Ricky Rubio (with David Kahn, Wolves president of basketball operations) on the significance of his jersey number: “I’ve worn No. 9 since I was a kid. It means a lot to me. … There are a lot of things where nine is important in my life.”

Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

Souhan: Wolves' history of blunders rains on Rubio's parade

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN
  • Star Tribune
  • June 22, 2011 - 1:44 PM

David Kahn sat at a table inside Target Center. To his right sat a promising 6-3 point guard. The Wolves boss introduced the young man, a few reporters asked questions, and the event quietly wrapped up in a matter of minutes, without cheering team employees or budding marketing campaigns.

That player was not Ricky Rubio. That player was better than Ricky Rubio.

That player had started 46 games in the NBA, had averaged 12.4 points, 5.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 2008-09 against the best players in the world, while Rubio last season, in Spain, averaged 6.5 points, 3.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds and lost his starting job in the playoffs.

That player was Ramon Sessions, whom we didn't care much about then and care less about now. After watching the way the Wolves have feted and marketed Rubio, Sessions should sue for neglect.

Tuesday morning, the point guard sitting to Kahn's right was indeed the mysterious, ethereal, mythical Rubio, the young man whom we are supposed to believe fills win columns without filling up boxscores.

"He has that 'it' factor," Kahn said.

Either that, or Kahn is so desperate to salvage the 2009 draft, to find a guard who can lead his collection of talented underachievers, that he's projecting all of his hope onto the skinny shoulders of a kid who might not be any more ready for the NBA than Jonny Flynn was.

Introductory news conferences have always been fairly ridiculous, because for a day we judge the arriving athlete not by his résumé but by his composure behind a microphone. Flynn sounded pretty good, too, upon his arrival, and now the Wolves would trade him for Billy Ray Cyrus concert tickets.

Tuesday's affair, and the circus surrounding Rubio's arrival, has bordered on bizarre.

Last year, the Wolves spent the fourth pick in the draft on Wes Johnson, an accomplished, talented player from Syracuse. He didn't receive this kind of treatment.

Now the fifth pick from the 2009 draft shows up after two disappointing seasons in Spain, and the Wolves send legions of team employees to bolster the crowd greeting him at the airport, give him a tour of the city, and hold a news conference on the Target Center floor to accommodate the media horde.

The Wolves are treating Rubio like Paul McCartney even though he has the résumé of Pete Best.

Rubio should learn something from this. He should learn what it means to be a Wolf.

His Spanish team demotes him; the Wolves promote him.

Rubio arrives in Minnesota a few days before one of the most important drafts in franchise history to find that no one knows who will coach him, given that Kahn did nothing to clear up the mystery surrounding lame duck/incumbent/scapegoat/coaching candidate Kurt Rambis.

This is how the Wolves roll: Quickly downhill.

This is also why the Wolves are the most intriguing losing franchise in the history of Minnesota sports. There is always an air of mystery and behind-the-scenes unrest surrounding their most important moves. They create hope even more often than they demolish it.

Rubio arrives with the Wolves contemplating the highest draft choice in franchise history.

They will select second Thursday, and only the re-drafting of Ndudi Ebi could prevent them from landing a dynamic player.

They could select Derrick Williams, a fine shooter and explosive leaper. If the Cleveland Cavaliers surprise the basketball world by passing on Kyrie Irving, Kahn says the Wolves will take him, regardless of their glut of point guards, and that would be the right choice, taking the best player available.

When I jokingly asked Kahn how Williams and Rubio will play together, he began answering, caught himself, gave me a look and seemed to hint that he considers Williams less than a sure thing.

That was probably a typical pre-draft smokescreen, but who knows? If Kahn's this enamored of Rubio, he could be considering trading the second pick, maybe for a backup center in Spain with lots of hair and a really cool accent.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. •

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