Let me try this: "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there... with Ricky Rubio in a Wolves uniform!"
If only it were that simple. But, as Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn has said for months, Rubio will be here this summer. When asked by the Star Tribune's Jerry Zgoda in late January, Kahn said he remains "absolutely" certain that Rubio will be here very soon.
My initial thought is: what else should Kahn say? The truth is that team executives lie to us a lot. Think of the many times you've heard "They are the best team we've seen this year or [insert coach's name here]'s job is safe." Look at what new Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson said as recently as March 17: "I'm staying at Missouri, and that's the bottom-line."
But when Kahn continually states "absolutely," he couldn't be more certain. And when the Wolves recently used a radio spot promoting early deals on season tickets for next year, they voiced the line "More Rubio sightings." They are not hiding the idea that they are very sure that he is coming.
Because he has to make a decision before July 1 -- the presumed start of a lockout -- is one reason the Wolves believe that Rubio will be here. Keep in mind that he will have to reportedly pay $900,000 of his $1.4 million buyout. And if the lockout lasts for a lengthy period, he could lose money in the short-term and, more importantly, miss out on a key developmental period because there will be no interaction with the coaches, no summer league games/practices, a potentially shorter training camp, etc.
In a recent interview with Spanish sports publication Marca, Rubio was quoted as saying, "If I had to leave (Barcelona) at any time, I would talk to the club and the NBA franchise, which is currently Minnesota." A senior member of Rubio's camp -- his agent, Dan Fegan? Hmmm -- said in January to the New York Times: "The bottom line is, why would he want to play in Minnesota? He’ll continue to say all the diplomatic things, and Minnesota needs to keep his value up for trade purposes, but the family’s preference is to be on the East Coast, specifically New York, Miami or Boston. He wouldn’t be troubled if he has to stay another year.”
But then on Monday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Rubio has informed the Wolves that he is open to coming before next season. So, who's bluffing? What’s true, and what’s not? We don't know, and that's the problem. Based on his public comments, albeit mostly to the Spanish media who have a biased interest, Rubio has never definitively said that he will sign with the Wolves this summer, but he's also never said that he doesn't want to be in Minnesota. In other words, we have no idea what is going to happen. So why are the Wolves so confident? Obviously, they have to spend a lot of time talking to Rubio, but is it dangerous for them to take him at face-value? For the sake of maintaining his trade value, is there any other option besides confidently stating that he will be here? Does that even matter when multiple teams would presumably make offers for him if he's made available?
If the current collective bargaining agreement rookie stipulations continue, it will make financial sense for Rubio to stay in Spain for one more year because he wouldn't be tied to the rookie salary scale starting with the '12-'13 NBA season; thus, he could sign a larger first contract. Logic suggests that won't be the case with the new CBA, but Rubio might be willing to roll the dice.
Just like the day the Wolves drafted him, it just seems that there are more questions than answers about his future.
"State Farm is there... with protection from our ticket-buying fanbase backlash!" might eventually have to be Kahn's next public statement.