Ricky Rubio recently sat down to talk basketball in his native tongue, you can watch the interview in it’s entirety below.
Someone [username: Heimdal] in the Rube Chat forums at KFAN translated/transcribed the interview. You can see the original translations by clicking this link.
I’ve elected to highlight and comment on a select number of questions.
Q: You were a clear candidate to reach the playoffs. Wasn’t that a disappointment since there haven’t been that many injuries? Where do you think was the key for the failure: the close losses? the lack of a good defense?
A: The close losses were very costly. The Sest has been insanely hard. Still, no excuses. 40 wins were not enough. I would put the blame on the inability to play well on close games.
There shouldn’t be many that disagree, Ricky. The Wolves record in games decided by four points or less is the obvious black-eye on the 2013-2014 season. Although the reporter states Minnesota was a clear candidate to reach the playoffs, I believe Rubio bites his tongue a bit, as you wind find a quote from him believing that the postseason was the goal for Timberwolves this season.
Q: You are still almost untouchable in Minnesota. Your shirt is the best-seller, over even Kevin Love, but I’ve seen how the national media, when trying to explain why you didn’t win those games, or the team couldn’t reach the playoffs, they would give three or four reasons. Your shooting woes were one of them. How has that affected you? Given, during second half of the season, your field goal percentage was 42 percent. Was that an answer for your critics or have you felt better as the season progressed? How have you adjusted things in your game?
A: No, it wasn’t an answer. I don’t have to answer to them. I like to play and I needed to confirm to myself — it was not about my shot selection — I needed to lead the team. That made me feel more comfortable, so my percentages and shot selection improved. I have to take that end to the season and take it forward to the next.
Rubio shot 38 percent from the field last season. By a small margin, his shooting percentage has improved each year Rubio has been in the league. Entering the season, Rubio’s ability to finish on attempts taken in areas around the rim was a concern. During the 2012-2013 season, he converted 78 of 180 attempts taken within five-feet of the basket [43%]. This year, after playing a full 82 games, Rubio made 143 of 297 attempts in the same area. The larger sample shows improvement in multiple areas; a good sign for Wolves fans.
[This question was asked later in the interview]
Q: This long jumper of yours, after beating the first defender, when you stop and execute a long jumper, which you practiced at the end of last season and with the national team. Have you practiced it that much? Have you not had the chance because of the team’s system?
A: I think it’s related to the team’s system. We didn’t have that option. It’s true you always have that shot, but when the ball doesn’t get it you don’t want to take it too often. I talked to Flip Saunders at the end of the season and he told me that I had taken 10 shots from 4-5 meters (14ft) in the entire season and that the number had to go up next season. It’s something I’m going to work on.
Disclaimer: Looking at this by the numbers is getting too deep into the answer. Rubio shot 19 percent [6 of 31] from that midrange area, but, took less attempts from the 10-14ft range than he did the season before. While he struggles from this region, Rubio understands that, which may be why he attempted less shots from that area than he did during the 2012-2013 season. Rubio is a distributor, and he’s right, Wolves fans should want him to distribute before looking to score from the midrange area.
Q: Have you felt your coach Rick Adelman? Being his last season, and with his personal problems, do you feel he was disconnected or “discouraged”?
A: Yes, maybe. Maybe the team lacked the proper motivation, not only from the coach, but the motivation of wanting to win from all of us. This includes the staff, coaches and assistants, and whoever else has command over that. When you know it’s your last season and you’re not 100 percent players can feel it. Still, even at 80 percent, Rick Adelman knows so much.
This answer is curious for multiple reasons. Rubio insinuates Rick Adelman wasn’t very inspirational tactics, but also, mentioned that the ‘want to win’ needs to come from everyone from the staff down to the players. Rubio’s answer here cements a notion I made back in March over at Hickory-High, where, in a column titled Lacking an Alpha, I proposed the idea that the Wolves weren’t winning close games because of leadership/performance on the court in clutch situations. Hopefully a new coach and a similar roster, next season, will be hungrier to venture somewhere the team hasn’t been for a long time — the postseason.
Q: Another problem, the bench. I think the Wolves bench was the worst in the league when compared to the starters. They offered the biggest drop off between starters and bench. Sometimes it’s because the lack of talent and sometimes it’s related to the “mixes”. Are you disappointed with the bench or some of your teammates? For instance, Gorgui Deng was great at the end, but, didn’t play much to start the season.
A: Yes, I think it was more about the team all around, not only the bench. It looked like a problem of adaptation among them and with the starters. We can’t focus on them alone but the entire roster. We’ve seen with the rotations, at the end of the season, when given minutes Gorgui Dieng responded. Maybe he could have had more chances at the beginning, but you never know. But it wasn’t just one thing. It’s rotations, mixing, getting to adapt to each other.
Let me just stop and admire this reporters ability to ask the hard questions. Admired, ok, let’s move on. Rubio’s saying all the right things by putting the lack of success on the entire team, rather than scapegoating anybody. The question regarding Dieng’s playing time, or lack there of, posed to Rubio was something many knowledgeable fans asked during the season. However, Dieng’s inability to play on the court without getting into foul trouble early in the season was ultimately what lost him more opportunities.
Q: It’s reached here, maybe because of the discouraging results, that Kevin Love would certainly leave the team for another franchise and a big market. That the situation ‘allegedly’ separates him [Love from the team a little bit. On his own, he's not being a leader inside the locker room. Was it like that with him?
A: No, Kevin Love is a special player, I mean his stats are amazing, but maybe the leader has to be someone else. He leads the team with his production, but he may not want to be the vocal leader. There are different kinds of leaders, so maybe we lacked a bit of that, a commanding leader, a commanding voice inside the locker room. Maybe he shouldn't be it, maybe Kevin Martin should have been the one, someone with more experience, or maybe I can take a step forward and be the leader once and for all. These things happen in teams so young, we missed that. If you take stats, it's clear Kevin Love is the one who must get the ball at the end.
Again with the leadership questions, Rubio states that maybe the leader of the Wolves may not be Kevin Love despite the statistical prowess. He goes onto say that perhaps more of a commanding presence in the locker room [ex: Kevin Martin]. The encouraging quote is here is Rubio saying that maybe he can take a step forward and be the leader once and for all, but it’s great that he understands that Love must the one with the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.
Q: What’s your relationship with Flip Saunders? We know it was very good with David Kahn, the man who drafted you. It has to be crucial for you to stay in Minnesota.
A: Very good, he’s giving his all and he’s got the ambition of coming back to this franchise and taking it far again. Talking to him I’ve seen he trusts me a lot so I hope I can perform like he expects of me.
All is well, but what about Flip’s relationship with Love? No? Ok, moving on.
Q: Flip has work to do. Of course he has to find a new coach. He has the chance to extend your contract and decide what to do with Kevin Love, which is not easy. At this point their relationship seems to be in good shape, he wants Kevin to stay and extend his contract, but step by step, what coach would you like to have, of what kind?
A: The new coach must continue with the project. I mean, with his own wrinkles, he must be similar to Adelman in his style: offensive minded, liking the open court, because this team is made for that, it’s working and this team is progressing. Young players like me or Chase Budinger, players who are young and keep progressing, I think next year we can be much better if we have a coach similar to Adelman.
Agreeing with Ricky, the new Wolves coach shouldn’t try to implement a completely new scheme. Someone who will inspire, motivate, and challenge the roster would be an ideal fit. It’s fair to assume Rubio doesn’t seem to like the idea of someone else coming aboard and changing too many things.
Q: So, you think this team doesn’t need to play better defense, so instead of finding a coach who offers that first and foremost, let’s bring a coach who gets the best of this team and adjusts certain aspects. With this profile I see two names who have been heard lately: George Karl and college coach Billy Donovan from Florida, the prestigious college coach known by his offense, who develops the “screen and continuation,” offence. I don’t know whether you have references or not from any of the two.
A: Well, yes, Corey Brewer talked a lot about George Karl this season, he loves him (laughs). He was COY 2 seasons ago and Denver played beautifully up and down. About the college coach, it’s true they are thinking about 3 or 4 college coaches, the one from Michigan and some others, but we’ll see. The problem with this is the coach who comes will have his doubts about accepting the job, because the star doesn’t know whether he is staying or leaving.They don’t want to gamble on taking the job and having to start from scratch.
Won’t touch on too much of this one. Rubio referring to Love as the ‘star who doesn’t know whether he’s leaving or not’ is troublesome, for me.
Q: I wanted to ask you about Shabazz Muhammad, who is a strange player. His career, those cases when he was in college.. he’s known as a big time scorer, but the season was weird. At first, he got no chances, then he gets a few minutes, he seems to take the opportunity and does help, then he disappears again… how is he, as a basketball player and as a person.
A: As a basketball player he’s a little inconsistent. He’s a scorer but he’s a little raw (green), he lacks understanding of the game. He’s got many good things: a leftie with a very good hook shot, he posts very well and takes advantage of his size and strength and as an offensive rebounder I think he’s the best I’ve ever seen. He lacks a bit of knowledge of the systems, but I think that is normal in a college player who comes to the NBA, who needs to learn and adapt to the systems to understand basketball. On a personal level, he’s a young player with ambition, hard-worker. If he controls himself he’s going to make a name for himself in this league.
Pretty accurate description of Shabazz Muhammad, I’ll call it a statement full of respectful feedback.
Q: What about Barea? He’s suffered a huge drop off in performance, a drop off that affected the team. Maybe regarding stats, there are stats where he’s probably regressed, but it’s obvious it’s the worse JJ of the last 3 or 4 years, right?
A: Well, yes, he arrived from Dallas, playing with huge confidence and these last years he came out of the bench and he was the spark (revolutionist). This year we missed that, the scorer from the bench was supposed to be Barea and because of the rotations, or for some other reason I don’t know why, he couldn’t provide that extra scoring when we needed it.
Even overseas there were those who noticed ‘Bad Barea.’
Q: I see, in my humble opinion, that Pekovic and Kevin Love, who I find both to be excellent players… are not very compatible. I see the team lacks intimidation. On defense, when they play together, defensive scoring efficiency isn’t very good. I don’t know, both players score a lot, but they lack some height. Do the media talk about this? What about the franchise?
A: No, it wasn’t commented too much, but it’s true we lack some intimidation because we don’t have a blocker, something we got with Gorgui Deng. But on defense, for instance with Pek in the post… for instance, I remember after playing the Sacramento Kings I talked to DeMarcus Cousins and he was a little scared of how strong Pekovic was, how difficult it was to play in the low post against him, so maybe he didn’t offer the intimidation a blocker does, but he’s got the resistance. It’s true the defensive level…specially because we didn’t play… we played a game oriented on attacking and our game wasn’t centered on defense that much, but we lack something on defense and maybe with Gorgui Dieng we can add him to this couple and it can be very positive.
The reporter seems careful to ask this question by stating it is merely his opinion, going on to claim that Love and Nikola Pekovic aren’t very compatible on the defensive end. Rubio must not pay much attention to the media, because there were many that gripped to the fact the Wolves weren’t very good at defending the rim during the season. This issue was overblown, somewhat, but is also a concern — however — Dieng’s emergence as a shot-blocker is certainly going to help the rim protection next season.
Rubio on the postseason thus far:
I’ve enjoyed the first round, no surprises. Five series needed seven games but the best was the one that ended before; Portland-Houston. It didn’t get to seven games and it was great it didn’t after what Damian Lillard did.I expected more from Houston, with great players such as [Dwight] Howard, [James] Harden and Chandler Parsons. Players I expected to go further in the competition.
No big surprises, well, maybe Indiana and their drop off in performance — specially Roy Hibbert. But it’s not only him, it’s the whole team. You watch one of their games at the beginning of the season and one now and it’s like night and day. They are the ones who can give Miami trouble. I hope a team can stand tall against them [Heat] in the East, but I see Miami reaching the finals easily.
In the West, things are more complicated. The [Los Angeles] Clippers are playing well, but I’m still a fan of how the Spurs play, how they blend. One game against them, Kevin Love and I talked about it. We were losing bad. We were sitting on the bench with the game out of reach and we commented how well their bench was playing. They play a different basketball and it’s really beautiful.