The prodigal Timberwolf can be seen Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. (ET) when USA Basketball plays Spain in a tune-up game in Madrid before the World Championships open later this week in Turkey.
Ricky Rubio may never be a Knick, but until he plays his first NBA game (with the team that owns his rights, the Minnesota Timberwolves) he will remain a fantasy for some Knicks fans -- and some in the Knicks' organization. Unless Raymond Felton has a dynamic arrival as an all-star caliber point guard over the next two seasons, or the Knicks find a way to land either Chris Paul or Deron Williams in 2012, Rubio will remain a potential option via trade.
And yes, of course he's yet another player that would love to play in New York City and in Mike D'Antoni's system. Or so say those close to him.
Rubio has played a few times on NBAtv with his team in Barcelona, but this will be the first time we see him on the international stage since the 2008 Olympics, when he caught everyone's eye (including D'Antoni's). US coach Mike Krzyzewski made note of Rubio's physical development from the scrawny 18 year old wunderkind he was in Beijing.
"He’s gotten stronger," Coach K said in a transcript posted on USABasketball.com. "He has an amazing feel for the game. He’s getting older, you can tell he’s worked hard. I watched him last night against Lithuania and was very impressed with him being able to be physical, him being able to set his team up. He’s an outstanding guard and he’s just going to keep getting better and better."
David Kahn made the aggressive, though widely-panned, move in the 2009 draft to trade up to the No. 5 pick to snatch Rubio and then drafted another point guard, Jonny Flynn, with the No. 6 pick. Rubio was high on the Knicks' wish list that year, along with Stephen Curry and Tyreke Evans, but they wound up taking Jordan Hill (over another point guard in Brandon Jennings) with the No. 8 pick. Hill was eventually used to carve out more cap space for this summer's free agency foray but there's no denying that the '09 draft turned into a major disappointment for the Knicks.
But they could still come away with one of the top prizes from that draft class if Rubio forces Kahn's hand and pushes for a trade rather than play in Minnesota. Rubio has an opt-out with FC Barcelona after this season to jump to the NBA and he has said he intends to eventually come to the NBA. Kahn insists when Rubio does come to the West, it'll be to play in Minnesota. That, however, remains to be seen.
For now, what can be seen is Rubio's continued development and how he fares against NBA competition today against Chauncey Billups, Derrick Rose and the US team.
Meanwhile, the one player Knicks fans can watch who they know for sure will be on the roster this season is Russian center Timofey Mozgov. Russia faces Puerto Rico in the opening of pool play on Saturday. Here's the issue, however: According to FIBAtv.com, their webcasts of World Championships games are not available, at least not in New York. The site re-directs you to ESPN.com, which will broadcast only games involving USA Basketball and the medal round.
I'm still looking into this to see if there is another way to watch teams other than the U.S. and once I get an answer we'll post it here.