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Continued: Ricky on Ricky: Rubio charms Minnesota

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 22, 2011 - 6:36 AM

Ricky Rubio won't play his first game at Target Center until October at the earliest.

That didn't stop a guy billed as a rare, pass-first point guard from delivering his first winning performance there Tuesday during an introductory news conference in which he was funny, charmy and worldly, all at the grand old age of 20.

In one moment, Timberwolves boss David Kahn cautions not to expect too much from someone so young. In the next, the franchise orchestrated an unprecedented welcome for a new player that included Monday's airport pep rally, Tuesday's televised introduction and gatherings with enthusiastic corporate partners and season ticket-holders.

Here's some of what Rubio said -- in practiced English that was filled both with mistakes and magic -- about a two-year journey from draft night 2009 to Tuesday's celebration, a day many Wolves fans doubted ever would arrive because of Rubio's contractual complications and his seeming reluctance to play in cold, snowy, small-market Minnesota.

• • •

"I wanted to say thank you to everybody but especially to the fans because since I came here to the airport, they came to support me. When I was drafted, they supported me. That means that I made the right choice. Maybe I have my doubts, but thanks to you and thanks to everybody for making me feel easier and feel comfortable here.

"I know that you wait two years to come here. I'm so happy to be here...

"Two years ago, they draft me and basically because of the buyout I couldn't come here. I played two more years over there and after those two years, I was thinking I feel so comfortable over that, I have to stay. We won Euroleague. We won ACB [the Spanish league]. My teammates were amazing. I was so comfortable over there, but Minnesota makes me feel comfortable, too. They supported me. They were happy about my winnings in Barcelona. And I was like, 'Oh, they me over there.' I feel that love over there. I want to give back that love."

• • •

"It's all new. Here there are big expectations. I'm so happy about that. I'm surprised, too. I like it.

The most important thing is that next year I'm going to play for Minnesota and I'm going to try to win. This is a dream come true. And even though the expectations are very big and we might not be able to win the championship like I did over there, but I'm so ready to help the team out and get some wins."

• • •

"I think Minnesota is so nice. I've heard it's cold here in the winter, but I have bought a snow jersey already, so no problem. I'm going to look where I'm going to live. I'm so excited about all that because I've never moved and I will leave my hometown. I have always lived in the same place. It's going to be a big change. Almost all of my family is going to come with me, so they're going to help me, too. I know it's cold here, but there will be heat in the house where I'm staying."

• • •

"My pretty sister, Laia. She doesn't have a boyfriend, but watch out."

• • •

When asked if he'd be disappointed if he weren't the starting point guard on opening night: "I want to finish the game when the game is decided. Whatever the coach wants."

• • •

"I think statistics are good, but sometimes you can make a great game without making stats, to help make the team better. Sometimes the stats don't say how good you are. Or maybe opposite thing: If you make more stats, but your team is losing. The goal is to make the team win. It's not an individual sport. If I wanted play individual, I would play tennis or something like that. But it's a team."

• • •

"I'm going to have pressure but I've been professional since I was 14 years old. When I'm on the court, I only think of basketball. I don't think about other things. It's going to be hard, I know. ... My strengths are I'm a real point guard. When I say a real point guard, I try to make my teammates feel comfortable. A point guard has to be the coach on the court, like what the coach wants. What the coach needs, I try to do on the court. The other thing is, I have to improve at all things: Maybe shooting, dribbling, passing, everything."

• • •

"Thank you," he said, leaning into Kahn's ear after he adamantly said he is not trading Ricky Rubio.

• • •

"I've worn No. 9 since I was a kid. It means a lot to me. I was born in 1990, so two nines there. My town is called El Masnou. The last word is Nou. It means nine in Catalan. There are a lot of things where nine is important in my life."

• • •

"I hope that they [fans who come to see him play at Target Center] enjoy the game because I love basketball and I love to make people like and love it. I want to win the game and do some things spectacular and make them feel like they're watching almost a movie."

• • •

Somebody, of course, asked if he has heard of the Mall of America.

"That's a good question because my family wants to go there. But I won't let them because they're going to take it all. I haven't been there yet, but I want to try. And I'm going to keep my credit card in my pocket."

• • •

"When I was young, I was the tallest one on my team. But coach say you've got to play all positions. I played as center, played as forward, played as point guard. The position I liked best was point guard. I don't know why. Maybe because I wanted to say to everybody where he has to be.

"Years ago when I was a kid, I heard a thing, one of the best sentences ever: Magic Johnson say a basket makes one guy happy, an assist makes two guys happy."

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