May 5, 2011, 11:50 AM EDT
General Manager David Kahn and the Minnesota Timberwolves are nothing if not persistent.
Next week they will be in Spain again on their quest to get Ricky Rubio — the 2009 No. 5 overall pick — to sign up, leave Barcelona and come to the states.
And according to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, they once again believe they can really make it happen this time. I know, I know, but they believe he may take the $1 million buyout.
Why would he sign now if there could a player lockout, perhaps a lengthy one?
No. 1: The security provided by signing under the current labor agreement rather than risk the new one.
No. 2: He has played professionally since he was 14, many years practically year round because of Spanish national team commitments to the Olympics, World and European championships. A rest until December or January — or beyond — wouldn’t hurt him.
Let’s talk about No. 2 first — there is a something there. As Zgoda points out earlier in his piece, Rubio’s game has regressed this season. He has never developed a jump shot that anyone must respect and that has started to really impact every aspect of his game. He could use a new setting, new coaching. Plus, the NBA rules prohibiting any contact on the perimeter will suit him better than Europe, where the game is allowed to be more physical.
But issue No. 1, the money thing, that’s where the Minnesota logic breaks down. And in the end it’s always about the money.
The NBA rookie scale is already very restrictive — Rubio would take more than a 50 percent pay cut to leave Barcelona for the Wolves right now, and he would be locked into that rookie deal for at least three and more likely five years. The new CBA may make the rookie scale a little smaller, but the owners are far more concerned about long-term free agent deals and restricting those than the rookie scale. The owners love the rookie scale.
If Rubio waits a third year after his draft (one more season), he is no longer subject to the NBA rookie scale. This is what Tiago Splitter did to the Spurs — he waited it out then came over on his own financial terms.
Combine the lockout and the money, and it is hard to see the logic of Rubio signing with Minnesota for next season.
But Kahn and the Timberwolves are on a quest, and any good quest should be about trying in the face of nearly impossible odds. So have at it.