Rubio to make long-awaited debut with Timberwolves

SATURDAY, DEC. 17, 2011

For two years, Ricky Rubio has been little more than a myth for the Minnesota Timberwolves and their success-starved fans.

They salivated over grainy YouTube clips of Rubio’s fancy passing in European games, nervously read reports that the young Spanish point guard did not want to play in Minnesota and fretted over his paltry statistics for Regal Barcelona last season.

Even when Rubio finally announced that he was coming to the Timberwolves two years after being chosen No. 5 overall, everyone in the Twin Cities had to wait even longer. The lockout delayed the start of the season by nearly two months.

The wait has only seemed to ramp up the anticipation. By Friday, the Wolves had sold 15,000 tickets for Rubio’s preseason debut tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks, despite the fan-alienating labor dispute. It was the highest number of tickets for a Wolves preseason game since 2004-05, the year after they reached the Western Conference finals.

Now it’s time to finally start seeing what all the fuss is about.

The transition has been smooth so far, with Timberwolves coaches and players raving about Rubio’s vision, passing and ability to pick up coach Rick Adelman’s new offense.

“It’s been amazing,” Rubio said. “Playing basketball, I feel so good. Outside the court, I have a lot of people who help me and people in Minnesota have been so nice with me. I feel very good.”

Crawford, McMillan reunite

Jamal Crawford says that when he was growing up in Seattle he used to sneak into the SuperSonics’ facilities. There, he’d scrimmage a bit with guard Nate McMillan, who would give the 16-year-old tips on his jumper.

“He knows my game better than anybody else,” Crawford said.

Crawford, a free agent who played last season in Atlanta, now plays for McMillan.

The 6-foot-5 shooting guard agreed to two-year deal with the Trail Blazers on Thursday. He was introduced at a news conference Friday.


Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, has filed for divorce from the Los Angeles Lakers star. Vanessa Bryant cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for the split. The couple have been married for 101/2 years. … Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat agreed on a contract extension, ending any speculation that Pat Riley’s protege would be a lame-duck coach. … The New Orleans Hornets and 7-foot free-agent forward Jason Smith agreed to a three-year contract worth $7.5 million. Smith averaged 4.3 ppg for the Hornets last season. … Guard Keith Bogans was waived by the Chicago Bulls. Bogans started all 82 games last season.

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