It all started when the Spanish Savior set foot onto a 15-hour flight to the MSP International Airport Monday afternoon. Greeted by a couple hundred fans, I’m sure the many not decked out in Wolves gear thought Paul McCartney was in town, or even the ghost of John Lennon, judging by the frenzied stir of the massed crowd. No, no, it’s just Ricky and his one-man boy-band.
The madness continued as Ricky’s day grew more hectic by the second. First it was a tour of the city, then the Target Center, then dinner with select season ticket holders. You’d think it’d be hard for the phenom to even catch his breath amongst the madness, but he did it all. He even had time for a late-night workout, which Kahn called more intense than just your average workout. “I came to play basketball,” Ricky said. And so he did.
Tuesday came the major press conference that seemed to catch the whole world’s attention in all of it’s overhyped ways. I was in attendance and didn’t believe it was as large of a spectacle, but I digress. After that was a more in-depth media session and a photo shoot and a meet-and-greet with the Taylor family.
It’s all beginning to make my head twirl. I may even be seasick from it all. Rubio-mania is in full-effect and it’s rejuvenated the Twin Cities’ interest in basketball since the K.G. era. After all, that is what Rubio was supposed to do, right? The Wolves have failed to obtain that face of the franchise since Garnett’s departure, and with it went all interest in Timberwolves’ basketball. Ticket sales slipped, interest in seeing the team fell too. There was a time where many had trouble even naming 2-3 players on the team! It was horrible.
But that’s all over now, right? The Savior is here. We can sit back and rest as Rubio takes the heavy weight of this franchise’s losing ways on his shoulders and turns it all around for the better.
Not so fast.
Ricky is a mighty fine player, and one to certainly get excited to see (Wolves have sold over 500 season ticket packages since Rubio’s arrival, most since 2004.) He’s done great things in Europe since becoming a pro at the tender age of 14 (I think I was coming off the bench for my 8th grade B-team at that age.) But stats don’t lie. Ricky had a miserable season in Barcelona, riddled by injuries and a benching come postseason time. It wasn’t all bad, seeing they did win the title and all, but it wasn’t that uplifting, glorifying moment many had hoped for (Rubio leads Barcelona to a Championship with a 15-15-5 performance in the final game! Wow, look at him go!) Now he’s just looking for that fresh start and to live out his “dream” by being in the NBA.
But one really has to call to question how good this kid will be. And will he really be able to turn this franchise around? I have my doubts, as should you. Ricky will be a rookie in the NBA next season at 20 years old. He’ll be playing alongside some young, albeit talented, but very young and inexperienced players like Michael Beasley, Kevin Love and Anthony Randolph. He also seems to be missing a coach, a true leader and mentor. The team, despite looking a tad better than last year’s already with a much brighter hope for the future, is still in shambles and in need of a major tune-up. It’s safe to say that Minnesota is no Barcelona. Not. Even. Close.
The atmosphere and aura of the Minnesota Timberwolves has never been great. There’s always been that piece that’s missing, even back in ’03-’04. This ’11-’12 team still has major holes they need to fill before turning it around, and it’s certainly not fair to put all the expectations along with that added pressure onto a mere rookie such as Ricky. Rubio-mania, though, with all of its excitement and glam has transformed the Twin Cities back into basketball lovers. But what we all need to do now is sit back and, instead of relaxing and letting Ricky go to work, re-evaluate the situation altogether: Ricky is here, he should be good, but don’t expect him to turn it all around singlehandedly. Just don’t do it.
Rubio-mania has been a blast. It’s time to snap back into reality and put some faith in this team and its front office and not overdo it with the high expectations on such a young talent. You’ll never know if they’ll ever be met, so don’t put yourself up higher because the drop will only hurt worse, if it were to come.