Ricky Rubio Staying in Spain

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MINNEAPOLIS — Ricky Rubio's Spanish pro team has
agreed to trade his rights to Regal FC Barcelona in a deal that will prevent the
18-year-old point guard from joining the Minnesota Timberwolves for two years,
according to two internet reports.

Yahoosports.com and ESPN.com cited anonymous sources in
reports that said DKV Joventut informed Timberwolves vice president of
basketball operations David Kahn on Monday night of the agreement, dashing the
team's hopes that Rubio would be in the United States this fall.

The Timberwolves selected Rubio with the fifth pick in
the June draft. Kahn was aware that Rubio was under contract with DKV Joventut
for the next two years and said he would be fine waiting for a season, or even
two, before the prodigy comes to Minnesota.

But Kahn made three trips to Spain in hopes of
negotiating down an $8 million buyout that would allow Rubio to join the
Timberwolves this season, bringing some excitement and pizzazz to a team, and a
ticket box office, that sorely needs both right now.

NBA rules limit the Timberwolves to contributing just
$500,000 toward the buyout, meaning Rubio was on the hook for the remaining $7.5
million himself. The steep price tag has been the main reason for his hesitation
to leave his homeland and realize his dream of playing in the NBA right away.

Under his agreement with the Regal Barcelona, according
to the reports, is a stipulation that would allow him to leave after the 2010-11
European season without having to pay a buyout.

The Associated Press left messages for Kahn, who was in
Spain, and Rubio's agent, Dan Fegan, seeking comment.

Kahn has spent the last two months doing a dance with
Joventut and Rubio's agents to try and secure his services for the upcoming
season, so this news no doubt comes as a disappointment.

But he covered himself nicely in the draft, selecting
Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn right behind Rubio with the No. 6 pick. At the
time, the move raised eyebrows.

Two point guards?

Even new coach Kurt Rambis, who was hired earlier in
August, wasn't quite sure how the two would fit together in the same backcourt.

"It's not going to be easy. Not necessarily from an
offensive standpoint, but from a defensive standpoint," Rambis said when he was
hired. "But I do want to play them as much as possible, particularly this year
so that they develop as quickly as possible."

Now, provided Rubio stays in Spain until the 2011
season, the Timberwolves aren't faced with having to give two young point guards
heavy minutes.

They can hand the keys to Flynn, who excelled at the Las
Vegas summer league, while Rubio gets two more seasons of development in one of
Europe's top professional leagues. Presumably, he will either drive his trade
value higher as he matures so the Timberwolves can reap a windfall while staying
with Flynn, or Rubio will join the rebuilding team in two years with more talent
around him to allow him to flourish.

Since he was hired in May, Kahn has been open in his
assessment that the Wolves' rebuilding plan will take at least two years before
they are in a position to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
That, he has said, is why the team can afford to wait for a prospect that in
June was called one of the most exciting point guards to enter the draft in
years.

The Timberwolves hold his rights in the NBA as long as
Rubio is playing professionally, so Rubio's decision to stay in Spain rather
than pay the buyout money himself doesn't affect Kahn's leverage in trade talks
going forward.

Earlier this month Kahn reiterated his stance that he
can "think of a lot worse things than we have to wait a year or two."

Staying in Spain might save Rubio money in the short
term, but it does have a negative financial impact for the long term. Coming to
the United States in 2011 means he will have to wait another two years before he
can become an unrestricted free agent and sign the lucrative second contract
that players who produce covet.

Coming to the NBA this season, Rubio would sign a
four-year deal worth more than $15 million. If he played the way many expect to
him to, Rubio would be in position to sign a big-money extension that kicked in
at age 23.

Now that deal, like the Timberwolves, will have to wait.

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