Archive for the ‘Ricky Rubio’ Category

Choose Your Own Adventure

June 20, 2009

Some teams have all the luck. David Robinson gets injured, the Spurs subsequently have a bad year, end up with the #1 pick – voila, Tim Duncan – 4 titles, thank you very much. The Raptors luck into the #1 pick in the first year that the NBA age minimum takes effect, so instead of getting Greg Oden or Kevin Durant they end up with Andrea Bargnani. Then there is the case of the Memphis (nee Vancouver) Grizzled Bears. Things should be rosy in Memphis – they had the best odds of winning the Oden sweepstakes in 2007. Or if Lady Luck didn’t shine down on them they’d end up with Durant at pick #2, right? Wrong – pick #4 – Mike Conley Jr.

Why is all this relevant now you ask? Well, there is considered to be one prize in this year’s draft – Blake Griffin – and once again the Grizzlies will be on the outside looking in, picking at #2. Which should mean that they can grab the second-best player in the draft and be on their way. It’s not so easy though. The player many consider to be the numero dos player in the pool, Ricky Rubio, doesn’t want to play in Memphis. Whether this is due to a dislike for funky soul music or for the King of Rock N Roll is not known, but what is known is Ricky’s people are saying no to him playing in Graceland.

Which brings us back to a simpler time in history. The year was 1999. Hip hop music was still alive, but on life support. We all were sitting around waiting for the certain Apocalypse to come once the clock struck 12:00am on January 1st, 2000. And the Grizzlies were located up in the beautiful, cosmopolitan city of Vancouver. The Grizzlies were allergic to winning during this time (some things never change) and, due to this, had the second pick in that year’s draft. They grabbed the dynamic guard out of Maryland, Steve Francis. Big problem. Being picked by Vancouver made Stevie very, very sad. He was going to be homesick way up there in Vancouver. Plus, he claimed God didn’t want him to play there. Obviously the Grizzlies couldn’t argue with that and, with their hand being forced, shipped Steve to Houston for spare parts.

So the situation with Rubio is not virgin territory for the Grizzlies franchise. Turns out Francis wasn’t worth the trouble – whether Rubio is will be answered in a few years. But the Grizzlies say that if they determine that Ricky is the player that they want they are going to take him with their pick, agents be damned. Which is commendable – teams shouldn’t be held hostage by players or agents refusing to play for them. But, on the flip side, shouldn’t players have a say in where they will play? The rest of us normal Joes get to decide where we want to earn a living – no one tells your mom which street corner she is allowed to work (sorry – low blow) – so why can’t the truly gifted do the same? Yes, to be a professional athlete is a privilege and players should feel blessed to be able to have that job, regardless of where they are assigned to play. But, do you think a doctor or lawyer feel blessed to be able to do their job and would be willing to practice it wherever they randomly were assigned? No – they know they have their job due to busting their butts through school and have earned the right to live and work where they choose. And an athlete has earned their job by busting their butts on the playing surface of their choice and in the weight room.

So, despite enjoying the NBA draft immensely, I believe it should be eliminated. If we live in a free market society then athletes – just like everyone else – should be free to sell their wares to whoever they choose. But this would cause fatal damage to the most important thing in sports – competitive balance – you argue. Not necessarily. Teams are still bound by a salary cap and a limit to the number of players on their roster, so all the top available prospects couldn’t all join the same team to form a superpower. Plus, all players have different agendas and priorities in terms of their career. Shockingly, winning isn’t the most important thing to all ballers. Many guys would rather play loads of minutes on a crappy team than limited minutes on a contender. And to further prove that all players have different preferences, Rubio would rather play for Sacramento than Memphis or Oklahoma City. Apparently he sees something positive about the Kings that is lost on the rest of us. Plus the ego of many players would not allow them to play second fiddle to anyone, especially another rookie. So the salary cap, player preferences and most importantly EGO would ensure that all top players wouldn’t form like Voltron on the same team.

But, all this is is a Utopian dream that will never come true. So, in the meantime, what should Memphis and Rubio do? I say they both do what is right for them, which is what any of us would do if put in the same situation. So save your hate for Memphis or for Rubio and his agents – it is not their fault, it’s the systems. Besides, who can really stay mad at a face like this?

Don’t Believe The Hype

June 13, 2009

As the Lakers continue their inevitable march towards a title, and, subsequently, force me to admit that Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players of all time, strangely my thoughts have turned to the NBA draft. Actually, it probably isn’t that strange, considering the other sites I write for and the radio stations I appear on consider me a “draft expert” (why I couldn’t become an expert on something more profitable is beyond me). Unfortunately this year’s draft is not just weak in terms of talent – its also lacks many interesting storylines or intrigue, besides where the most exciting player in the draft, Ricky Rubio, is going to end up. Well Brandon Jennings just made things a whole lot more interesting when he screamed out DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE.

In case you are too lazy to click the above link, Jennings has declared that Rubio is all hype and that himself, along with several other American point guards, are better than the Spanish sensation. BJ also went on to say that he can’t wait to play Rubio in summer league. Now Jennings has given this year’s draft some much needed flavour, just like his choice in hairstyle added spice to last year’s McDonald’s All-American Game.

The fact that I disagree with Jennings is beyond the point. In fact you’d be hard-pressed to find many NBA GMs or draft experts that would select Jennings over Rubio in the draft. But to succeed in anything – especially in sports or the arts – you have to have a good deal of confidence and ego. And the whole lead up to the draft – with the workouts and interviews with various teams – is nothing more than a job interview for the prospects. So it would be pretty stupid for Jennings to state that he thinks that another player – let alone another point guard – is better than he is. But, nonetheless, to come out as vehemently against Rubio is quite surprising. Yes, Rubio is a product of lots of hype, but he can back it up with his play, on both ends of the court. Whether it is in the Euroleague, the Spanish pro league (ACB) or in the Olympics, Ricky has excelled as a teenager playing against grown men.

Who the better player is of the two isn’t the real point here. The point is that Jennings has thrown down the gauntlet and has sparked what could become a long running rivalry. The NBA is a league built on head-to-head matchups, but most of them, with the exception of Kobe vs Shaq back in the day, involve combatants who not only respect the other player, but are friends with him off the court. You very rarely get players badmouthing a rival nowadays so truly tense rivalries are hard to come by. All the hugging, chit-chatting and camaraderie among opponents on the court in today’s NBA eliminates alot of the drama and intrigue from the game. If the players don’t seem to care too much about the proceedings, why should we as fans? That is why I wasn’t upset by LeBron storming off the court after being eliminated by Orlando this year. Sure it was poor sportsmanship, but at least he showed that he cared and wasn’t willing to be buddy-buddy with his executioners. Hopefully Jennings and Rubio can bring some of that passion and bad blood back to the game.

So lets hurry up and get these playoffs over and get the summer leagues going. Then we can see if the Rubio hype is real or if don’t believe the hype will be a sequel.

Future’s So Bright

May 20, 2009

I know I probably should be talking about the thrilling Lakers-Nuggets game from last night, but, to be honest, I didn’t watch it. When you have to get up at 6:00am everyday, most playoff games end too damn late to watch (wow – what an old man comment that was). No, I’m here today to talk to you about the NBA draft. Besides, the future is always infinitely more interesting than the present. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side concept comes into play here.

First of all, condolences to Blake Griffin. A player with his skills and strong character shouldn’t have to start his career off with the Clippers. To follow in the shoes of Michael Olowokandi, Darius Miles and Shaun Livingston is every ball-bouncing youth’s dream come true. And to top it off, he gets to learn the ropes of his position and the pro game from none other than Zach Randolph.

Maybe Griffin will end up being a martyr for future pro prospects thinking of declaring early for the draft. Beware or you might end up a Clipper.

But the player’s fate that I’m most interested in is the player who make the young girls’ (and GMs‘) heart aflutter. A heartthrob and rock star on the level of Pistol Pete (minus the brooding). None other than the cutie pie below.

But Ricky does more than just make the girls swoon. He’s also the most exciting player in this year’s draft, an 18-year-old who had the label “Next” placed on him years ago. His ball-handling and passing ability is otherworldly, and he is a magnet for steals on the defensive end. And we need to make sure he gets drafted by Oklahoma City.

Why Oklahoma City you say? Because with Rubio on that squad they would become must-see-tv. A terrifically exciting – and flawed – team playing in relative obscurity. A backcourt of Rubio and Russell Westbrook – both undersized defensive menaces with no jump shots – would be like watching a summer league game all season long. And on OKC it wouldn’t matter that Rubio isn’t a shooter or scorer – that is what that Kevin Durant kid is for. And if the thought of one of the best young passer/playmakers in recent times dishing to the best young gunner in the League on a full-time basis doesn’t turn your crank then maybe its time to get a new crank.

It doesn’t appear that the Clippers will get in our way of making this dream a reality – they have stated that Griffin is their man. Now we have to get Memphis on board with the plan. We have to convince the Grizzly Bears that Mike Conley Jr. is the second coming of Zeke. And that O.J. Mayo is a very capable backup point guard. And that Hasheem Thabeet is Dikembe Mutombo resurrected. Even Ricky would probably prefer to play in Memphis, considering fellow Spaniard Marc Gasol is there. But trust us Ricky – we know what’s best for you.

I know – we have hard work ahead of us, but pairing Rubio with Durant is worth every bead of sweat. Together I know we can make this dream a reality.