Ricky Rubio leads Barcelona to Euroleague title, says blowing off Minnesota was right call

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Ricky Rubio is a basketball rock star.

At 19 he just led Barcelona to the Euroleague championship Sunday, making some shots but mostly creating for others with natural gifts that have NBA Scouts drooling. He is the best point guard in Europe. Last summer — at 18 — he held his own against America’s best for Spain in the Gold Medal game in the Beijing Olympics.

Rubio was drafted last year by the Timberwolves, but he couldn’t work out an affordable buyout with his old team DKV Joventut (by NBA rule Minnesota couldn’t pay much of it), so he blew off the NBA to play for Barcelona for at least two years.

He told the Star-Tribune that was the right move.

“To be in the Final Four of the Euroleague, this is where I want to be,” said the recipient of the league’s Rising Star Award, given annually to the best young player. “I’ve worked hard to make it to this goal. And this shows me that I chose the best option. I am so happy on this team. These players help me improve every day and so do the assistant coaches and other staff.”

Rubio made the right call.

He will gain more leading a team in Europe’s top league than he would losing 50 games with the Timberwolves. Rubio needed work on his shooting mechanics — European teams practice much more than NBA teams, the quality coaches at Barcelona have spent far more time revamping his shot than Kurt Rambis and team could have.

Plus, the direction Minnesota has chosen with the triangle offense was always a poor fit for Rubio. The offense does not want a strong, playmaking point guard well (think of Phil Jackson’s points through the years: Derek Fisher, Ron Harper, John Paxson). The T-Wolves already ran some non-traditional triangle sets to accommodate Jonny Flynn. Rubio would have blown the thing up.

Still, after next season he has an opt out of his Barcelona contract, and he may well come to the United States. Although that is not a sure thing — Barcelona has deep pockets, while Rubio would have to risk a lockout and receive rookie-scale salary to play in the NBA. Meaning he may well have to take a pay cut for a few years.

Barcelona will fight to keep him, he is a rock star.

Brandon Ingram posterizes Taj Gibson on alley-oop (video)

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The Lakers wouldn’t trade Brandon Ingram for DeMarcus Cousins, because they believe in Ingram (or because they couldn’t get on the same page about a deal, but let’s go with a belief in Ingram).

The Thunder traded for Taj Gibson because he provided, among other things, stellar rim protection.

One of those worked better than the other on this play.

Gordon Hayward dunks on Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thon Maker (videos)

Gordon Hayward (20), del Jazz de Utah, intenta un enceste ante Thon Maker (7) y Michael Beasley (9), de los Bucks de Milwaukee, en el duelo del viernes 24 de febrero de 2017, en Milwaukee. (AP Foto/Benny Sieu)
AP Foto/Benny Sieu
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Are we obligated to call Gordon Hayward “deceptively athletic”?

The Bucks have something special in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and they think they have something special in Thon Maker.

But Hayward jammed all over those two in the Jazz’s 109-95 win last night.

First, he got Antetokounmpo:

Then, he got Maker:

Report: Lakers working toward buyout with Jose Calderon; Warriors, Rockets interested

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18:  Jose Calderon #5 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a called foul during the second half of a game against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on November 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Lakers took on the salary of Jose Calderon this year so they could get a couple second-round picks from the Bulls (Chicago got him from New York in the Derrick Rose trade), but even with the previous regime in Los Angeles the aging point guard was never part of the future.

As was expected, the Lakers are now talking about buying out the Spanish national and letting him head to a playoff team for a stretch run, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN that it’s not yet a certainty Calderon will secure his release from the Lakers in the coming days, but the sides are indeed discussing the options as Wednesday’s playoff eligibility deadline nears….

Sources say that Calderon, if he winds up hitting the open market, would instantly become a target for both the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets.

Cleveland may also have interest if their plan to land Deron Williams when he is bought out by Dallas goes awry.

Calderon, 35, was not part of the Lakers’ regular rotation, playing in just 24 games. He can still knock down a shot if he has space and can set his feet, and he still has a high hoops IQ and can see the floor, but his athleticism has faded, and that can leave him exposed. Particularly on defense.

Players are being waived now so they clear in time for teams to sign them by March 1, after that said players are not eligible for playoff rosters.

There are better players to hit the waiver wire in the coming days — D-Will, Andrew Bogut, Matt Barnes — but Calderon is going to land somewhere. He’d be a solid third point guard and veteran presence for a playoff run.

Marquese Chriss blocks Bobby Portis, who gets testy (video)

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Bobby Portis didn’t enjoy getting blocked by Marquese Chriss. And Portis sure didn’t appreciate how Chriss fell on him.

But it was all worth it (for me, at least) just to see the Bulls forward make a face that reminded me of this: