Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Introducin’ The Universe’s Most Electrifying Creature, Micky Mubio

Bring this alien to the Earth. When you consider the NBA being the Earth of basketball, outside of this Earth is, you know, outer space filled with non-NBA ballers. And the Universe’s most electrifying creature is Ricky Rubio (el chico de ESP), a hoops 17-year-old phenom. No, I don’t count him as the best basketball player in the Universe, just the best creature. I mean, you know, creature. A thrilling, eye-popping, what’s-he-doin’? creature. You blink once and you miss what he’s doing on the court. Like fullcourt-pressing like a speeding bullet. Like hustling in a play that’s 95-percent lost and can’t be retreated. Like holding the ball on the floor and being under teammate’s crotch in a pose that’s beyond intelligent description at the very same time. Just look at that picture above. Unreal. He’s freakishly creature-ish. And I want him in the NBA. In 2009-10, he won’t end up being a Spur, but I can live with that. I just want him in the fold, hoping he can last there for some 20 years, retire at the age of 38 with a look of ancient Barbarian. Marvelous. Heck, I can’t wait. Really! 2009 Draft, where art thou? (By the way, the notion that he might be picked by the new-look Knicks seems interesting, but my gut feeling has him headed to Maloofs’ Kings. Sorry, the city of Sacramento, but that would be the scenario which has only one happy-crazy ending - RR and the Kings relocating to Las Vegas... and creating the buzz that has eluded the Kings since the glory days of Bibby-Christie-Peja-Webber-Divac quintet.)

Some facts about RR:

Ricky Rubio; born October 21, 1990 in El Masnou, Barcelona (In fact, he’s the first 90’s child who’ll be in the NBA! Am I that old?!?); is a Spanish professional basketball player. Considered a child prodigy in basketball, Rubio became the youngest player ever to play in the Spanish ACB League, arguably the top domestic league in Europe, on October 15, 2005. The 6-3 tall Rubio is playing the point guard position for Joventut Badalona in both the ACB and the Euroleague, which is regarded as the world's top professional club annual basketball competition outside of the NBA.

Displaying amazing talent and maturity despite his young age, Rubio is commonly regarded as the best European guard prospect since Drazen Petrovic. Due to his scoring dominance and creativity, Rubio has been compared to Pete Maravich (Have you seen those youtube clips?). Former NBA guard Pepe Sanchez, who at the time played at the point guard position for ACB rivals Unicaja Malaga, made this comment in a February 2007 interview for a Euroleague profile on Rubio:

*I think he's a freak of nature - being so young and being so skilled and also so cool all the time. You can see that he knows what he's doing. He's not playing out there with pros based only on his talents. He knows the game and he can only improve. I think he'll be a great player. It all depends on him, but I personally think he's going to be great.*

Despite his notability, he is being carefully shielded from excessive media attention. Joventut and the Rubio family have agreed that he will not be available for interviews until he turns 18. Rubio was featured in SLAM Magazine in April of 2007. In the piece, the author noted that he considered him to be the best non-NBA player in the world and compared him to Magic Johnson (I don’t think that’s the best comparison out there. The best comparison I can make is to compare him with a current NBA player. RR is the next Rajon Rondo (unbelievable, that’s another RR! the gods gotta be kiddin’ me!) but even a little bit faster and, of course, wilder and sicker).

Rubio made his Euroleague debut on October 24, 2006, versus Panathinaikos of Athens. He displayed extraordinary maturity as Joventut's backup point guard for Elmer Bennett. He lead the 2006-07 Euroleague regular season in steals, averaging 3.2 steals per game, although playing in only 19 minutes per game. He also averaged 2.8 assists per game (assists are awarded more stringently in the Euroleague than in the NBA).

In August of 2006, Rubio led the junior Spanish national team to the FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship. During the tournament (excluding the final game), Rubio achieved two triple-doubles and one quadruple-double (!!). In the 110-106 double overtime finale victory over Russia, Rubio scored 51 points (including a three-point, buzzer-beating shot from mid-court, to force the first overtime), grabbed 24 rebounds, made 12 assists, and stole the ball seven times, a performance unprecedented in the tournament's history (Wait, that was NBA Live game? Was it, right?). Rubio also was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament after leading it in points, rebounds, assists and steals.

The young Spaniard has been selected to take part in the Spanish National Team which participates at the 2008 Olympic Basketball Tournament in Beijing, China. The team, after its five preliminary games, has a very good chance capturing some medal.

Here’s a very good ESPN Mag’s piece about RR:

Sure, you're still tingling about the NBA draft, but it's our job as responsible journalists to … launch the buzz for next year's! Introducing Spain's Ricky Rubio, basketball's best-kept secret. (Oops.)
by Chad Nielsen

The best point guard you've never heard of walks through the streets of El Masnou, a seaside village 10 miles outside of Barcelona. His dark eyes hide behind a mop of black hair. He rocks Tupac on the Nano, but his drooping shorts are more skater than hip-hop. At 6'3", Ricky Rubio is tall enough to stand out in Spain, but this spring morning, among the whitewashed walls of his hometown, he's just another 17-year-old high school senior on his way to take final exams.

That night, though, Rubio is in nearby Badalona, the home of DKV Joventut, Spain's small-market hoops factory. On the floor, the third-year pro disrupts passing lanes and creates plays that don't make the stat sheet. Several times he even outpositions 7'1", 280-pound Marc Gasol for rebounds. When Pau's younger brother lays him out with a vicious elbow, Rubio gets up (eventually) and even with a hard drive and an easy dish to a man Gasol has left open. No wonder Rubio is an open secret among NBA scouts.

So why haven't you heard of him?

Because no one was talking. The kid never spoke after games nor gave one-on-one interviews; neither his club nor his parents allowed it. The Rubios turned down million-euro endorsement deals to keep their superstar son's life as regular as possible. And scouts kept quiet about the Spanish Pistol Pete Maravich to avoid the NBA's hefty fine for commenting on underage prospects. Rubio lives in a bubble, but it is decidedly about to burst. As soon as the 2008 NBA draft ended, Ricky Rubio officially became one of the hottest prospects for 2009.

Rubio was 12 and hardwired for hoops when he joined DKV Joventut's developmental program in 2002. "He reads basketball at a velocity very few can achieve," says Marc Calderon, his U14 coach. One year later, Rubio made his Spanish pro debut. The rest awaits you on YouTube. Even in grainy videos, his elegance and court awareness show clearly. Watch him chase a loose ball, toe the sideline and fake the obvious pass before flipping a no-look, behind-the-head fling to a teammate streaking to the rim.

It's okay, you can swoon a little—like the crowd of teenage girls who begged for snapshots and signatures after a recent road game in Valencia. Or the Western Conference GM who calls Rubio "a tremendous talent," then stops to make sure the rest of his comments are off the record before gushing for five more minutes. An Eastern exec cites the NBA fine before dropping this bomb. "He's the European LeBron James," he says. "He's not so crazy strong, but he does other things: the creativity, the Maravich-type stuff. He brings people out of their chairs, and he'll put them in your stands. He's a top-three pick."

So far, the bubble has kept Rubio from the hype. His is a double life: high school everyboy by day, hoops Jonas Brother by night. Even as pressure has mounted from sponsors, the team and the league to let Rubio be heard, his folks have resisted. But now Ricky has been chosen to play on Spain's Olympic team, and that will be that. Everyone is about to find out about Ricky Rubio.

His first press conference was convened in early June. Earlier in the day, Rubio sat on his bed under a Michael Jordan poster. He praised Chris Paul and Lamar Odom, lamented the NBA's emphasis on the individual and blamed poor team play for USA's international struggles. "Basketball isn't one-on-one," he said in his native Catalan. "It's five-on-five, plus the bench."

Switching to effective if blocky English, he explained how he lulls foes into thinking they have a passing lane before closing in for another steal. No, he's not ashamed to resort to trickery, not even when playing Parcheesi against Laia, his 11-year-old sister. "If I'm losing, I'm going to do everything possible to win," he said. "I do the same thing on the court." He spoke of practicing no-look passes and emulating moves he saw in videos of Maravich. "If I can do some magic, I do it." Over and over, Rubio reminded the listener that he's 17, going so far as to spin queries about his NBA future into a case for the value of higher education.

Yeah, right. Four big-market European clubs have already offered him NBA-type money, up to 2.5 million euros (nearly $4 million) after taxes in the first year. But Rubio is too competitive to pass up the chance to play night after night against the world's best. Why else would he have spent half of June in LA, working with a shooting coach hired by his stateside agent, Dan Fegan?

Then, just before the draft, Rubio left the country unnoticed, like any normal kid.

Probably for the last time.

Now, the last thing - why I wrote Micky Mubio instead of Ricky Rubio in my blog title? Because, thanks to our BAFS buddy George, we call him Micky Mubio. (Roughly four years back, we were sitting in my living room and George announced the *Guys, have you seen the kid named Micky Mubio doing tricks?* line. It turned out that George didn’t keep his correct name in mind. That’s why RR is a actually MM for us.)


*Spain-Croatia 8:30AM (my land time)
Location: my house
Participants: me & my sister
*Lithuania-China 10:45AM
Location: SPURROOM
Participants: me & my BAFS buddies
*USA-Australia 2:00PM
Location: an anonymous bar
Participants: me, Valdes & any girls over 18 who are interested in deciding who’s more cute - Americans or Aussies
*Argentina-Greece 4:15PM
Location: our weekend cottage
Participants: me & my dad

p.s.: Another staggering number from the (ESP-USA) box score: The fast-break points were listed as 32-0. *First time I've ever seen that happen,* said Carmelo Anthony.
p.s.2: Chris Paul played with the ball like a magician flashing a gold coin. (-Charley Rosen)
p.s.3: Jorge Garbajosa played like a stumblebum. (-Charley Rosen)
p.s.4: Carlos Boozer: *D-Wade's like Flash. We've got him, we've got Superman, we've got King James. I mean, we've got a comic book over here.*

Posted by Foreigner in CS - Aug 19 2008 8:50PM


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