SAN FRANCISCO - Tuesday's Internet headlines out of Spain again suggested Ricky Rubio's arrival in the NBA very well could be further delayed, but Timberwolves basketball boss David Kahn maintains -- as he has for months -- that he expects the 20-year-old point guard to play in Minnesota next season.
In a radio interview, Rubio said his dream still is to follow countryman Pau Gasol's path to the NBA, but said he might wait another season, particularly if NBA owners lock out players this summer.
Rubio said a lockout would be an "important" factor in making his decision, although Rubio could choose to sign with the Wolves this spring before the league's current collective bargaining agreement expires rather than risk terms of a new deal that could be significantly less lucrative if owners get their way.
Rubio said he will decide his future after this season, which could stretch into June. If he decided to leave for the NBA, he said he'll talk to his current club "and the NBA club, which right now is Minnesota."
The Wolves sent three representatives to Europe to visit Rubio and his family in February and Kahn plans a May trip to Barcelona.
Wolves forward Kevin Love also has struck up a relationship with Rubio, whom he met in August when his USA World Championship team played Rubio and the Spanish national team in an exhibition game in Madrid.
"I still text him every now and then," Love said after the Wolves practiced at a San Francisco health club. "Not too often, once or twice a month. I've always said I hope he comes over sooner rather than later so we can get this thing started."
Rubio said he recognizes he needs to get his confidence and his shot back and said he is not playing at his best at the moment.
Asked if he thinks Rubio has NBA game, Love said: "Oh yeah, and NBA confidence. That's what exuded from him. He was sure of himself and that's a big part of the game, having the confidence to go out there and compete against guys every night. I thought he was a tremendous passer and he's a guy who has the size to play at the 1 [point guard] at the NBA level.
"He's not 6-5 or 6-4 like they say he is. He's more like 6-3, but you can tell he has really long arms. That helps him make passes and being able to defend, too. He gets his hands on a lot of balls."
The Wolves drafted Rubio fifth overall in 2009, but he signed a six-year contract with Regal Barcelona that summer rather than pay millions out of his own pocket after Kahn reached a buyout agreement with his Joventut team. On draft night, he expressed a desire to play in a bigger, warmer media market than Minneapolis.
His current six-year contract allows a $1 million-plus buyout after this season. NBA rules allow the Wolves to pay $500,000 of that. The Wolves retain his rights as long as Rubio plays professionally in Europe. He would have to sit out an entire season in order to go back in the NBA draft and be selected by another team.
"The sooner he gets over here, the quicker he's going to adapt and the better he's going to get," Love said. "He has had a lot of hype surrounding him. It'll mean a lot for the fans. It'll make the game more exciting. By the way he was talking about it, he does want to come over here and I do think he'll play for our team.
"If not, it'll be tough. I would love to play with him. I think he will come over and play here. I definitely think he'll play here."