Friday, July 17, 2009

Dave's excellent adventure

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - Minnesota Timberwolves president David Kahn plans to jet across the Atlantic next week in hopes of lowering a staggering buyout price tag that has threatened to keep his new point guard, Ricky Rubio, in Europe for the next couple of seasons.

When we last saw the 18-year-old wunderkind at the draft, a future in the Twin Cities looked clouded at best. Originally projected as the second pick by most, Rubio "fell" to fifth and ended up on a team that drafted two other point guards (although the Wolves did trade Ty Lawson).

Live at the draft, I couldn't help thinking Rubio had the look of someone who saw his family dog kicked when Sacramento passed him up at No. 4. That was quickly replaced by the look on my face after I was forced to watch "27 Dresses" for the umpteenth time when the Wolves selected him.

Rumors quickly circulated that Rubio wanted no part of the Twin Cities with Houston and New York quickly making trade overtures.

Ricky Rubio is still under contract with Joventut for the next two seasons.
Kahn, who is replacing a local legend in Kevin McHale, passed his first test and has seemingly convinced Rubio to give Minneapolis a try. Now, comes the hard part, prying the youngster away from his Spanish team, DKV Joventut.

Rubio, who has been playing in the Spanish ACB league since he was 14, is still under contract with Joventut for the next two seasons and has a hefty buyout tag that could be as high as $6.6 million, this despite the fact that Rubio made less than $100,000 last season.

Even in these tough economic times, cutting a check for nearly $7 million is small potatoes for an NBA team convinced they have a future superstar on its hands. However, the league's collective bargaining agreement hamstrings that idea, enabling a franchise to pay just $500,000 of any projected buyout.

Kahn claims he is willing to be patient.

In an online letter to the Wolves' fans shortly after the draft, Kahn said he was willing to wait one or two years on Rubio, a surprising tact considering that the team has had trouble giving away $7 dollar tickets since the disastrous trade that sent the face of the franchise, Kevin Garnett, to Boston.

"We will be totally supportive of Ricky and his family and (agent Dan) Fegan in any way, shape or form," Kahn said the day after Rubio was drafted. "If there's anything we can do to be of assistance or of help, as long as it is within the rules, we will."

The easier answer is for Rubio to just ante up the cash. After all, his future earnings are virtually guaranteed to dwarf $6.6 million.

Rubio has a bright future on the endorsement front and is already appearing in a television commercial for Gillette, along with superstars like Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter and Roger Federer. However, Rubio's fall from second or third overall to fifth on draft night likely cost him more than $3 million over the life of his first NBA rookie contract. Nonetheless, even a pedestrian 10-year NBA career would generate tens of millions.

Despite that kind of "collateral," Fegan is loathe to recommend his client mimic the United States Government and spend gobs of money on the assumption of futures earnings. Instead, the agent hopes something can be worked out with Joventut.

To that end, Kahn and Wolves owner Glen Taylor met with Fegan early this week in Las Vegas, hoping to solve the buyout problem. Problem is, Joventut is in the driver's seat.

Kahn hopes a face-to-face with the team might help lower the price tag.

Sounds like a long shot to me but at least the Wolves basketball chief will get a nice little vacation out of it and who knows, maybe Kahn will take the time to clear his head and actually pick a coach.

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