Rubio To Stay In Spain
Some day in the distant future, when Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and LeBron James are considered over-the-hill, the Washington Wizards may regret having traded the rights to the No. 5 pick in the 2009 NBA draft, which eventually turned out to be Spanish phenom Ricky Rubio. But the time to second guess Ernie Grunfeld for using that selection to acquire Mike Miller and Randy Foye from Minnesota will have to be on hold until at least 2011 because Ru-Ru-Rubio won't be coming to the NBA this season or next season.
ESPN.com and Yahoo! Sports are both reporting that Rubio's former club, DKV Joventut, agreed to trade his rights his Regal FC Barcelona, which worked out a buyout with Rubio worth a reported $5.28 million. Barcelona also signed the 18-year-old Pete Maravich look-alike to a six-year contract that won't allow him to leave until the summer of 2011. Even then, there still is no guarantee that Rubio will be able join the Timberwolves. The move gives some closure to the greatest soap opera in the NBA this summer and puts more egg on the face of a Timberwolves franchise that has been dealing with blunder upon blunder in recent years (the Joe Smith fiasco, firing Flip Saunders, trading Kevin Garnett).
David Kahn, the Timberwolves' president of basketball operations, was in Barcelona in hopes of getting Rubio to play for Minnesota this season. Kahn, Rubio's agent, Dan Fegan, and Joventut President Jordi Villacampa had dinner over the weekend in hopes of freeing Rubio but NBA rules only allow teams to pay $500,000 toward a buyout (Rubio's buyout was worth $8.13 million for both this summer and next summer). Kahn said all along that he was willing to wait two seasons, if necessary, for Rubio to play for the Timberwolves. Minnesota drafted Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn with the sixth pick as an insurance policy.
I know that Grunfeld was a fan of Rubio, but can you imagine how disastrous it would have been for the Wizards to have a 19-win season, get the fifth pick and wind up with a player who couldn't come to the United States for two years? Try explaining that to someone like Antawn Jamison, who would be 35 and entering the final season of his contract at that point.
A league source told me this summer that Grunfeld was well aware of the difficulty in getting Rubio out of his outlandish buyout and into an NBA uniform this season. That, combined with Fegan's apprehension about having Rubio play alongside Gilbert Arenas (which suddenly is no longer a concern) made it imperative for Grunfeld to get something for that pick right now (although few expected Rubio to slip all the way to fifth).
The only question now -- which can be answered somewhat this season -- is, did Grunfeld get enough for No. 5? Either way, it's really not worth debating Foye and Miller vs. nothing this season. Grunfeld did what he had to do to make the Wizards competitive while Arenas, Jamison and Caron Butler still have something left to offer the franchise.
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