NBA Sunday: Ricky Rubio Still Can’t Score
Ricky Rubio Still Can’t Score
After two years of dilly-dallying, Ricky Rubio is finally coming to the NBA to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted him in 2009. But his decision to come to America and start for an NBA club isn’t too big a mystery considering he lost his starting job for FC Barcelona last season, and he lost his starting job for FC Barcelona because he couldn’t score the basketball.
So far, in the 2011 EuroBasket tournament, things haven’t really been all that different.
Through seven EuroBasket games, Rubio is averaging 1.6 points in 17 minutes of action. In the team’s most recent matchup against Germany, he didn’t score at all.
As if that weren’t disappointing enough, just read what Spanish teammate Pau Gasol told ESPN.com’s Mark Woods: “I would like to have seen more of an improvement, more of a difference than he made.”
That hurts, but perhaps not half as much as Rubio could potentially hurt the Minnesota Timberwolves next season if he doesn’t start figuring out how to score the ball. Obviously, any NBA team has room for a young point guard with the kind of court vision that Rubio’s got, but the ones that really succeed on the next level always exhibit some sort of proficiency shooting the ball. Rubio doesn’t have that. He doesn’t appear to have even an iota of that.
The Wolves are a team that has been looking for some positive momentum since before Kevin Garnett was even traded to Boston. Kevin Love has worked out beautifully, and the Mike Beasley trade definitely leaned in Minny’s favor, but they’re putting a lot of faith in Rubio to be the guy that pushes them back towards playoff contention. If the way he’s played in the last year, both at FC Barcelona and at EuroBasket, is the way he plays in Minneapolis next season, it doesn’t look like that will be the case.
He’ll pass the ball well, and he’ll play solid defense. Those are things he does well. And he’s certainly exciting to watch in a way that not a lot of players are (think Jason Williams his rookie year in Sacramento). But a player has to score the ball, and Rubio is doing everything he can to figure out how to do that.
“A player knows which part of his game is best and which are his strengths,” Rubio said. “Sometimes you have to put these things at the team’s disposal to win the game, and that’s what I do.”
Remember, too, that even though it’s been two years since he was first drafted, this is still a young kid that’s about 70% potential compared to 30% experience. There’s a long way to go and plenty of time to get there, but that doesn’t mean the scoring issues are any less disconcerting.
Minnesota just hopes that, long-term, he gets those scoring issues figured out so he can be the player they thought would help save the franchise.
Haslem Pretty Confident About the Lockout
All summer long, I’ve been asked by just about everyone I know, “We gonna have an NBA season this year?’ I’m the guy who writes for HOOPSWORLD, so I’m the guy who’s supposed to know. And you know what I told all of them?
There was no way to know with neither side really talking to each other, and it was even harder to feel any sort of optimism. The two sides were going to wait each other out until games really started looking like they’d be at stake.
Well, now that it’s getting close, the two sides are talking for real. We already know what kind of optimism Roger Mason has that a deal will come together, but with more serious negotiations on the horizon this week, Miami’s Udonis Haslem is starting to feel pretty optimistic as well.
“It could be a big week,” Haslem told the Associated Press. “Compared to how much progress we’ve made in the past to now, this is great progress. We haven’t really been able to have a conversation. There’s been a lot of yelling, stuff going on. The fact that we’ve made some progress right now is a positive.”
The tone over the course of the last week has been suspiciously positive, and that’s certainly much better than having the two sides pouting over how much they’re not willing to compromise.
“Both sides want to get a deal done. So that’s a good thing,” Haslem said. “At least both sides want to get a deal done. And I feel comfortable, confident that we will.”
Starting on Tuesday, the two sides will reconvene with larger groups, and on Thursday both the NBPA and the owners have meetings setup to brief the gang on what’s been happening in negotiations. In other words, there are going to be a lot of NBA people getting together next week to make sure this thing continues moving along.
“If you hear that one side doesn’t want it and the other side is kind of iffy, I’d be like, ‘Oh, what’s going on?’” Haslem said. “But the fact that both sides want to get a deal done, the way the season ended last year with the ratings being so high in the playoffs and the way our story ended, the story line is already written for next season if we have one. It’d be a shame if we didn’t.”
But we’ve already established that. We know what a shame it would be. Seeing optimism from an increasing number of people in the league makes it seem as though that shame might not have to actually occur.
If nothing else, it would certainly be nice to know what tell people asking about whether or not there will be a season. “We’ll see” is so unsatisfying. Something like, “Yes, absolutely” would taste a lot whole better.
Brazil & Argentina Punch Tickets to ’12 Olympics
There is a lot of attention right now on EuroBasket 2011, especially with teams like Spain and France absolutely dominating the ranks, but there’s another big Olympic qualifying tournament going on right now in Mar Del Plata, Argentina, where Central and South American teams are battling for a couple of their own 2012 Olympic bids at the FIBA Americas tournament.
Not surprisingly, Brazil and Argentina are the last two teams left standing, and they’ll play for the championship later Sunday. Argentina, led by San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili and Houston’s Luis Scola, toppled J.J. Barea’s Puerto Rican team in the final moments of their semifinal game, while the Brazilians did away with Al Horford’s Dominican Republic team.
Regardless of who wins, however, the tourney had two Olympic spots up for grabs, and the final two teams are the ones who get them. That means Brazil and Argentina will join the U.S. (who won last year’s World Championships) and the top two teams from EuroBasket 2011 in London next summer.
Britain (the host nation), Australia (the Oceanic champion), and Tunisia (the African champion) are the other three teams that have already clinched berths in the next Summer Olympics. Soon, we’ll get two more from EuroBasket and one from the FIBA Asia Championship, which leaves three more spots open for the Olympic tournament.
To determine who those last three teams will be, FIBA will hold a last-chance tournament in July of 2012 a few weeks before the Olympic Games begin on July 28th. While it’s not certain which teams will get into that tournament, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are locks for an invitation.
Angola (the African runner-up), Nigeria (the African third-place team), New Zealand (the Oceanic runner-up), and Venezuela (FIBA Americas fifth-place team) will also be invited. Throw in 3rd through 6th place from EuroBasket, and you’ve got yourself the field that will play for the final three Olympic spots.
But we’ll have to wait several months to find out how that group gets rounded out. In the meantime, it’s nice to get a picture of what the road to a gold medal will look like for the U.S.