“Change this face. Be happy. Enjoy.”
Just a 22-year-old at the time, while playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Ricky Rubio tried to cheer up teammate Alexey Shved. It was a terrible time for the team as there were a lot of injuries that contributed to the losses. Seeing Shved down, Ricky did the right thing: he advised on how to face challenges.
The game ended in a loss, but that incident proved how good of a teammate Ricky Rubio is. At that time, Rubio was just 22, while Alexey was 24. Even if Ricky was two years younger, he was ahead in terms of NBA experience, having played in the league in the 2011-12 season. Even at such an early age, Rubio felt the responsibility to take care of everyone on the team.
No one in the league understands phenoms who struggle under the burden of expectations and style of play in the NBA. Ricky Rubio played professional basketball as early as 14 years old and debuted in the Euroleague at the age of 16. As expected, when he came to the NBA at 21, he already displayed maturity beyond his age. Some claimed he could have made the NBA sooner, but without the years he spent in the Euroleague learning how to play with the big boys, it would have been a different story.
In the case of Shved, it was the case of not being able to translate his success during the Olympics to the NBA. He made scouts salivate at his potential after averaging 15.7 points and 8.3 assists in the 2012 Olympics. Alexey’s chemistry with then Minnesota Timberwolves star and Russian national team member Andrei Kirilenko was undeniable. The Wolves drafted him even though he would be a surplus in the team with Rubio and JJ Barea in the lineup.
Rubio the ultimate professional
The Cavaliers brought back Rubio for a reason: he’s been a very good leader for the team. With young stars Evan Mobley, Darius Garland, and Colin Sexton on the roster, they need a veteran voice to guide them. While it remains to be seen if Sexton will be traded or not but bringing back Ricky speaks of what he can do on the floor when healthy.
Cleveland already made strides last season, and the front office hopes his presence will provide the same stability as the last time he was with them. Garland and other young stars missed the Spaniard’s presence on the floor last year. The Cavs narrowly missed the bus to the playoffs after having a promising start. If Rubio were around, his postseason experience would prove to be crucial.
He may be one of the veterans now, but no one is better at guiding the young stars than Chicho Terremoto. Ricky Rubio has been there, done that, and he deserves credit for not falling into the hype and star complex other phenoms like him unfortunately suffered.