorates interest in the franchise. The Spanish Unicorn is set to return to the place it all started, and his passing acumen and defensive prowess should compliment D’Angelo Russell in the very best of ways.
#1 pick Anthony Edwards is coming to a theater near you, as well, and if we’re talking about elite mentors across the league, Ricky should be in the conversation. There’s a long list of coaches and players who have spoken glowingly about the guidance and positive influence he offers on the court and in the locker room. This team was in desperate need of that.
Rubio’s next task is to help pave the fractured path he once walked, and this time around the focus won’t be squarely on every step he takes. His return will be about fostering the young talent and developing a culture of accountability. The Wolves need that captain in the locker room. Every team needs someone to inspire.
Rubio can do that.
In a perfect world, he will help unlock the untapped skills of Karl and D’Angelo and the collection of young Wolves yearning for a little bit of wisdom.
In other words, Ricky’s second act in Minnesota is all about dishing out his most delicious assist yet. Maybe he’ll change our faces along the way.