Ricky Rubio Is Worth Your Attention

January 7, 2010

by Jack Maidment

Fans have never watched him play and yet many, simple and plain, dislike the kid.

Why?

Because Ricky Rubio jilted the NBA.

He broke the rules and people are just not happy about it.

It’s a lot like the hottest girl at school getting stood up at the prom. Feet will be stomped and screams will be heard.

The NBA fan has had it good for so long that the Rubio Denial (trademark please) could only elicit one response from the people:

Ron Burgundy: ‘Don’t you know who I am?”

It’s the NBA Ricky. Nobody says no.

You just got asked out by a robo-babe. A super hot Baberaham Lincoln and you said no.

This is inconceivable for an American centred NBA fan, but if you take an international perspective, why would he go (young guy, already making millions of dollars, in the country of his birth)?

Eventually he will go, but his reception will be frosty. At least at first. And then he will play, and everything will change.

Because the talent that Ricky Rubio exhibits now, as a 19 year old, is unbelievable; and he is only going to get better.

In the world of media hype it is easy to wave that assertion away. So many players get blown up young, only to ultimately fail, so why take note of the boy from Spain?

Just watch him play. Go on. The internet makes it easy.

Go to ACB.com, figure out the Spanish and eventually you’ll find streams of full games. Click on Regal Barcelona, Ricky’s team, and enjoy the performance of a truly exciting and raw player who will eventually make a monumental impact on the NBA.

His most recent, an 87-65 victory over Bizkaia Bilbao, showed why Rubio deserves the attention of basketball fans around the world.

I challenge you. Watch him play and tell me you don’t love his game. If you love the game you will, guaranteed, love Ricky.

On one play he crossed his man, drove to his right, drawing the attention of the entire defense, before no-look passing over his head to his big man cutting from the left wing for the dunk.

Words do not do it justice.

The way that he sees the court and the resulting plays that he makes look so easy, he makes you go ‘ooooooooooooooooooooooooh’ like you would after really, really cool fireworks.

His offense earns so much praise, especially on fast break, that his D is entirely forgotten about. That is a huge injustice for a player who exhibits way above average hustle, desire and ability when defending.

His 6’5 body allows him to be physical with the smaller guys while his speed and quick feet make him a total pest. Rubio is a serial stealer. Over and over again. Steal. Fast Break. Awesome Pass. Points.

If you are an NBA fan, watch him play and then imagine how good he could be with super-athletic wing players running the break with him.

Hold that thought.

Now tell me you aren’t compelled to send an email to your team’s GM demanding he make a trade for Ricky Rubio, even if he wont be playing in America for at least a year and a half (his contract allows him to be bought out at the end of the 2011 season for a manageable $1.4 million).

He will eventually elect to make the pilgrimage to the NBA and when he does the jilt will be quickly forgotten.


The Sophomore Six: NBA’s Best Second Years

January 6, 2010

by Jack Maidment

Every year a whole host of new players enter the NBA as rookies. They are drafted and immediately thrown in at the deep end of pro basketball.

For one year they are under the spotlight.

But come the season’s end, the promise of the next NBA Draft guarantees a shift in the limelight to the next batch of freshman hoping to make an impression.

The annual process of the Draft, all hype included, effectively relegates second year players to the media wilderness.

With that in mind it is worth checking in with the NBA’s sophomore talents who are still trying to establish themselves in a League with a relatively short memory.

What up second years?

Derrick Rose

Chicago’s future has been hampered by the frankly awful play of his team. Yet, despite the Bull’s inability to anticipate the offensive hole left by Ben Gordon’s defection to the Pistons, Rose has done everything he can to help his struggling team. His assists (5.8) and rebounds (3.6) are both slightly down on last year but these drops have been supplemented by an increase in scoring, up 2 points on last year’s average.

Along with the play of Joakim Noah, Rose’s development is about the only bright spot so far for Chicago who need to get the young man some help.

Michael Beasley

Scoring, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals. All are up on last year and “Be Easy” is showing the kind of improvement that you would expect from a #2 pick.

Pat Riley said that Beasley could become the greatest offensive player in the NBA and in occasional flashes we gain a glimpse into that possible future. Occasionally he is as unstoppable as his GM wants him to be, providing Wade with an extremely capable sidekick.

It is to be great consistently that Wade’s second fiddle needs and his improvements this year, despite an ‘interesting’ pre-season, have shown that he is and will be worth the trouble.

Eric Gordon

All his stats are up this year which would suggest that Charles Barkley’s assertion that Mr Gordon is a stud is only looking stronger. He averages 17.3 a game this year, playing against shooting guards who are invariably taller than him but rarely stronger or quicker.

Every four or five games he will score 25+ giving Clippers’ fans hope that the tandem of Gordon and Blake Griffin (should he play some when) could do damage in the realtively near future.

As long as they get a new coach. And The Curse stays away.

Brook Lopez

His team stinks so bad that the Timberwolves and Bucks now look like basketball behemoths on the same court, but there is a reason why New Jersey Nets should put down that shotgun: Brook Lopez.

His averages this year, 18.6 points and 9.6 rebounds, have confirmed the inkling that started to manifest last year that this guy could be really, really good. Or at least a great complementary piece on a really, really good team.

Imagine how much worse the Nets would be as a team and as a prospective free agent landing pad without Lopez.

Sure they suck this year, but without him their prospect of signing anyone worthwhile next summer would be cut in half. At least.

With him their turnaround could be rapid: Nets win the lottery, take John Wall. Sign LeBron who wants to play in Brooklyn for Jay-Z. Sign Chris Bosh who wants to play with LeBron and actually win.

Starting five of Wall, Harris, LeBron, Bosh and Lopez.

I’d take that to the Conference Finals right now.

Kevin Love

Kevlar (thanks Bobbito Garcia) has been so good this year and you didn’t even realise it.

You probably knew that last year he was a rebounding beast who led all rookies in anything to do with getting the ball of the glass.

He averaged 9.1 rebounds a game last year. He now grabs 12.3. Sorry to do the math for you, but that’s 3 boards a game more than last year. Just wow.

Combined with a 4 point increase in scoring (11.1 as a rookie, 15.2 as a soph) Love has improved more than anyone anticipated.

In fact, if there were an award for Sophomore Stat Leap of the Year then Love wins now. Regardless of what he does the rest of the season.

He’d also win the You Said I’m Overweight, Fuck You award. Catchy.

If only his Wolves weren’t so bad.

Danilo Gallinari

If you get drafted #6 overall, ahead of Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez and Jerryd Bayless and you happen to be white, God help you. You inevitably get the ‘White guy in top 10’ hype/scepticism.

As if that wasn’t enough hype to kill, Antoni calls you the best shooter he’s ever worked with. Nash, Nash, Nash. Enough said.

So he is hyped. And he has/did have/almost certainly will have a dodgy back. But hell, he’s here now and, whisper, he’s actually pretty good.

There is no doubt the Italian can shoot. 14.6 points a game in what is effectively his rookie year testifies to that.

And he can rebound, pulling in 5 a game. Not bad, huh?

He has been licensed to shoot what appears to be as much as he wants and as you might expect he’s a little streaky. Some nights he plays like the player Antoni believes in so fiercely. 26 versus Miami, 29 against Phoenix etc. The next night he can’t hit a barn door.

But. It is basically his rookie year. And, considering the hype, Danilo Gallinari is performing admirably.