Rubio ‘Heats’ up chilly Target Center


HANG TIME MIDWEST BUREAU — Sombreros are wrong on a couple of levels. First, it’s a little shaky to reduce anyone’s ethnic heritage to an article of clothing and a clichéd one at that. (There, HTB’s political correctness obligation is officially met.)

Second, and more pertinent, the big, floppy brimmed hats that dotted Target Center Friday night are a product of Mexico. Ricky Rubio is an import from Spain.

But a little misdirected enthusiasm – along with the “Ole! Ole!” calls – was understandable given the excitement and the circumstances Friday night in Minneapolis. Rubio, the much ballyhooed No. 5 pick from the 2009 NBA draft for whom Timberwolves fans had waited two years, had the locals en fuego and the mighty Miami Heat in trouble. For a while, anyway, in the Heat’s 103-101 victory.

In only his third NBA game, Rubio scored 12 points with 12 assists and six rebounds – the first Minnesota player with a stats line like that since Sam Cassell in 2004. He ran the Wolves’ attack in nearly 31 minutes off the bench. Hit a pair of 3-point shots among his 4-of-7 shooting. Dazzled the joint several times with uncanny, casual reckless (for most guys, at least) passes that generally found their marks – except for that costly fling past Wayne Ellington, out of bounds, in the final minutes. It was one of Rubio’s five turnovers.

Rubio’s ability to ignite both his team and the Minnesota crowd earned the ultimate respect late, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s beat writer, Jerry Zgoda:

Most telling about his presence already: The Heat put LeBron [James] on him near the end of the game and double- and even triple-teamed as the game progressed, trying without much success to get the ball out of his hands on pick-and-rolls.

Said [Heat guard Dwyane] Wade: “I knew he was good from the Olympics, but he’s gotten even better. He’s mastered looking you off and making the pass. The kid has something. He has that Steve Nash capability. They have a gem in him. He’s going to be great for them.”

Who knows? In time, Rubio might even match Cassell’s notorious cojones dance and big-game moments, on top of his double-double capabilities.

Getting guarded by James is only the latest test thrown at Rubio here at the start of his NBA career. He faced Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in the season opener (and frankly got into Westbrook’s head a little). The next night it was Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings, who had battled with him in Europe a few years ago.

In Minnesota’s next two games, Rubio will face Dallas’ Jason Kidd and San Antonio’s Tony Parker. A few days later, he’ll get measured against this season’s No. 1 pick, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving.

In other words, Rubio can pass but he cannot hide.

“Oh yeah, he’s a rookie and he has got a lot of hype,” Wolves assistant coach Terry Porter said the other night in Milwaukee. “[As] a veteran you want to go at him and see what he’s made of. That’s part of the process. That’s the initiation, so to speak, to the point guard-hood of the NBA.”

The challenges for Rubio will be coming from within as well. The Miami loss marked Minnesota’s second consecutive game with 25 turnovers; if Rubio gets moved into the starting lineup in place of Luke Ridnour anytime soon, he’ll bear more of the burden for clean-up there. It also was the Wolves’ 18th consecutive loss, a skid that – thanks to the lockout – stretches back to March 11.

But the game Friday also was Minnesota’s second consecutive sellout. It also was the first time since 1991-92 that the Wolves maxed out the house in their first two games of the season. Target Center was only a year old then, the Kevin Garnett era was still four years away and Aussie center Luc Longley was that season’s prize import.


  1. D Lion says:

    Man, Minnesota sure landed a good PG. A double-double off the bench, and he would’ve led the Wolves on to beat the Heat if they’d done better @ the foul line. Out of all the teams that didn’t get off to a +.500 start, T-Wolves are the most respectable because they played 3 games, 2 of which were against undefeated Miami and OKC, and they sadly lost all 3, but only by a collective total of NINE POINTS. If they can keep this up, then Minnesota will make their presence known in the already wild west.

    Btw I am a Trail Blazers fan, and the NW division needs some more competition! I’ll always be a Blazer, but go T-Wolves, just to make it interesting.

  2. wackies25 says:

    some of you talking nonsense.. Ricky Rubio looks good during the MIAMI HEAT and OKC team.. why? cause Ricky Rubio likes to be challenge with great players playing in the NBA, namely Lebron, Dwade, Durant, Westbrook and he want to impress the media and the fans that he can compete with those superstar.. He has competitive pride which is good and a national team player after all..

  3. Daniel says:

    Mexican sombreros/hat in Spain?? Yes, a lot of tourists who think we use that kind of hats. We never used that, never.
    I love Mexico! But we are different in a lot of things… Really journalists in USA are so ignorant that they can’t put Spain in a map? Really?
    We are at the other side of Atlantic Ocean. Ricky Rubio, is from Badalona, a city near to Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain. Good sun, nice beaches, a lot of history, delicious gastronomie, 2 hours by car to France,,,, Pau & Mark Gasol are from here also.

  4. Fact says:

    After All Star Break, that’s the time to judge the rookies for their performance.

  5. Antonio says:

    Spain is not Mexico!!! Spain in Europe!!! Puffff!! study geography my americans friends!!! The world is more than only US.

    Saludos desde España!!!!

    Ricky es Dios!!!

  6. Jazzhood says:

    I must say my predictions about Rubio were far off. I thought he was going to be a scrub for sure. He is a great player

  7. ricky rubio has that charm that fans can’t get enough of i’m sure the franchise won’t have a hard time selling their tickets when this hot nacho is on the floor.

  8. Armin Halvadzic says:

    OK so he had a nice start. That’s cool and I like seeing him do well . But please let’s not talk about him as one of the best pg’s in the league. I think he’s gonna do well but sometimes I feel he’s overrated.

    • Mie again says:

      Really? Where did I read before that Rubio is overrated? You probably also join the group that think that Barea is much better, right? Let’s see Rubio in six years (Lebron’s age, BTW –not saying he will be as good as Lebron, though. I am not that crazy-) and we will see the real rating of Rubio. But, in my humble opinion he demonstrated yesterday that he is close to be already one of the best pg in the league. How many of them so far have had a double-double, for instance?

  9. ACC says:

    He is Pistol Pete Reborn minus the Pistols long range bombs.

  10. Larian says:

    I think the wolves is still one move away from winning games. They are exciting to watch, but it won’t be fun anymore if they kept on loosing, it will back them up to square one, I just think people missed the point of a ball game, it’s about winning.

  11. John says:

    I know this is out of place but i think it’s a good place for a start. Rubio ain’t spanish or spaniard. He’s catalonian, catalonians doesn’t bullfight, they dont speak spanish, they dont wear sombreros, dance flamenco or anything u had in mind about spanish.

    • Matthew says:

      You are correct in saying he is catalán, but he is also Spanish. Just like a Minnesotan is American. He speaks catalán, but he also speaks castellano (what you would call Spanish). Being catalán does not preclude someone from being Spanish, too. Most catalanes don’t want independence. And to be sure, Rubio loves playing for the Spain national team. 😉

  12. Blackmamba24 says:

    Ricky Rubio will be a bust, mark my words, a bust.

  13. Random says:

    Edit: meant to say more of a Mexican than Spanish thing as opposed to solely, but you get the idea.

    And still, how in the hell did KG’s T-Wolves not sell out the first two home games?

  14. Erice says:

    Love this Kid and he going to make some amazing plays and makes Minnesota a challenge for any team and there the team to watch for in 2012.

  15. Edward Baker says:

    I should add that the first time I saw Ricky was some four years ago. Joventut, the team he came up with, was playing Real Madrid and in the warmups Ricky was shooting twenty footers. He missed every one and it was clear that this child, who already was a magician when he put the ball on the floor, was utterly clueless when it came to shooting a basketball. My impression from Madrid-Barça games last year is that there wasn´t much improvement in that area. However, this is an enormously dedicated and intelligent kid, and if he learns to shoot, which to a degree but only to a degree is a natural talent, he has a chance to be one of the all-time great point guards in the history of the NBA. He´s that good.

  16. Edward Baker says:

    Two years ago I though that Ricky Rubio was making a mistake by going home to Barcelona, because there was nothing more that he could learn in Spain´s ACB. I was only half right. It´s true that the Spanish game is mostly half court and almost completely unsuited to his talents. Ricky thrives in the open court, which he sees and reads about as well as anyone in the game, and if he doesn´t now, at age twenty, he will very soon. However, if I was half right I was also half wrong. It would have been a mistake to take on the NBA as an eighteen-year-old point guard with deficient English, who knew next to nothing of substance about the United States and life in the NBA. Today, two years later, he is better prepared to take on that challenge, both physically and mentally. This is the beginning of what will prove a very long and illustrious career.

  17. Sebastian B. O. Buniontoe says:

    I live in Minnesota. Our state bird is the Loon. We elected Jesse “the body” Venture as a governor and Stuart Smalley as a US Senator. Are we racist? No. Are we ignorant? Perhaps.

    It appears Ricky’s home town of El Masnou, Spain is renowned for carnations amongst other notables. Perhaps a Spanish bullfighter’s montera would be more appropriate?

    But we do have basketball history, why else would a team named the Lakers even exist (we have 10,000 lakes or so).

  18. Ferran says:

    I can’t understund why Ricky didn’t play at this level in Barcelna. He is plaing very well in Minnesota and is doing a incredible things, why he didn’t do all this in Barcelona???

    • Jake says:

      It’s all about the supporting cast and style of play. Ricky’s job in Barca was to simply bring the ball up and give it to JCN. And when he did break things down, he had very few guys that are anything close of quality finishers near the basket. Ricky has always played an NBA style game, he just was stuck in Euro ball instead. Now he has guys that can jump out of the gym and that can run the floor better than any league in the world….a supporting cast and style that fits Rubio to a T. If Minnesota gets better overall from a jumshot angle, they’ll be incredibly dangerous next year. This year will be growing pains….incredibly fun to watch though.

  19. DS says:

    Actually Spanish costumes and especially sombreros are very very similar for both Mexico and Spain. Just google it.

  20. Marc Gasol says:

    Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez should of joined the the wolves!

  21. Pierre says:

    That just proves Minnesota is RACIST. Not Surprised at all. America thrives upon racism.

    • Unknown 2 says:

      So, maybe i’m missing something. But what is minnesota doing that’s racist?

    • Ricky says:

      So, i don’t get it. What is Minnesota & America doing that’s racist? I’m black but i’m not the type of black to blame everything on racism. It’s just an excuse for lazy people.

      • MG20 says:

        Ahh… love to see racial unity. That’s another thing the NBA, and sports in general, are all about. Keep up the positive attitude and greetings from Croatia, where ever you think that may be… 🙂

      • marc says:

        I would just call it ignorance over racism. Mexico and Spain have nothing to do with each other. The culture and location are not even close in comparison. I guess the best comparison I could give would be greeting an African American in Russia with Rastafarian jargon or saying Chinese, Japanese and Koreans are the same. Lumping groups of different people as one is a form of racism even if it’s based on ignorance and no ill will is intended.

      • HeatWave says:

        Ricky I find your statement ignorant. a person saying racism is the cause of something has nothing to do with laziness. You should really learn more about your history if in fact you are black and maybe you can understand people better.

  22. Alejandro says:

    Ricky plays against Jason Kidd in Final Olympic’s games and play often against Tony Parker which Spain in National Tems competition, for example in the last final of European Championship

  23. Re: Empire says:

    LeBron didnt hit the defending player head on, he tried to go around the defending player and the defending player just flopped. so stfu cry baby.

  24. beto says:

    man i’m loving to watch Rubio play!
    greeting from Brasil!

  25. Rick says:

    I like that guy, good-looking and playing fluently

  26. Empire says:

    I think poor officiating cost MIN that game. That was a charge by Lebron

    • unknown says:

      regardless of the calls (or non calls in that game)
      the point is that the timberwolves are finally fun to watch again
      the last time anybody in their right mind could say that was over 10 years ago

    • fantajohn says:

      i agree 100%. (+free throws)

    • LOL says:

      No charge considering tolliver wasnt SET. If their not SET it doesnt matter how HARD the foul looked or how far Lebron knocked him back on his butt, its NOT a charge.

      • EWhipple says:

        In the NBA you dont have to be set for a charge to be called.

      • A Real Basketball Fan says:

        wrong, being set is not just standing striaght, being on that defensive position with your body not moving and getting hit like that IS a charge too.

      • HeatWave says:

        @EWhipple, while most officials call it that way now, fact is you do have to establish position before the offensive player leaves the ground. They need to have the officials trained better cause all I see in games are guys running under or into players for a call. Used to be very hard to get a chargeing call.

    • Rockets says:

      I agree horrible officiating, Miami sucks