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Ricky Rubio

The NBA’s biggest surprises, halfway through the season–Part 1

There are only three teams over .500 in the Eastern Conference. Lance Stephenson is somehow not just a rotation player, but a…great one? I still barely know who Lance Stephenson is. The casualty list of serious injury to franchise cornerstones is higher than usual: Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Russell Wesetbrook, Chris Paul, Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez and Al Horford, amongst others. Derek Fisher is still getting major minutes for one of the best teams in the league.

It’s been a weird NBA season. Very weird.

Somehow, we’re almost at the halfway mark of the year and I’ve been astounded at every turn. Just to round up how we’ve gotten to where we are, here are some thoughts on some of the biggest surprises of the year:

The Brooklyn Nets are getting better, but have generally been pretty horrible

Pretty easy to summarize: a ton of injuries + a bad coach = a bad team.

However, what’s most surprising is how none of us saw this coming. Even this prestigious blog predicted the Nets would finish third in the Eastern Conference. I would have locked that in knowing just how completely barren they are of competent teams east of the Mississippi. Most of us figured that adding the defensive monstrosity of Kevin Garnett, the late game shot making of Paul Pierce and adding pieces like Jason Terry and Andre Kirilenko to the bench would make this one of the toughest, most physical teams in the league.… Read more...

Waiting for Ricky — Minnesota Timberwolves Season Preview

Starting Five:  PG Luke Ridnour, SG Brandon Roy, SF Andrei Kirilenko, PF Kevin Love, C Nikola Pekovic

Key Bench Players:  PG Ricky Rubio (out until December-January), F Derrick Williams, SF Chase Budinger, G J.J. Barea, G Alexey Shved, C Greg Stiemsma, PF Louis Amundson

Notable Offseason Additions: SG Brandon Roy, SF Andrei Kirilenko, SF Chase Budinger, G Alexey Shved, C Greg Stiemsma

Offseason Losses:  SF Michael Beasley, C Brad Miller, SG Wayne Ellington, F Anthony Randolph



The Minnesota T’Wolves were one of the biggest surprises in the NBA last year.  A team most considered to be bound for the Lottery were actually a .500 team thanks largely to a new coach and the emergence of two players, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.

A 6-foot-10-inch power forward brute, Love blossomed in his fourth season as a legitimate MVP candidate, a consistent 26 point/13 rebound low-post beast who had added a lethal step-back 3 to his offensive repertoire.  Love also spent the Lockout playing beach volleyball and eating a “Zen diet,” which helped him lost 25 pounds, enabling a previously plodding forward to move around on the court with much more ease and addressing what had been one of his major weaknesses: conditioning. 

While Love’s trimmed-down physique was a revelation, the T’Wolves became must-see TV thanks to a rookie, wunderkind Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio.  Rubio had been touted since age 15 as a Spanish Pistol Pete, a tall guard with floppy hair and an absolute wizard with the ball.  Most American fans saw him for the first time in the 2008 Olympics, when, as a baby-faced 17-year old, he more than held his own in the Gold Medal Game in the 2008 Olympics. 

Drafted in 5th overall in 2009, Minnesota fans had to wait two long years as Rubio played out his contract in Spain.  Rubio’s first two games were ho-hum, but he was frontpage news by the third game of the season with his 12-point, 12-assist, 6-rebound effort against the Miami Heat in a narrow 103-101 loss.  In January, Rubio averaged 12-points, 9-assists, 5-rebounds, and over 2-steals per game, and pleasing fans across the country with the complete package of passes: no look, through the legs, line drives through the defense.  In February, Rubio’s numbers dropped slightly, to 10-points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and over 2-steals per game, but the Wolves kept fighting and were winning as much as they were losing, with the other players embracing Rubio’s willingness to share the ball and hit the open man.  Minnesota was Must See TV for any hoop head.




On March 7th Minnesota were 21-19, in the playoff hunt and looked like a young team finding its footing and poised to have a strong finish to the season.  Then, late in 4th quarter, Rubio’s knee buckled and he went down in a heap, taking the T’Wolves playoff chances with him.  It was a torn ACL for Rubio, and he is scheduled to return sometime in December or January.  The Wolves went 5-20 the rest of the way, and to add insult to injury, owed their first-round pick (10th overall) to the New Orleans Hornets.

The T’Wolves biggest area of weakness last year was the perimeter, with Minnesota getting almost no production out of the shooting guard and small forward position.  GM David Kahn addressed that this offseason, acquiring Chase Budinger from Houston for a first-round pick, signing former Blazer Brandon Roy and former Utah Jazz swingman Andrei Kirilenko, as well as Russian guard Alexey Shved.
Former Blazer guard Brandon Roy briefly retired from the professional basketball due to a nagging knee injury, and will attempt a comeback this year.  Early report
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The Life and Times of Timberwolves GM David Kahn

David Kahn is the General Manager for the Minnesota Timberwolves. This is Kahn’s fourth career; he began as a sportswriter for the Oregonian newspaper in Portland, then moved on with a law degree to working for the prestigious sports law firm Proskauer Rose. After several years working as counsel for the NBA, Kahn took an opportunity to work within one of its franchises as an executive with the Indiana Pacers. I’ve read conflicting reports about Kahn’s role; some say that he worked directly under President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh as General Manager, but that he was mostly involved in the business development side of the Pacers (and their arena, Conseco Fieldhouse), rather than player acquisition or movement. Whatever the case in his somewhat murky employment history, Kahn went on to gain employment under Glen Taylor and his Minnesota Timberwolves, taking over for NBA Hall of Famer and former Wolves GM Kevin McHale.

Kahn’s 3-year stint as GM has been, to say the least, somewhat rocky. Caught in a rebuilding movement amidst the trade of franchise cornerstone Kevin Garnett, Kahn was charged with molding the team’s future starting from the ground up. Some of the incumbent Timberwolves were forwards Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes (both obtained through dealing Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics), Kevin Love, 2nd year man Corey Brewer and a bunch of other guys. Other than that, the foundation was Kahn’s to create.

Over the next few seasons, his decisions bordered between questionable, confusing and idiotic. Coupled with an arrogant attitude and a face that belongs to a villain in a Die Hard movie, Kahn and the Timberwolves have quickly became the laughingstock of the entire league. Here is a brief timeline of some of our favorite GM’s more…interesting decisions.

May 2009: Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor hires Kahn as the new President of Baskebtall Operations

Draft night, 2009: In his first public night on the job, the Timberwolves’ rebuilding movement would immediately feature Kahn’s fingerprints all over it; Minnesota had been gifted 3 first round picks that year.

With the 5th pick, Kahn raised eyebrows immediately by selecting point guard Ricky Rubio, a teenage Spanish phenom who everyone knew wouldn’t be coming overseas for at least 2 years. Moments later, with the 6th pick, he selected Jonny Flynn, a 5’11” point guard from Syracuse. 12 picks later, Kahn drew audible laughs from the room and the analysts on ESPN when he chose, yes, another point guard, Ty Lawson (later that night traded to the Nuggets for what would eventually turn out to be small forward Martell Webster from the Portland Trailblazers).

Somehow, Kahn had chosen 3 point guards, two of which were under 6′ tall and one of which that wouldn’t play until 2011. Just to compound the unintentional hilarity of his first summer on the job, he then signed another point guard, Ramon Sessions, to a 4-year, $16 million dollar deal. Even though he would have the two point guards he just drafted still on the team within the life of the deal. Yes, David. Yes.

August 9th, 2009: Kahn hires Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis to a 4-year deal for $8 million. Rambis would be fired two years later, after a 32 wins in a possible 164 games, good for a .195 winning percentage.

Draft Night, 2010: Kahn selects Wesley Johnson, a 23 year-old junior small forward from Syracuse. Left on the board were Greg Monroe, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George, all of which have shown more progressio… Read more...

BQ#12 – Who is Ricky Rubio?

Trust is earned. If you plop into a cab at 3am, smelling like a person who needs a cab at 3am, then you can’t trust the cabbie to take the most direct route to your destination. If you take a leisurely stroll in a suspect neighborhood, you can’t trust the cretins to display a friendly smile. And if you weren’t born in this fantastic country, then you can’t trust hoopheads like myself to give you an objective rooting interest.

There have been too many cab drivers who show you the scenic route, there is too much crime in scary places, and there have been too many instances of Euros getting posterized.

It took a Finals tour-de-force performance from Dirk Nowitzki to earn our trust. It took a couple of deep playoff runs for Pau Gasol to earn our trust (although, he may have just 360ed us after this past year). So who is Ricky Rubio and what has he done?
Why is this a question?

Well, he commandeered the Spanish Under-16 squad to the Eurocup championship, racking up a stat line of 51 points, 24 rebounds, 12 assists, and 7 steals in the title game. In his first Euroleague season, he averaged 3.1 thefts in just 18 minutes per game. That’s all fine and good…only that it’s not. The guys he played against are probably bagging groceries, cleaning bathrooms, or even worse…they still play basketball in Europe. (The Euro game has stepped up in the last decade. But ask me if I care.)

I turned the tube on at some ungodly hour to witness the Redeem Team face Spain in the gold medal game of the 2008 Olympics. As I shed my personal grievances against some of our countrymen to root for Lady Liberty, I, along with the rest of the world, could not take my eyes off of the 18-year-old phenom who played backup point guard for the other team. The final box score will tell you that Rubio’s production was borderline non-existent, but my trained eye fired synapses to my mouth to start salivating.

The kid stood toe-to-toe with the best point guards that America had to offer in Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams. Didn’t crumble, didn’t flinch, didn’t care. Killer crossovers, Magic Johnson-esque passes, and the moxy of a grizzled vet. His performance was so full of potential that I forgave him for not being American.

Post-Olympics? Different story. In the summer of 2010, “The Future of Spanish Basketball” went retro-Euro on us, shooting 28% from the field, including 2 for 17 from distance. He did score 36 points…but reached that total after 9 games. This past season, his Euroleague team accumulated more losses after 28 games than it did during the entire season before.

In a couple weeks, Ricky Rubio will bring his mixed bag to the NBA and debut for the Minnesota Timberwolves. We can only wait to see which kid shows up.

How will this play out?

Brandon Jennings withdrew a commitment to the University of Arizona in order to better prepare himself make more money before entering the NBA Draft. His numbers were poor and his attitude was worse. But after a year, he returned stateside and has given Milwaukee Bucks fans some glimmer of hope (well, at least until he leaves for a bigger market). Granted, he hasn’t been as impressive as the other players from his draft class (Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry), but he’s proved that Euro numbers still don’t mean a thang. Ricky Rubio will erase his below-average numbers and silence his critics with an effective rookie season.

However, I, with all my glorious roundball IQ, still can’t project the success or failure of the Ricky Rubio … Read more...