Ricky Rubio a throwback point guard
"When I was a kid, I heard Magic Johnson say one of the greatest sentences: 'A basket makes one guy happy. Assists make two guys happy.'" -- Ricky Rubio
Whether it's his intention or not, Ricky Rubio has set out on a journey to re-revolutionize the way the point guard position is played in the NBA. His mindset on the court and style of play dictate as much.
Some will say that Rubio's inability to score enough or shoot well from the field indicates that he doesn't belong in the pro game in the U.S. However, those stats won't tell his story.
Rubio's memory of Magic's words, which he brought up at his introductory press conference in Minnesota on Tuesday morning, perfectly sums up the attitude he has on the court.
When he plays, he rarely looks out for his own glory, almost to a fault. And in today's game -- in which fast, athletic point guards like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook can score a high volume of points -- that's certainly unique.
According to HoopData.com, the average point guard in the NBA attempts 8.0 field goals in 23.1 minutes per game. In the 62 games Rubio played between the Spanish League ACB (including playoffs) and Euroleague, he averaged just 4.75 attempts in 21.6 minutes every night. In fact, he attempted only eight or more shots in a game nine times.
He shot just 31.5 percent from the field (37 percent on 2-pointers), but it's not like he was shooting a high volume of shots on any given night. Instead, Rubio looks to set up his teammates.
He plays the way point guards used to in the NBA: Bring the ball up the court, run the offense and set your teammates up to score.
"The goal of this sport is team wins. It's not an individual sport," Rubio said. "If I wanted to play individual, I'm going to play tennis or something like that. But it's a team."
The beautiful thing about the NBA and its positions is that there really isn't a set way to play the game. You can have shooting guards who initiate the offense and put the pressure on the defense by driving to the basket, or you can have guys running around screens on the perimeter, trying to get open for jumpers. You can have big men powering their way through the post, or setting up on the elbow and dissecting a defense with an accurate jump shot.
So when Rubio enters the league as a pass-first, pass-second, shoot-third point guard who is trying to set his teammates up for the exciting highlight play, we shouldn't necessarily assume it's because he doesn't belong in this league. When he steps onto the court for the first time, he'll immediately be one of the best passers in the NBA. He has an otherworldly ability to find teammates, and he does so with a lot of flair.
And because of that, Rubio will be at the forefront of the basketball discussion in just his first NBA season.
Along with the point guard duties of a battered franchise, Rubio will be saddled with the responsibility of continuing to bring the excitement to his team every night. According to Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski, the Timberwolves have sold 530 season-ticket packages since the team announced Friday that Rubio would be joining them this season. Minnesota is now up to 7,000 full season-ticket packages sold, the most since the 2004-05 season.
At the moment, the addition of Rubio can't just be measured in wins and losses. Before the Wolves can return to being a playoff team, the basketball culture in this franchise has to change. Rubio, along with 2010-11 All-Star Kevin Love, gives them the best opportunity of accomplishing that in a short amount of time.
Rubio is going to bring that next big excitement to the NBA and its fans, whether they're rooting for him or not.
Hopefully, that excitement makes his teammates as happy as he wants them to be.
Zach Harper is the host of ESPN.com's Daily Dime Live. Follow him on Twitter.
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