The years of uncertainty seem to be behind us for Ricky Rubio (El Masnou, 1990) in Cleveland, his fourth team in three years. A destiny that seemed to condemn him to the shadows (27% of victories in the last three seasons), has become his particular Shangri La, integrated into a group brimming with talent and youth. The good feelings that he experienced in the Tokyo Games as leader of the team they remain for the point guard, happy to receive his family at home these days to share the Christmas.
There is a long way to go to finish the regular league, but the numbers are impressive: (60% wins, fifth in the Eastern Conference). It was unthinkable when the league started. Thirty games is a good number to see where we are going, and although it is not yet time to take stock, we started strong and remain strong. The key to the team is defense and that helps us to be consistent. We have had injuries and people out and I think one of the most difficult calendars at this start of the League and even so, we have overcome everything. That makes me positive for what lies ahead.
Only the pandemic is clouding the picture. I think that up to seven players are excluded from the team due to health protocols. Things are getting really complicated, really. We have several players and coaches affected. I had the third vaccination about three weeks ago. A few days ago, I was fatal and I thought I had caught it, but it was from a stomach virus that my son had caught. They are monitoring us all and we are training in separate groups to limit risks.
"Finishing in Cleveland was not what I expected. But the team is strong and has shown me that it trusts me."
Early forecasts placed the Cavs among the three worst teams of the season. The other day they told me that ESPN had predicted 27 victories for Cleveland this year and we have already had 19. We have had a very good 'rookie' (Evan Mobley), the connection and the chemistry between everyone has worked and we have recovered Kevin Love after two years with many physical problems. In the end, I think everyone has done their bit to make the team work.
On a personal level, his numbers are at the best level of his career: 12.7 points, with 34% in triples, 6.6 assists and 1.3 steals in 28.4 minutes. I came to Cleveland after a summer in which I was at the best level in the national team, acting as the leader. That is what I try to bring here, a very young team that trusts my experience in the end of the game and that is important. We have won tight matches not only because I have been successful in shooting but also in making decisions.
He has also just surpassed the 5,000 assists figure in his career, which has only been achieved by 71 players. How do you rate it? Those small achievements that I make as my career progresses, they make you feel proud and sure that it is something that I will be able to explain to my son or to my grandchildren and tell them that I was on these lists.
Could you imagine something like that when his trade to the Cavs was confirmed in the summer? Finishing up in Cleveland was not what I expected. It happened when I was at the Games and it was not news that motivated or excited me. But both the coach (JB Bickertstaff) and the general manager (Koby Altman) made a great effort to convince me that they wanted a great role from me, although the situation was not easy because I was coming to a team whose two best players were point guards. In the end, in the time I've been here, they've shown me that they trust me.
He is at such a good level that many see him as a candidate for the sixth man award. It wouldn't be bad right? But in the end all this individual awards are the consequence of many more things. It is a prize for which many players choose. For example in Miami, Tyler Herro, a player who comes off the bench and could be a starter in any team. In the end, that award will also define a bit how the team finishes and how far you have been able to take it to the top.
"The future? My father and my wife ask me and I honestly have no idea. When the League is over, I will decide"
You can come to think that he has not had much luck with the teams he has gone to, teams from medium-sized cities without many aspirations. Maybe it's because we all always want more. But let's not stop having perspective: I have been playing in the NBA. Tell me how many Spanish players have played them? I am very happy to have been around for so many years and to have achieved what I have achieved.
Sometimes, it is a matter of a stroke of luck…. I've always said it. Steph Curry is and will be terrific, but if he hadn't been chosen by Golden State, and had been chosen by the Knicks or Minnesota, what would have happened? Or if he hadn't had Kerr as a coach, who has given him all the confidence. We will not know. But apart from that, it is clear that he is a player who has marked an era and has changed basketball, the way of playing. Not only in the NBA, also in Europe and the rest of the world. And that is within the reach of only a few. They could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
A couple of weeks ago there was talk of Golden State's interest in incorporating him and in recent days there is also talk of the Lakers, who value him as a replacement for Westbrook. Don't tell me you're not flattering? My father is the first to tell me about all these rumors and what I always tell him is that until it happens, ignore it. I do not think too much about the subject because in the end it takes you out of what you are really living. Right now I'm in a team where things are working really well. Why think that? And if it happens in the end, then welcome.
Among the reasons why his name sounds so much is the great game he played at Madison, in which he scored 37 points, his personal record for scoring in the NBA, and received praise from Lebron. It was one of those games where you get everything, like against the USA in the Games. I enjoyed it very much. Is not always that way. I wish it were, although it is true that when I am training, I think I can always be at that level and I work to have more games like this.
You turned to Raül López in your day to help you improve your pitch and you continue to use him as an assistant to work on different aspects of the game. What responsibility do you have in its evolution? With Raül we have worked a lot technically and tactically, but also mentally. That job is there. I am a more complete player in every way. But the mental aspect is very important. The key in the end is trust and put aside doubts. Mentally now I am another.
Are you happy and enjoying basketball again? Yes, of course, ... although it is true that now the basketball It is not as important to me as it was before, because before it was everything. Now there are other things. But it is also the logical consequence of times and moments through which my life has passed.
And off the court? You openly admitted that you had a terrible time with the passing of your mother in a public letter in The Player's Tribune. Being a father has helped me a lot. Until you live it, you don't understand it. It is true that the first year was difficult because it was a life change for me and you have to adapt. But now that (Liam) is turning two, I'm really enjoying it. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I lived through bad times with the death of my mother and there is no book you can turn to that tells you how to pass it. Everyone passes it as best they can. I'm not a person who shows up much, but it cost me. There are still days that are missing and that it is difficult to move forward. Liam and my travel companion (Sara) are the supports that have helped me to continue and overcome it.
Being happy depends on making others happy. Did that push you to promote your Foundation? That's something my mother always said. I am super proud of the Foundation because it is gaining momentum, with many projects underway. He just received an award from the NBA for supporting the community. The work he does is already more important than any victory and it fills me up a lot.
This summer the contract ends. Have you decided what you want to do? My father and my wife ask me too. And I honestly have no idea. Nor do I want to stop and think about it because all hypotheses can end up breaking down. It's true that when I was traded to the Cavs, I thought, if things don't work out, I'll go back, because I was tired of going from one team to another and not fighting to win. Now that changes. Until the season is over I will not decide what my future will be.
Marc Gasol has just made the news with his departure from the NBA and his return to Girona. Does his example and the idea of returning to play at home tempt you? Marc is a special player, who breaks all the molds. I have always admired him a lot and now even more. But although I know that I have been playing for many years, I am still 31. I think I have some rope left, another three or four years I hope ... The other day I was commenting on it with a friend, 'when I am 40 years old, I will play with all of you at Masnou '. Of course I would like to, I don't know if with some intermediate stage. But that will come.