Two years ago, when emerging Spanish boy wonder Ricky Rubio first made himself eligible for the NBA Draft, I decided he was going to be my new favorite hoopster, Non-Bulls Division. The Pistol Pete comparisons immediately drew me in, but there's so much more. We both stubbornly keep a Y attached to the end of our shared first name, we both swaggerjacked Conor Oberst's unfortunate haircut, and we both play point guard. Alright, so Rubio's behind-the-back dishes come in front of adoring crowds against Spain's top competition while mine, on their best days, may delight a few local bums surrounding the Wicker Park basketball courts. No matter. The first time I saw Rubio rock a Spanish national team No. 6 jersey with "RICKY" plastered across the back, I was sold.
Let's take it back one step further: in the barren post-MJ landscape of turn-of-the-millennium pro basketball, I adopted Jason "White Chocolate" Williams as my main man. More than anyone else, White Chocolate seemed to embody the ideals of Maravich. Williams' work as the catalyst of the Sacramento Kings was too brief, but his impact was immense, at least in a certain sense. The word 'magician' is overused when describing NBA point guards, but it felt fitting with White Chocolate. Williams glorified creative, almost reckless, passing and forever cemented that style is cooler than substance so long as that lack of substance isn't killing the chances of your favorite team.
If you've read anything about Rubio's last two seasons in Spain, it appears obvious that his rookie season -- perhaps even his entire career -- will be more about style than on-court sturdiness. This doesn't look like the next Chris Paul, much less the next Pistol Pete. Maravich was the greatest scoring college guard history has ever seen; Rubio's jump shot is said to fall somewhere between 'shaky' and 'Rondo'. But in much the same way Rajon Rondo's faults make him *that* much more galvanizing to watch, we hope Rubio will be able to transcend his flaws. If the NBA is driven by individual play (it is), then Rubio represents a shining beacon of hope for 'basketball as fun' and maybe even 'basketball as art'. Being good is so 2000-late.
The trouble with last night's news, that Rubio will accept a buyout from DKV Joventut and join the NBA next season, is the team he's stuck playing on. The Timberwolves own one of the game's great young players in Kevin Love, but he's also unquestionably the most Earth-bound NBA star. For Rubio to shine, and make basketball traditionalists reconsider everything they hold dear, he'll need to run, and be flanked by outstanding athletes as his wings. Right now, that type of player isn't on the Timberwolves.
Don't worry, there's hope. Minnesota holds the No. 2 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, and Arizona's Derrick Williams has been adamant that he's a small forward, not a post-player. The jury is still out on that self-assessment, but if the former Wildcat can prove to be a runner and a leaper in the NBA, Rubio's future looks that much brighter.
Regardless, Ricky Rubio will make the NBA more fun next season. Considering we could be staring straight at a Miami Heat dynasty, it has to count for something. Silver linings may be for losers, but without them, what's the point of following this stuff 365 days a year? With Rubio, there's hope. Hope for Minnesota, sure, but also for basketball fans -- the sport, not just the team attached to your nearest city. He may not rewrite the game as we know it, but a few minor tweaks couldn't hurt.