Ricky Rubio UpdateRicky Rubio talked up by NBA rivals in waiting
By: Paul Logothetis, AP
MADRID (AP) — The NBA's quick swing through Spain didn't yield Ricky Rubio, although it did provide plenty of anticipation for one of Europe's biggest talents.
The Spaniard's decision to play at least two more years at home despite being drafted fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in June had left many in North America puzzled.
But for some NBA players the move made sense.
"He's still so young. It's good for him to get a couple of more years playing over here and then make the transition over," Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams said Wednesday as his team prepared for a preseason game against Real Madrid.
"I think he's a great player. He's definitely going to be a good player in our league, he has all the skills — ball handling, court vision, he knows how to lead a team. It's just a matter of maturing and becoming a better player."
When DKV Joventut failed to reach a deal with the Timberwolves, the 19-year-old Rubio was dealt to Barcelona, where he agreed to a five-year deal but with a buy-out to leave for the NBA.
Former Michigan player Louis Bullock says Toronto Raptors guard Jose Manuel Calderon is the example Rubio should follow.
"He waited, got a lot of years of Euro league under his belt and also with the national team, and when he made that jump you saw the immediate impact that he had," the Madrid guard said. "Ricky could follow in those footsteps. He definitely has the tools and the talent, but the NBA is brutal."
Rubio is a player "ahead of his time," according to Utah's Russian forward, Andrei Kirilenko, but he still needs more time if he is going to arrive in the NBA with the confidence to lead a team.
"This kind of expectations, everyone expects him to play at the highest level and to be a major star in the league," Kirilenko said. "It's hard to predict because it's such a tough league. A lot of stars come into the league and disappear and a lot of stars come into the league and shine."
Rubio is among, perhaps, Spain's best ever crop of players, which include Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez and Calderon. Spain is the current world and European champion and finished runner-up to the United States at last year's Beijing Olympics, when the world learned about Rubio.
"They've been one of the best countries in basketball for a while," Williams said. "We finally got back with winning the gold medal, back to the top, but they're probably our strongest competition."
Jazz forward Carlos Boozer expects great things from an opponent he knows from Beijing, but remained weary of predicting anything.
"Every player plays good before they get to the NBA, but when they get to the NBA, we'll see," Boozer said.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.