In every era of a team, good, bad, or great, there are players that come to define them. One person comes to mind when you think of a certain team at a certain time. This is commonplace.
Then there is what Ricky Rubio has meant to the Timberwolves in his two stints at the Target Center spanning the past decade.
Ricky never defined the Wolves, but he did reflect them.
From boyish flair and bowl cuts to earnest, hard-truth press conferences 10 years later and a whole lot in between, it’s been a wild ride. Not without joy, but certainly not one defined by solid winning teams.
Is this Ricky’s fault? Absolutely not, especially when you consider he was traded away before the best years of his career.
Perhaps the best way of summing this up is that this is the third piece on this website trying to illustrate what this sometimes frustrating, sometimes brilliant, and always professional point guard has meant to this team and its fanbase.
When I say he came to reflect the team, it was not in the way that Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder teams reflected that point guard’s crash-and-bash play style. That might be an unfair comparison, for Ricky was never an MVP of this league. The point I am trying to make is that for all the playmaker that he is, as far as I can remember there was no Timberwolves side ever defined by his fluent, pass-first play style.
(Pass-first in this context is both a compliment and a kind way of avoiding the subject of Ricky’s shooting, for today is not that day.)
No, it isn’t the play style that reflects, and I’m not sure it can even be confined to the court. He never played for a winning team in Minnesota, but we attached so much hope to him. When he first arrived, he was a harbinger of things to come; when he left, it was the flawed philosophy of a coach we didn’t love; and when he came back, it was to mentor in the next round of hope.
Why is it that every week I end writing about hope?
Aside from being cheesy and not without a dollop of romanticism, it’s because hope is what we have been running on for years. We’re all high on the fumes of a good team that never quite eventuates. So often it smells like the real thing, only for the car to splutter and smoke when we pull onto the highway.
I’m rambling again. But Ricky has been the fumes we’ve been huffing more than once through no fault of his own.
Troy Asseln wrote about the joy he felt when he saw Ricky’s return splashed across the ticker tape at last year’s draft. I think we all felt a version of that. I was listening to the draft on the radio while working on a house renovation in Brisbane. It was hot and sweaty, and even though we had already taken what could be the future of the team with the No. 1 pick, I felt another type of elation when the Rubio news came through.
Addicts all of us. Hope had again paired with the boy from Barcelona, only now he was grizzled and pony-tailed.
Despite somehow being even more handsome than before, this dalliance with the past was never going to work. David Naylor wrote it in more detailed form, so here I’ll be generic: D’Angelo Russell and Ricky made zero sense together, even though they both tried.
A season later, as free agency and ensuing trades seem to have almost passed before it began for Wolves fans, the shimmering hope of Myles Turner/Ben Simmons/John Collins/please-for-God’s-sake-someone, is already fading fast.
And top that off, Ricky has been traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers where he and Kevin Love look likely to live out a new basketball nightmare together as we watch on from afar. It’s sad, sort of.
One can only hand their hope over to Gersson Rosas and cross their fingers that he has a plan. He’s dealt away our Ricky, hopefully smashing the mirror he reflected in the process.