The stage was quite literally set. A podium, dozens of chairs and several cameras all sat in the center of an arena he’ll be expected to fill. His family sat to the right of an impressive media gathering; his newfound fans perched behind them. The cameras flashed, the mics were on, he took his seat and the world watched.
Ricky Rubio hasn’t played a game yet, but he’s already been hailed as a savior and written off as a bust. It goes without saying that such chatter is premature. Only time will tell and the answer could be neither. But this morning our young man proved himself to be as graceful without a basketball as he is with one.
He’s not worried about the cold, he’ll have heat in his house. He’ll keep his family away from the The Mall and any lecherous tweens away from his little sister. It’s doesn’t matter if he starts, just who finishes; stats can be deceiving and assists make everyone happy. Yup, if only for this moment, Ricky Rubio had all the answers.
So it’s no wonder that we wanted to meet him as soon as possible, we had two years worth of questions. Yet here we are, buried underneath an avalanche of cynicism simply for meeting him at the airport. Or maybe it was supposed to land on the other guy? The guy next to him as he exited customs; as he parted the crowd, making his way to an awaiting limo; as he took the podium this morning. The guy who spent two minutes delivering thanks for his achievement before Ricky even said a word.
Much of this criticism isn’t directed towards Rubio, but his general manager/bounty hunter, David Kahn. This has always been about Kahn. Because he won’t let us forget him. Granted, we wouldn’t let him forget his perceived blunder either, as this became much more than an exercise in schadenfreude. Many people want him to fail and perhaps he will. But for now, he’s proud to have rid himself of such bothersome questions. Rubio is here and will be for the duration of his contract.
Of course he also peppered more questions this morning with his trademarked subterfuge; for every inquiry is an opportunity to subtly seek either credit or leniency, sometimes both. When Rubio was asked how he will handle the pressure of such great expectations, Kahn immediately stepped in to diffuse an unarmed bomb.
“The most recent time that we visited with Ricky and his family in may, he said, ‘I’m worried that they think I’m going to be the savior of this team.’ And I pointed out to him that maybe two years ago that the team as it was constructed then, it might have been more difficult. But with the additions since then-we had Kevin Love-but the addition of Beasley, Wes Johnson, I think it’s a fuller roster of players that I don’t think there’ll be so much pressure as there would have been two years ago. But I do think that we are cognizant of that and to let Ricky be a rookie like any other rookie. It would be very unfair for anybody to walk into a franchise with those very heavy expectations.”
Only then was Ricky allowed to deliver a more suitable answer; he’s been a pro since he was 14, he understands pressure and is ready for the responsibility. Simple enough, no?
However when asked by resident curmudgeon, Sid Hartman, about the Gasol trade rumors, Kahn continued to perplex.
“I hope I’m not having it both ways by suggesting that we need to be patient and allow him to be a rookie, but he also has some very rare gifts, in terms of the way he plays and can organize a team, as he mentioned as a point guard. As you can see he’s also got that something that’s hard to describe, that ‘it’ factor, which also very appealing because I think that we’re in a very star driven league. Stars need to be able to back it up with their play, but I think that everywhere Ricky has been that player. Ricky Rubio will not be traded by the Minnesota Timberwolves. You can go to sleep on it. He’s here for a long, long, long time.”
Yes. You are trying to have it both ways, David. I just hope we can too.
I’m happy Ricky Rubio is here. But I’m also worried about him.