Editor’s Note: one of our community members — Jonah Dylan — reached out over the weekend and wanted to share some of his post-draft thoughts on the Minnesota Timberwolves, including his feelings on what the return of Ricky Rubio truly means to him (and quite frankly to most of us). Jonah used to write for our friends over at The Daily Norseman and can be found on Twitter at @TheJonahDylan.
Ricky Rubio is coming back to Minnesota.
In the broader NBA world, this surely seems like just another footnote in a long list of trades made during and around the 2020 NBA Draft. Jrue Holliday was traded to the Bucks! Who cares about a deal that mostly involved picks and a point guard who just was traded, like, three or four days ago?
To understand why Rubio is so important to this franchise, you have to go back to when he was drafted back in 2009, a draft that can be summed up with one simple video clip:
Anyways, Jonny Flynn, yadda yadda yadda. There were questions about when or if Rubio would actually come stateside, and he didn’t end up joining the Wolves until 2011, when a lot of people had already written off the pick as a joke. When debuted in the lockout-shortened season, no one really had any idea what to expect.
I was at his debut game. This was one of those Wolves teams that actually represented some degree of hope, mostly because of Derrick Williams. Ok, so I was definitely on the Derrick Williams hype train, but that’s beside the point. From the second he checked in, Rubio was already better than a lot of people expected. He didn’t look out of his element at all, and the flashy passes we’d all seen in highlight tapes were actually unfolding right in front of our eyes. His jumpshot left a lot to be desired, but hey, nobody’s perfect (Steph Curry notwithstanding).
Rubio not only represented hope, but he suddenly made the Wolves a fun team to watch. All due respect, but watching Al Jefferson launch midrange jumpers hadn’t exactly been doing it for me. Tell me the three headed point guard monster of Rubio, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea wasn’t exciting, then tell me why you’re lying.
As the Wolves were consistently a disaster, Rubio was consistently getting better. High draft picks came and went, Kevin Love forced a trade, the Wolves picked in the lottery, Rubio played well. Sure, he never developed into an all-star player, and he was never (gasp!) as good as Curry. Who cares? Rubio was the only beacon on an otherwise dark horizon full of disappointment and despair.
That’s why it was so heartbreaking when he was traded, right before the Wolves landed Jimmy Butler and seemed like a lock for the playoffs. Rubio had done everything he could to take the Wolves there, but was inevitably shipped off to Utah before he could bring the team that drafted him, that invested in him, that loved him to the next level. And, honestly, good for him. That Utah team was all sorts of fun.
Rubio is now just “a guy” in most NBA circles, but let me point this out: the guy has been a starting point guard in the NBA for almost a decade. That’s a pretty darn good career for someone who was written off before he even came to the United States.
All this is to get back, finally, to the point: having Rubio back is special. It’s special because he’s my second favorite Wolves player ever, for one. It’s special because on this cursed franchise, there are so few players who actually stick around for a long time. It’s special because we got to see Rubio, firsthand, growing up both on and off the court.
And, more importantly for those not focused on sappy emotional stories, it’s special because of what it means for the future. For Anthony Edwards to be successful as an NBA player, he needs a situation where he has a veteran leader to lean on for support. When the Wolves drafted him, it was hard to see where that player was. Now we know.
There’s a lot of chatter about Edwards and his similarities with Andrew Wiggins, both on and off the court. I get reading his ESPN profile and trying to extrapolate information to project what his professional career will look like. I understand why you’d question his mentality. And yet…the guy was the #1 overall pick! I’m still in a phase where I fully and blindly trust Gersson Rosas, so yeah, I’m gonna get irrationally excited about this team.
Isn’t that what being a sports fan is all about?
Look, I get that emotions don’t matter when it comes to breaking down tape and crunching numbers. I don’t think it’s really something Rosas and the front office thinks about when they’re deciding on trades or picks (although, to be fair, getting Rubio is a great PR move). But watching the Wolves play is an emotional experience.
I grew up watching Flip Saunders on the sidelines. Watching Ryan with those exact same mannerisms, looking down at the rest of the bench and hitting that famous neck twitch evokes all sorts of old memories. Flip’s final first round pick was Karl-Anthony Towns. Rubio is now the only current Wolves player who played for him. As Dane said here, the Wolves are bonded in the most unfortunate of ways:
Anthony Edwards’ mother was taken by cancer.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) November 19, 2020
Ryan Saunders’ father was taken by cancer.
Ricky Rubio’s mother was taken by cancer.
Karl-Anthony Towns’ mother was taken by coronavirus.
All when they were very young. A sad and unfortunate common bond.
And that’s why it’s okay to take a moment and simply just be excited that we have this team to root for. Whether or not Edwards becomes a superstar, or this team even makes the playoffs, there’s reason to be excited, hopeful and, yes, a little emotional.
Welcome home, Ricky. It’s been too long.