Rubio's looking fine

MIKE GANTER, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:01 AM ET

MINNEAPOLIS — The Ricky Rubio era in Minny now appears to have a start date.

And while it’s likely to be another full season before he gets here, his countryman Jose Calderon says the Timberwolves are going to be glad they waited.

The Wolves grabbed the Spaniard with the fifth pick overall in the last June’s draft and then immediately turned around and drafted Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn with the No. 6 pick.

Calderon, who has played with Rubio in two of the past three Spanish national team gatherings, said Rubio was ready for the NBA a year ago but decided a couple of years of Euroleague play would make him even better prepared.

“You know when guys are ready,” Calderon said of his own certainty. “I mean is John Wall ready for the NBA? You know, same thing.”

But the history of Spanish-born players making the trek to the Association doesn’t have a template. Pau Gasol came over as an 18-year-old. So did Sergio Rodriguez. Calderon himself came over as a 23-year-old free agent, and Rudy Fernandez also came over in his early 20s.

Calderon said he and Rubio talked about options before the draft, but Calderon is convinced Rubio wanted to play at the best level in Europe before coming over here.

And the fact that the Timberwolves took a point guard in Flynn right after they took Rubio suggests they knew as much.

By all accounts, this season has been very good for Rubio. He’s playing with Barcelona, which is easily the top team in Europe. And Rubio is starting at point guard.

He’s averaging just over 20 minutes a night, but the team is so good that games are decided early on, meaning there’s plenty of garbage time for the reserves.

Barcelona paid $5.3-million US to get Rubio. He doesn’t have a buyout (expected to be $1.4 million) until after his second season at which point Barcelona will have received its money’s worth.

If there was a weakness in Rubio’s game coming into the draft it was his shooting. According to Calderon, that has improved.

He’s only averaging 5.9 points a night and 4.6 assists, but on a team that is so stacked with talent, the numbers can be misleading.

Calderon doesn’t forsee any problems when Rubio does make the jump.

“I don’t think he will score like Brandon Jennings, but I think he can do more stuff,” Calderon said. “They’re different. He knows how to pass the ball, how to play defence.”

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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