Playing against team USA would always be special. It would be a time where players get their red pen and encircle their calendar for that special date. This is the time where players share the same stage against the biggest superstars in basketball and Ricky Rubio has been waiting for that chance since the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted him in 2009 as their fifth overall pick. He never got to play a single game in the NBA because of his ongoing contract in DKV Joventut in Europe and Minnesota negotiated a buy-out which was settled to a lesser amount but Ricky decided to stay in Europe trying to hone his skills and be ready when the 2011 NBA season opens.
Spain played against team USA on a tune-up match last Sunday and Ricky displayed maturity beyond his years. He played very good defense, pressuring the backcourt and played with crafty passes including a pass on a driving Felipe Reyes to put Spain on its first lead in the game with 90 seconds remaining. He was always a pass first point guard and even at 19 years of age he was already a veteran playing professional basketball while he was still 14 years old.
He went toe to toe with Derrick Rose and was able to hold his own against him though Rose had the edge of their matchup when he drove to the basket against the out stretch arms of Marc Gasol with the clock winding down. The Americans escape with a precarious one point lead after Kevin Durant block two attempts on the dying seconds in regulation. It was a non bearing game but it delivered a strong message… USA is beatable.
Ricky Rubio already encircled the date they will face the US in the world basketball championship in Turkey. He knows this would be a bigger stage, a bigger lime light that requires a bigger performance. Ricky knows that if the right buttons are push anything can really happen. He was always ready for the big stage and that’s why long before he was drafted he is already NBA ready. He wanted to play but he also wanted to let the hype died down. He knows people are giving him a lot of expectations an extra baggage where it was heavier for an 18 year old rookie to carry. All he needs are just two years to make him more ready. Regardless of the outcome in Turkey, somewhere down Minnesota, along an oversize chair… the 40 something David Khan is smiling.
He was glad Rubio made that decision in extending his stay in Europe and next season he will be reaping the fruits of his labor.