Rubio finally joins Wolves

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 2, 2011 - 8:19 AM

The point guard signed a contract almost two years after the Wolves drafted him, and will come over when the Spanish playoffs are done.

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Ricky Rubio

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Yes, he will.

A winding, often secretive 23-month saga over whether Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio ever will play for the Timberwolves is over.

Rubio on Tuesday signed an NBA contract to play with the team next season, a league source confirmed Wednesday night to the Star Tribune.

A news conference introducing him two years after he was drafted will be held when Rubio's European season ends later this month.

Rubio signed May 31, the last day he could secure a contract for next season under the terms of the league's current labor agreement.

By doing so, the 20-year-old potentially guaranteed himself millions of dollars more than if he waited to sign under a new labor agreement, whenever that might come.

The current agreement expires July 1 and NBA owners are seeking major financial concessions from players in difficult negotiations that could total hundreds of millions of dollars.

Thus ends the team's pursuit to sign a teenage sensation who seemed reticent to play in cold, snowy Minnesota when the Wolves selected him fifth overall in the 2009 draft.

So long was their pursuit that Kevin Love late Wednesday night tweeted this: "Ricky Rubio huh? I'll believe it when I see it."

Hours after he agreed to play for the Wolves, Rubio and his Regal Barcelona team advanced to the Spanish league finals by sweeping their semifinal series.

He scored seven points and had three rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes off the bench, a role he has played throughout the Spanish playoffs because of a foot injury that has since improved.

Rubio's signing is a major achievement by embattled Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn, whose first draft move on the job was selecting Rubio in June 2009. Kahn then took another point guard, Jonny Flynn, with the very next pick, sixth overall.

Rubio declined a chance to join the Wolves after Kahn traveled to Spain multiple times and negotiated a buyout with Rubio's DKV Joventut team. By NBA rules, the Wolves could pay only $500,000 of what then was a multi-million-dollar buyout option.

Rubio chose instead to accept a transfer to Regal Barcelona, which was not limited in paying off the buyout money. He signed a five-year deal with Regal Barcelona that allows him a $1 million-plus buyout option after this season. Rubio's agents are believed to have been negotiating endorsement deals with Minnesota companies that will help pay that buyout, after the Wolves contribute their $500,000.

Flynn almost certainly will be traded this month to make room for Rubio, who has played professionally in Spain since he was 14 and whom Kahn has called a "transformational" player.

A pass-first point guard who started the 2008 Beijing Olympics' gold-medal game at age 17, Rubio's career has not developed as expected and arguably has regressed in his two seasons with Barcelona.

Wolves brass, though, is convinced he will thrive in the NBA because he's a point guard who makes teammates better and helps his teams win and because NBA rules will allow him more freedom to operate.

Kahn did not return a message Wednesday night seeking comment. He has maintained all along that he expected Rubio to play for the team, but declined to answer questions about the matter throughout last season, saying he wouldn't talk until "there was something to talk about."

Kahn and other team employees have gone silent recently about possibly signing Rubio at the request of Rubio and his family, who don't want the timing of the May 31 deadline and the signing to disrupt his team's league playoffs.

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