GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Ricky Rubio was not in Minnesota on Friday to join the rest of the Timberwolves' 2009 draft class. In fact, he still was here in New York, holding out hope that he somehow will wind up with the only team he really wants to play for: the Knicks.
Though the feeling was never quite mutual throughout the predraft process - there are questions about his ability to defend and shoot at the NBA level, and the preferred choice all along was Stephen Curry - the Knicks are more than willing to explore what it will take to add a third prize to their NBA draft collection.
"I would never say never to anything," Donnie Walsh said Friday, when his two first-round picks from Thursday night's draft, Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas, were introduced to the media. "We're in the offseason; we're going to be checking everything out to see how we can make our team better."
Despite some initial threats by Rubio's father, who told a Spanish media outlet that his son likely will stay in Spain for two seasons rather than report to the Timberwolves, team president David Kahn has insisted he has no interest in trading Rubio's rights at this point, but it's still very early in the process.
"We'll wait, we'll be patient," Kahn said Friday on the Dan Patrick Show. "We can do that. In two years, not saying it's going to be two years, he'll be 20. We're not getting some old man here. I don't know what the odds are. It will be a very turbulent summer here up and down, but I think ultimately, he'll be a Minnesota Timberwolf."
Kahn, a former sportswriter for the Oregonian, began his NBA front-office career working for Walsh with the Indiana Pacers. There are indications that the two already have held preliminary discussions about a deal for Rubio's rights.
The Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - have few assets to offer the Timberwolves aside from, perhaps, Hill and forward Wilson Chandler, who had been dangled in a proposed deal with the Wizards for the fifth pick before Minnesota jumped into the spot. But if the Knicks were to wait until July 8, when the free-agency moratorium ends, they would have two very valuable assets in restricted free agents David Lee and Nate Robinson available. Neither can be included in a sign-and-trade deal until after the moratorium.
The Knicks likely would prefer not to include Hill, whom they value as an athletic power forward, and also might try to get Minnesota to take on Jared Jeffries, who counts for $6.8 million against the salary cap in 2010-11. The Knicks could take forward Brian Cardinal's expiring contract in return.
A person with knowledge of the situation said Rubio - who worked out for only one team, the Kings - had been pushing for the Knicks and Mike D'Antoni's system all along. Rubio's camp has wanted New York or another big market mainly because his endorsement opportunities would be more lucrative and, therefore, would enable him to pay for a ridiculously expensive buyout with his Spanish team, DKV Joventut.
The source indicated, however, that the previously reported $6.6-million price tag is higher than the actual buyout. But it is still a hefty number to pay, especially because NBA teams by rule may pay only up to $500,000 to buy out an international contract. The rest would be left up to Rubio, who, as the fifth overall pick, will make $2.7 million in his first season as per the NBA's rookie scale. The source said Rubio more than likely would immediately report to a big-market team such as the Knicks.