Wait and see for Wolves on Rubio
MINNEAPOLIS -- Four days after Ricky Rubio was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves, it appears that the teenage Spanish sensation has become the most wanted man in the NBA.
Executives across the league are flooding Timberwolves president David Kahn's office with calls offering trades to bring Rubio's slick passing skills and moptop hairstyle to their cities. In the Twin Cities, fans can't wait to see the highlight factory zipping behind-the-back feeds to Al Jefferson and Kevin Love.
But Rubio's availability for the upcoming season has been cast into doubt by a $6.6 million buyout of his contract with DKV Joventut in Spain. His agent, Dan Fegan, is trying to negotiate that number down to ease the financial burden on his client, and there is some question as to whether Rubio wants to play in the relatively small Minnesota market.
With all of those factors, one would think Kahn is feeling some pressure to resolve the matter.
Kahn is declining comment on Rubio for the time being, preferring a low profile that doesn't ruffle any feathers in the Rubio camp. But in his comments after drafting Rubio, Kahn made it clear that there is no hurry.
"The last thing we needed to do was be demanding and assertive. Not now," Kahn said. "I don't know how this is going to play out. There could be a lot of twists and turns. But I don't feel any self-imposed pressure that this needs to be resolved or concluded in any short fashion."
One of the biggest reasons many general managers believe Rubio is there to be had is also the biggest reason why Kahn can wait. The Timberwolves chose another point guard in Jonny Flynn one pick after Rubio fell into their lap at No. 5 on draft night.
The sudden depth at the position gives Kahn plenty of flexibility as the team, and Rubio, approach the murky waters ahead.
• If Rubio decides to play in Minnesota, "he will be the starting point guard the day he walks in the door," Kahn wrote in a letter to Timberwolves fans after the draft. The Wolves get a "virtuoso" who will sell tickets for a team that has struggled mightily in that area.
• If the 18-year-old decides to stay in Europe next season, the Timberwolves can roll with Flynn at point guard and hope that both players improve with big minutes against top competition. That would increase the trade value for both of them heading into the 2010 offseason.
• If Rubio requests a trade, Kahn can afford to wait for the right offer from the right team to bring a strong package in exchange for one of the most marketable players in the 2009 class.
For now, Kahn said there are no plans to trade Rubio or Flynn. He envisions the pair as a backcourt for the next generation, one that can capitalize on the NBA's stricter enforcement of touch fouls on the perimeter while having the versatility to defend on the other end of the court.
"The organization needs to be very patient," Kahn said. "While we ask for patience, we will also tell people that we think down the road these kids will, I hope, prove to be special."
That stance also could be posturing to drive the trade values of both players higher, but as long as Kahn is willing to wait this out, the ball remains in Minnesota's court.
The Timberwolves have not made the playoffs since 2004 and Kahn has said that they are at least two years away from contending for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. So the desperation that often is the harbinger of bad deals is nowhere near the Twin Cities these days.
"We're starting to I hope accumulate value, not just in the form of players, but draft picks and cap room, that's valuable too," Kahn said. "So yeah, I like value."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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