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Ricky Rubio is working out in Los Angeles with NBA players such as Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Jim Mone, Associated Press

Rubio will be ready when called upon

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA
  • Star Tribune
  • November 6, 2011 - 10:52 PM

Six thousand miles from home and perhaps even farther yet from his first NBA game, Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio has prepped in Los Angeles for his new life and new league by scrimmaging with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce by day and -- at least just once -- visiting the city's freak shows by night.

"I like to lead a normal life," the 21-year-old from Spain said in a telephone interview from L.A. on an unusual rainy Friday afternoon, "but I went to Hollywood Boulevard for Halloween and everybody was dressing up and it was fun. It was amazing all the people that were there. I really liked it."

He left Barcelona and the Euroleague far behind and arrived in California last month to train twice a day and play pickup ball with athletes he will call opponents whenever this lengthening NBA lockout ends.

"The best thing I can do is come here, play with the guys who are playing in the NBA and be ready when the league starts," he said. "The best thing I can do is see them play. In the end, it's basketball, you know? But it's different than Europe. I needed to come here so I can feel and I can see and I can watch how to play."

And so Rubio has worked with renowned NBA trainer Joe Abunassar and practiced daily with a rotating lineup of players such as Garnett, Pierce, Danny Granger, Joakim Noah, Shawn Marion, Nick Young and fellow rookie Enes Kanter, among many others.

Nearly two years after he was drafted fifth overall in 2009, Rubio signed with the Wolves in May under terms of the NBA's last labor agreement rather than risk what the new one will look like.

He agreed to a rookie contract scheduled to pay him nearly $3.5 million this next season and decided to leave home last month, rather than stay to train or perhaps re-sign with Regal Barcelona or another Spanish team until a labor lockout that now is threatening to turn really ugly ends.

"Of course, I miss Barcelona, but I need that change because I lived there all my life, for 20 years," he said. "I appreciate all the things that are in Barcelona, but really I need a change and I want to do it big here. I'm only here in L.A. for who knows, maybe one more week, maybe one more month [until the lockout ends]? I don't know.

"I think change is good. My friends from before, my family, all the things I left at home, that change will make me grow and make me feel I'm good enough, feel I am ready."

His father has visited him in Los Angeles, and his mother arrives next week. He'll also return to Minnesota in the next few weeks to search for a place to live.

It will be his first time back since he was introduced at a Target Center news conference in June. During his week here, he played ball with new teammates Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, Anthony Randolph, Martell Webster and others for the first time.

"I really like I what I see," he said. "There are a lot of players almost the same age as me. I see the team growing up together. I think we can improve a lot. There is a lot of talent there. My first two days there, I was with Anthony Randolph and it was amazing throwing him the ball. He would catch no matter where you passed. From a bad pass, he make an assist.

"That will help me play well. I am a point guard. My goal is to get all five players playing the same way, playing together to make them all better. That's what I can do."

The last time he visited, Minneapolis was leafy green and warm.

The next time?

"I know the weather won't be like that when I go back," Rubio said. "I love the place. The people are so nice. I talk with KG, too, and he talked to me great things about Minnesota. He said the crowd cheers very hard for the team. They love the sport. We have to fight to give them what they are waiting for us to do, to win.

"I'm from Barcelona and now I'm in California, so Minnesota will be a big change. In the end, you have your house and you have the skywalks to go through, so that will make it easier for me. I have seen snow before: For a week in the mountains, but for no more than a week.

"But I'm ready, ready to get started, ready to make my dream come true. It doesn't matter the weather. In the beginning, it will be funny. In the end, it will be hard."

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