(*Note: This post was written shortly before the 2011-2012 regular season began)
Let’s start with that name: Ricky Rubio. You might envision a cartoon character, maybe a fair-haired amigo of Dora the Explorer. Short, apple-cheeked, blond.
And then his grinning, mop-topped head ripe for Tween marketing (see photo above). Bieber meets Menudo. Enrique: the Lost Jonas Brother. And so on, ad pop nauseam.
This guy is going to guard Chris Paul? Derrick Rose?
This guy is going to drive the lane on Kendrick Perkins? Ron Artest?
And then I worry it sounds like a cruel joke, something a New Yorker might dream up (if New York dreams ever stretched west of the Hudson River): Smiley-go-lucky Ricky Rubio here to lead the plucky Timberpuppies, perennial losers, and their Minnesota Nice fans, to a new Edad de Oro.
Talk about the underdog leading the underdogs. This would be a storyline as deserving of Disney as “The Mighty Ducks” - a team that ranks up there with Minnesota's most beloved champions.
Our previous nice guy, the previous “Kid” (see: Da) left Minnesota so distraught that he became a screaming Ubuntu warrior (...and NBA champion).
So I’m afraid no amount of Spanish sazón can make this smile-splattered beanpole look anything but milquetoast alongside the playground-bred American elite, ready with 300-lb picks and elbows the size New Jersey. To them, won’t Ricky Rubio seem easier to clear aside than a dusting of October snow?
But wait. The kid can play. ¡Mira! ¿No ves? He has faced down the best across years of international competitions, including the 2008 Olympics (silver medal). The 21-year-old is a six-year professional and has played on and against Europe’s elite squads. So maybe.
In Minnesota we’ve hung our hats on Maybes before. We grow them (Mardy Fish). We develop them (Christian Ponder). And we import them, too (Johan Santana.)
In any case, this first season will involve a learning curve. And this blog will follow that curve and the Wolves, as well as my own thoughts on bastkeball, Spain, Minnesota, language, and memory.
I was raised in Minnesota and have lived in Spain (though I currently live in Boston). I was 7 when the franchise came to Minneapolis and remember attending early games played on a makeshift court in the HHH Metrodome. I played organized basketball through the eighth grade, around the time the Timberwolves became competitive and drafted Kevin Garnett.
In the years since, I’ve become (or always was) a writer. Minnesota and my time abroad living in Spanish-speaking countries like Spain, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina inform much of my writing, as does my love of sports.
Then along came Ricky Rubio, and with his arrival, the idea for this blog.
Some posts will be in English. Others in Spanish. Those I have time to translate will appear in both, side by side.
You are welcome here. Eres bienvenido aquí.
Go Wolves. Arriba Los Timberlobos.
Welcome to The Park.
The Park is a creative play space (aka blog).
RubioLand--my bilingual blog about Ricky Rubio's first season with the MN Timberwolves--is long since done, but you can still find it in the archives.