The Ricky Rubio Experience

Playing against Ricky Rubio is harrowing, but the point guard prodigy is playing against more than just his match-ups.
Share |

The 2008 Olympic Gold Medal basketball game, the one that Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski called ‘one of the great games in international basketball history,’ aired late at night in the Western world. And there was, appropriately, something dreamlike about it. But the images of Ricky Rubio, who was then just 17 years old, were real. He really did slice through the lane, reveal open shooters and exhibit spooky poise and avant-garde precision against a triumvirate of NBA stars in Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

Rubio’s unflappable demeanor, uncanny handle and full-spectrum mastery of the sport belied his youth and set the basketball world alight in the process. Rubio already had a nimbus of scout-buzz around him before that game, but his performance made the scrawny, shy-seeming playmaker into every basketball fan’s long-distance man-crush.

We kept in touch through endless, grainy YouTube clips of Rubio’s impossible passes and disappearing-act dribbling through double-teams. We watched him do things with a basketball that shouldn’t be possible for a 17-year-old, and hadn’t previously seemed possible for anyone, at any age. Four years, however, is a long time in the life of an athlete.

***

Two years before that, Ricky Rubio was already becoming a legend in his native Spain. There were tales of the shaggy-haired kid, with the grasshopper thin frame who lit up the Under-16 FIBA Championships with epic box scores and wild buzzer-beaters. Everyone wanted to get a glimpse of him.

I was playing in Spain at the time, and was there as the nation slipped into inescapable Rubio-mania. In the grocery store people wanted to talk about him; in our locker room we laughed about the boy who turned the ACB, the second best league in the world, into his personal And1 mixtape. He was the next Pistol Pete, the next Magic. There wasn’t a comparison too far-fetched.

I remember watching his team, DKV Joventut, on TV and mentioning to a friend that he played so calm and free, so relaxed under immense pressure. And it was striking, the way he played each game as if it was happening in the park before he had to race home to set the table for the family dinner. But it wasn’t just his highlights that fascinated me. He reminded me of the basketball I grew up watching. This was before APBRmetrics and Hollinger’s stats parsed every minutia of detail into digestible numbers, quantifying a lot but inevitably missing the raw, visceral effect of watching a player play. It was a time, in short, when it was easier to see the game purely subjectively, and as art. And it was impossible to see Rubio as anything but an artist.

As a peer, I found it impossible to watch Rubio without envy. He casually threaded behind-the-back passes through the defense, created steals at half-court, then just smiled, brushed his hair to the side and shrugged his shoulders. He made it look easy, because it was in fact easy for him. He was born with an intuition others could never attain in a lifetime.

In Beijing, in ‘08, the world took notice. This wasn’t just a boy with an otherworldly, God-given gift. He was that, but he was also the future. Expectations were adjusted accordingly upwards .

I finally played against Rubio, twice, in the summer of ’09, when I was with the British National team. By then, Rubio’s boyish enthusiasm seemed slowly to be evaporating. Sergio Scariolo, the Spanish team’s new coach, didn’t seem to understand the young point guard. A coach as calculated as a hit man, Scariolo’s basketball worldview was entirely contradictory to the artistry of Rubio.

***

The first time we played Spain was an exhibition in Seville. A couple minutes into the game, I stood next to him at half court during a free throw and wondered what all the fuss was about. Despite the presence of All-Stars Pau and Marc Gasol and local legend Juan Carlos Navarro, the sold-out crowd couldn’t get enough of Ricky. From middle-aged men to teenage girls, everyone screamed his name; there was literal ooh-ing and aah-ing each time he touched the ball.

And yet he seemed to me to have no discernible physical gifts. He weighed 170 pounds dripping wet, wasn’t nearly as Iverson-quick as I expected him to be and it took him a Mesolithic era to get his shot off. Of course, it was in my interest to believe all this. I’d been given the task of trying to shut Rubio down.

At only 5-11, I made a career out of being the smartest player on the court, understanding the nuances it takes to play the most difficult position on the floor. I’d spent the better part of the day studying tape, checking Rubio’s tendencies and searching for weaknesses in his game, especially in the pick and roll, his bread and butter.

The pick-and-roll, elementary though it seems, is the single hardest play to perfect in all of sports and the basis of any good basketball team. Once a screen is set, a good point guard will go through his reads like a quarterback. Navigating through the matrix of defensive possibilities, he reacts to the other nine guys on the floor, then counter-reacts and possibly further counter-counter-reacts as the court shifts into a geometric puzzle, all in the blink of an eye. That super-fast dynamism is one of the fundamental challenges of basketball: hold the ball a split second too long, what was open has surely been gobbled up by time and space, and you’re left at the defense’s mercy. Years of practice and hundreds of games on, you begin to see the same patterns develop. Then, finally, a complex problem opens enough to reveal a straightforward solution.

Halfway through the first quarter, Rubio called for a screen on the right wing. I bodied him up, forcing him out of his operating zone, then quickly dove under the pick. We had planned to change up our defensive tactics often against the kid, to confuse him and get the ball out of his hands sooner than he wanted. He shifted to his left hand, then paused, just for a moment, switched hands again and used the screen again. I jumped over the pick, and my big man, the long, athletic Joel Freeland, held firm. Suddenly, like a racecar driver, Rubio changed gears from third to fourth and then fifth in the space of about three feet. I fought through the screen, and just when I thought we had him bottled up he froze for a millisecond, waiting for the defense to collapse. Then, at that exact right moment, Rubio flipped it right handed over to an open Navarro on the money. Navarro drove to the hoop and our collapsing defense fouled him before he could get a shot off. Ball out of bounds. A completely meaningless play in the scheme of the game. Also, though, a perfect play.

A few plays later, on a fast break, an open Navarro was in the corner, and Sergio Llull, another great shooter, was on the same wing guarded. There are several things that could have, and ordinarily would have, happened in this situation. Rubio might have lobbed it over to Navarro, allowing the defense to react and forcing Navarro to penetrate and make a play himself; that would ultimately ruin the fast-break. Rubio could have waited for the trailer, or simply dribbled to the opposite side of the floor where there was limited resistance. Rubio did none of these, instead making a beeline straight toward the defender. In essence Rubio, his defender, Llull and Llull’s defender all converged at the intersection on the wing. It was a kamikaze play that no coach would ever teach, yet Rubio’s choice ensured that the defense couldn’t recover when he fired a bounce pass through a keyhole size opening to Navarro. Three points.

It was personally demoralizing, in a way that perhaps only people who have played the position would fully understand. What took me decades to decode seemed to be hardwired into his brain; he was playing with information I didn’t quite have, while running an operating system different than my own. I felt like I was trying to catch an antelope with a butterfly net. No matter what I did or how quickly I beat him to the spot he’d make the right play at just the right moment.

And yet, curiously, Scariolo rarely took the reins off and let Ricky be himself. For much of the game Rubio would just slouch in the corner as a decoy, sucking his teeth and rolling his eyes like a petulant teenager.

A month later we met again in the European Championships in Warsaw. This was a game in which we nearly beat the mighty Spaniards, and from the opening tip it was clear the walls were closing in on Ricky. He was overthinking. When he had the ball, I almost stopped guarding him, playing, five and even ten feet away, daring him to shoot. At other times I almost completely forgot he was on the floor.

He’d given up probing the defense and attacking the paint, in favor of pointless swing passes around the perimeter. Strangest of all, he had stopped running the break, instead walking it up and surrendering to Scariolo’s deliberate play calling. It made my job easier, but it was almost tragic watching the future of basketball banished to the bench every time he made a turnover, his head wrapped in a towel while politely cheering on his teammates. The kid with the permanent grin and unshakable confidence had stopped smiling.

***

His new club team that year, Barcelona, demanded even more structure, wanted Ricky to conform to their static half-court game.

Prodigies, however, don’t conform; they’re not built for it, atypical by definition. Soon everyone in Spain, and I mean EVERYONE had an opinion on Rubio’s struggles, on who he should be and the player he could be. Ricky, the child-star, was being micro-parented by a country full of obsessive stage-mothers; it was stifling the intuitive, free-spirited play that had seemed so innate in the past.

There was, then, some new noise surrounding him, and it began to get louder: “He can’t shoot”, “can’t finish”, “he’s one-dimensional”, “can’t play in the league.”

After slogging through a miserable final season with Barcelona and shooting a pathetic 33%, the critics were merciless. He was quickly becoming a tale of what could have been, the gifted boy besieged by a practical world, torn down by those seeking a rational explanation to what had been an irrational phenomenon.

Rubio, who’d been tabbed at such a young age as the golden child, suddenly found himself facing the very real and very adult prospect of levelling-off and converging on the ordinary. As Spain’s favorite son prepared to make his NBA debut, Rubio seemed not just to be regressing but shrinking, eroding back towards reality. The adversity to come would define him, one way or another. The question was not merely whether he’d be Schea Cotton or LeBron James, though; it was whether he’d ever even get to be Ricky Rubio.

***

Rubio, to his great good fortune, ended up with one of the very few coaches on the planet who shares his understanding of basketball as art. Rick Adelman opened up Rubio’s game again, exorcised it, and seemed to have removed the Scariolo-scars on his psyche. The resulting Minnesota two-man game, giving Kevin Love and Rubio free rein, is less a pure Stockton-esque pick-and-roll than a pick-and-flow, a Rubio-centric offense where anything is possible.

Two, three, maybe four picks are set for the ball handler on any given possession to negate teams going under the screen then freeing Rubio up to run at his defender, eliminate static energy and create the slight mismatches he needs to exploit the defense. It’s simple, yet it’s not. It’s a unique style that Rubio possesses, and one that defies his meager stats. As easy as it is to see and sense, it’s tough to measure the passion and excitement Rubio instills in his teammates and fans, even those of us following on TV.  

To watch Rubio play is to understand he doesn’t see things the way you and I do. When he’s at his best, when we can’t take our eyes off of him, he’s lost in a universe of his own making, a world ‘where you forget everything,’ as he told ESPN.

Perhaps it’s built into his genius DNA, or perhaps he’s a true synesthete, a man who sees distinct patterns and colors built into a spatial landscape on the back of his intuition, where others merely see X’s and O’s. It’s not that Rubio shuns rationality or calculated basketball; he tried hard to fit into Scariolo’s system and Barcelona’s technical mind-fuck, after all. It’s just that he wasn’t designed like that. He can’t play any other way, at least not yet.

And so as he returns from injury, Rubio will be at the crossroads again, and facing another moment of choosing which and what Ricky Rubio he will be. We may get a prodigy transforming before our eyes into the brilliant master we hope for, one who can mesh his instinct and reach further along the spectrum of structure and all-around basketball ability; he could become one of the greats. Or we’ll get a good show while it lasts, one that will fizzle and plateau and then fade in the rising noise about the next big thing. Knowing Rubio, though, there is almost certainly some other path or passage that only he sees.

Illustration by Patrick Puckett.


Share |

Comments

Wonderful blog post. This is absolute magic from you! I have never seen a more wonderful post than this one. You've really made my day today with this. I hope you keep this up!garcinia cambogia reviews and results

I’m excited to uncover this page. I need to to thank you for ones time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely really liked every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information in your siteParc Life

Wonderful blog post. This is absolute magic from you! I have never seen a more wonderful post than this one. You've really made my day today with this. I hope you keep this up! anti wrinkle serum

I’m excited to uncover this page. I need to to thank you for ones time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely really liked every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information in your site. seo

It's really nice and meanful. it's really cool blog. Linking is very useful thing.you have really helped lots of people who visit blog and provide them usefull information.Load cell

I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.Web hosting packages

I don t have the time at the moment to fully read your site but I have bookmarked it and also add your RSS feeds. I will be back in a day or two. thanks for a great site.private mental health care

Two full thumbs up for this magneficent article of yours. I've really enjoyed reading this article today and I think this might be one of the best article that I've read yet. Please, keep this work going on in the same quality.prolapse repair operation

spooky poise and avant-garde precision against a triumvirate of NBA stars in Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. loft conversions Hertfordshire

spooky poise and avant-garde precision against a triumvirate of NBA stars in Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. keep reading

spooky poise and avant-garde precision against a triumvirate of NBA stars in Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Klicken Sie jetzt hier,

guestbook these days,Your own feedback and listed below are excellent in my opinion,incidentally I should say also definitely will teach some gr.. do follow blog comments

This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information. Keep it up. Keep blogging. Looking to reading your next post. link building

Amazing knowledge and I like to share this kind of information with my friends and hope they like it they why I do.
new property launches

Many thanks for the exciting blog posting! Simply put your blog post to my favorite blog list and will look forward for additional updates. Simply wanted to write down a word in order to say thanks to you for those wonderful tips.
igor ledochowski

spooky poise and avant-garde precision against a triumvirate of NBA stars in Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. loft conversions south london

I’m excited to uncover this page. I need to to thank you for ones time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely really liked every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information in your site Satılık müzik seti

Mon oreille avait entendu parler de toi;... seo service

This is what all the Chanel Online Store luxury handbags wants.Luxury Women's handbags are different types and styles.
sash windows london

I am genuinely thankful to the holder of this web page who has shared this wonderful paragraph at at this place emlak franchise

Rev Share Education Lesson 2:

The life and death of any rev share in retrospect.

Lets look at contributing factors to why rev shares fail and ways to eliminate those with strategy and logic.Easy Money

Problem 1: Patience
Now you can do very very well in revenue sharing but this requires patience this is not a HYIP ( high yield income program ). In revenue sharing you need 2 things start money and patience. Now if you have lots of patience you do not need as much start money. If you do not you want to take the bigger buy in route. You absolutely need to have the expectation if this is your first rev share to build your internal wealth for awhile its silly to work the system any other way. Why try to use the system for the opposite of what its designed to do its designed to build wealth fairly quickly yes if you 100 % repurchase for awhile. The system does not grow if people do not repurchase regularly, We will include auto repurchase but for now we have to deal its not part of the script functionality yet. We will get it in the script though.

Problem 2: Slow Growth
Again this is exactly what it sounds like .. money is stale in the system and not being moved .. money has to move all the time. With the exception of your cash holding for withdraw. Please log in as often as possible to repurchase new shares with your repurchase balance this is crucial to the success of daps i cant stress that enough.

Problem 3: Lack of member information
The biggest problem i see in rev share on most sites is the lack of community there absolutely has to be a community of living breathing Rev share members just like you telling other people the ins and outs of revenue sharing. The best thing you can do for yourself to be successfull in rev share is introduce people to the right rev shares. Be sure its solid one your bringing your referrals into reputation is very important in this business if you want to make money simply talking about revenue sharing. Yes I willl be the first one to tell you the break in can be tough but when you get a couple accounts on a couple different sites paying you believe me it all comes together fast. If you bring someone into rev share make sure they can get the information they need ! Tell them where it is or point them to someone who can THIS IS SOOOOO Important.

Great post full of useful tips! My site is fairly new and I am also having a hard time getting my readers to leave comment Free PDF Ebooks

Sergio Scariolo, the Spanish team’s new coach, didn’t seem to understand the young point guard.sash windows london

I most likely appreciating each and every bit of it. It is an incredible site and decent impart. I need to much obliged. Great employment! You all do an incredible blog, and have some extraordinary substance. Keep doing awesome.adjustment of wood window

I feel really happy to have seen your webpage and look forward to so many more entertaining times reading here. Thanks once more for all the details.getting pregnant naturally after unexplained infertility

Or we’ll get a good show while it lasts, one that will fizzle and plateau and then fade in the rising noise about the next big thing. car from delhi to jaipur

Or we’ll get a good show while it lasts, one that will fizzle and plateau and then fade in the rising noise about the next big thing. Knowing Rubio, though, there is almost certainly some other path or passage that only he sees. opportunity seekers email list

There are certainly plenty to choose from at a price There are certainly plenty to choose from at a price that meets anyone’s needs. Please take a look around and we are sure you’ll find something that’s just right for you....our site

Our blogs further more each else volume is so entertaining further serviceable It appoints me befall retreat encore. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates idaho falls demolition

Your valuable key points implies much a person like me and my office workers to read more on your posts. what is wordpress

I am just pretty happy to sign up ones own guestbook these days,Your own feedback and listed below are excellent in my opinion,incidentally I should say also definitely will teach some great supplements for your needs every. ..

premium wp themes

That's what makes you the best. You should keep publishing more articles and you will Such Become One of the best writers ever free merchant terminals

One of them, believe it or not, led the league in Goals Against Average. Disappointingly, only one of them is named "Anton." Good luck. 60x salvia for sale

Thank you, I have recently been searching for information about this topic for ages and yours is the best I have discovered so far. Full Report

I am 100% sure that this article would've taken that award in a blink. This article is compromised of the perfect knowledge, 100% legible writing and everything else is just perfect. They should make that award just for this articlepirater un compte facebook

Cheap e liquid Hi! This enter couldn't be written some superior! Lesson this enter recalls me of my previous bedroom join! He always kept chatting about this. I determination forth this messenger to him. Fairly inescapable he bequeath possess a propitious decipher.

Ixperia IT Schulung und Beratung An 18 Standorten in Deutschland bieten wir anspruchsvollen Führungskräften und Mitarbeitern erfolgreich Seminare zu den Themen IT Service Management, ITIL, Projektmanagement und Prince2 in exzellenter Atmosphäre. Sowohl fachlich als auch für die Durchführung erhalten wir von unseren Teilnehmern dafür die besten Beurteilungen mit 100% Erfolgsgarantie. ITIL Expert

A couple minutes into the game, I stood next to him at half court during a free throw and wondered what all the fuss was about. Grami Dermatology

Merchant Accounts Fascinating plus awesome how your enter is! It Is Beneficial plus cooperative for me That I want it truly many, also I am looking ahead to Interview from your proximate..

Gangaur Realtech is a professionally managed organisation specializing in real estate services where integrated services are provided by professionals to its clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying or investing in real estate. I am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject.internet marketing

It is one of the best posts that I’ve read in a long time. Thanks a lot for this really good post. I really appreciate it! acne no more ebook

but learn that alot of people ought to stay on essay to try and add worth in the direction of the authentic weblog release.. targeted opt email

"I also benefit from learning the assessments, but learn that alot of people ought to stay on essay to try and add worth in the direction of the authentic weblog release geoc"

Amazing notify i want pronounce besides acknowledges for the info. Discipline is definitely a gluey dependent. Nevertheless, is calm amid the chief texts of our phase. I increase your notify further physiognomy further to additional bet365 offers

exhibit spooky poise and avant-garde precision against a triumvirate of NBA stars in Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. loft conversions

Through this post, I know that your good knowledge in playing with all the pieces was very helpful. I notify that this is the first place where I find issues I've been searching for. You have a clever yet attractive way of writing.HVAC

I found Hubwit as a transparent s ite, a social hub which is a conglomerate of Buyers and Sellers who are ready to offer online digital consultancy at decent cost.attract her and keep her interested

This is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the leisure here! Keep up the good work. I have been meaning to write something like this on my website and you have given me an idea.can an average guy date a model

I have bookmarked your website because this site contains valuable information in it. I am really happy with articles quality and presentation. Thanks a lot for keeping great stuff. I am very much thankful for this site.make up schools in hollywood

Wir als Bilderrahmenprofi haben hier alle Produkte zur Bildaufhängung twin race car bed for sale
in einem Shop zusammengestellt.