Just like last season, the NBA’s annual trade deadline passed on a Thursday afternoon and veteran point guard Ricky Rubio remains a Timberwolf.
But apparently it wasn’t the same.
“As pros, we know what’s the deal,” Rubio said, “but this time felt a little different.”
This time, Rubio heard media reports galore that he was headed to New York, among other possible destinations, for point guard Derrick Rose and his huge expiring contract.
“It’s all rumors,” Rubio said. “Until it doesn’t go down, you don’t believe it.”
Wolves president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau said he didn’t discuss the matter with Rubio — or Shabazz Muhammad or any other player — either before or after the 2 p.m. deadline.
“You’re expected to be a professional,” Thibodeau said without discussing specific players or trade proposals. “Everybody has a job to do. Come in, do your job. You can’t get lost in the other stuff.”
Six seasons into the NBA, Rubio knows that, particularly after the Wolves talked with Milwaukee and other teams about trading him at last season’s deadline.
“I mean, we’re professionals, but we’re human beings, too,” Rubio said. “So we have feelings, but I know this is a business and it has to be like that.”
On Tuesday, Rubio tweeted, “Never stress over what you can’t control.”
When Thursday’s deadline passed, he was asked if he listened to his own advice.
“Mentally, it’s tough, but there are things you can’t control,” Rubio said. “We’re playing basketball. There are people who decide where you’re going to play. You can’t control that. You come here and work hard every day and that’s it.”
He also was asked if he’s relieved.
“I’m not going to lie, you hear the rumors,” he said. “But until it doesn’t happen, I didn’t expect anything. I’m still here. I have my apartment here. After practice, I go to my apartment and take a nap and everything is like it was before.”
Ten months after they were hired, Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden have yet to make their first trade. In comparison, basketball boss David Kahn made 10 trades — most of them inconsequential — in his first nine months on the job after he was hired in 2009.
Thibodeau said Thursday he and Layden purposely have moved slowly, making sure they thoroughly evaluate their young players and wisely use cap space until they make those evaluations and are ready to move forward.
“I love our team, I love the way we’re working, I think we’re improving,” he said. “At the end of the season, there will be the draft and free agency. We’re positioned well going forward. I like where we are.”
This summer, they also must determine what a player such as Muhammad will be worth as a restricted free agent while also preparing for upcoming contract negotiations with young stars Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.
“I’m feeling good, I really didn’t think I was going to be traded,” Muhammad said. “I’m really confident in how I’ve been playing. Coaches never talked to me about it, so I was never really worried about it.
‘‘… I’m in a really good position right now. I just have to continue playing hard. Even when summer comes up, I still want to be a Timberwolf. Being here my whole career has been a really good thing for me.”
Thibodeau said any decisions his team needs to make about Muhammad’s future are “down the road.”
“We’re positioned great in terms of cap space, where we are with our team,” Thibodeau said. “We have to work like crazy the rest of the way. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Rubio’s name likely will resurface in trade discussions before the June draft to make way eventually for rookie Kris Dunn as starting point guard.
For the season’s final 25 games starting Friday against Dallas, Rubio still remains.
“Seems like a game, right?” Rubio said. “I don’t know, when things are not working, they try to change things and my name has come up the last two, three years and you have to deal with it. … I mean, your name is out there. Tomorrow we have another game and you have to come, suit up and play hard.”