After weeks of courting Spanish league officials for a favorable contract buyout, the Minnesota Timberwolves' brash general manager, David Kahn, failed to deliver point guard Ricky Rubio(notes), sources told Yahoo! Sports on Monday night.
Rubio – the fifth pick in the 2009 NBA draft – has agreed to a six-year contract with Regal FC Barcelona that doesn’t allow for an escape to the NBA until 2011. Kahn made several trips to Spain to try to get Rubio’s previous team, DKV Joventut, to lower his $8 million buyout price, but couldn’t get it done.
Rubio, 18, apparently won’t play for the T’wolves until the 2011-12 season, and that’s devastating for the franchise’s new regime, which hoped to tout Rubio as one of its fresh-faced stars. Minnesota was able to legally pay only $500,000 toward the buyout, and the relative constraints of the Twin Cities’ market made the accumulation of endorsement deals difficult to close the gap on the buyout figure. Rubio would’ve made nearly $3.3 million in the NBA this season as the fifth pick in the draft.
Rubio is one of the most celebrated young prospects to ever come out of Europe, a cult figure who has played pro ball since his 15th birthday. Kahn, the NBA Developmental League owner who was the surprise choice of Minnesota’s ownership to replace former GM Kevin McHale, has banked a lot of his early credibility on how he’s handled Rubio’s buyout negotiations.
Rubio and his family were never enamored with Minnesota, and along with agent Dan Fegan, longed for a big-city franchise to market Rubio’s wares. Now, there’s a chance that Minnesota eventually will have to trade Rubio’s rights – perhaps to the New York Knicks, a preferred destination – when it’s time for the point guard to leave Europe in 2011.
For now, Rubio will play for Spain in the upcoming European Championships in Poland. After that, he’ll be with Barcelona for a minimum of two years. His future in the NBA – with Minnesota, or elsewhere – remains in the future.
- David Kahn