After two monthsof discussions that included three trips to Spain and more creative negotiatingthan a Cash for Clunkers trade-in, Timberwolves rookie G.M. David Kahn thoughthe had his man. That was until his man, 18-year-old Spanish point guard RickyRubio, decided he preferred the comforts of home to a condo in Minneapolis. OnSept. 2, Rubio, the fifth pick in the June draft, rejected a transfer agreementbetween Minnesota and the Spanish League team that he played for last season,DKV Joventut. Instead he accepted a trade to crosstown rival Regal Barcelona,which signed him to a six-year deal. Says Kahn, "There is a tinge ofdisappointment, no question about it."
Rubio said hewants to spend at least two more years preparing for the NBA, but his decisionmay also have been motivated by a buyout clause in his Joventut contract, whichcould have cost him up to $5 million to move to Minnesota. Whatever hisreasoning, Rubio's chances of ever wearing a T-Wolves jersey are slim. With thesixth pick Minnesota drafted Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn, the best rookiein the NBA's Las Vegas summer league. And last Friday the team signed RamonSessions, the Bucks' starting playmaker for part of last season, to afour-year, $16 million offer sheet.
Rubio's Barcelonacontract will keep him there for two years, but a more manageable buyout clause(one million euros, or $1.4 million at today's conversion rate) kicks in forthe 2011--12 NBA season. (Minnesota holds his rights as long as he playsprofessionally.) Expect Kahn to explore trades for Rubio as that date nears."Teams are going to be after him," says a Western Conference executive."A lot of people think this kid is going to be a star." A source closeto Rubio told SI that if he is dealt, he'd prefer the Knicks, the Nets(assuming the Nets move to Brooklyn) or the Mavericks.
But will Rubio beready to jump in 2011? If he stays in Spain until 2012, he won't be bound bythe NBA's rookie salary scale, which applies to first-round picks for onlythree years after they're drafted. The maximum Rubio would have earned had hejoined Minnesota now is $16.3 million over his first four seasons; by waitinguntil '12 he could snag a deal worth twice that. It's a possibility the sourcecalls "very appealing."