The Rubio Dilemma deepens for Wolves

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Ricky Rubio is supposed to be the savior. That’s the plan. He’s the piece that will come in and make all the misfit toys shine like new. And to be honest, even with the Timberwolves sucking for another year, the idea of Rubio being added to Micheal Beasley and Kevin Love with Wes Johnson thrown in is pretty exciting. That’s a core you can see winning. Or at least, the 18 year old Rubio who was drafted. Because, as the New York Times points out, Rubio’s kind of slipped. Hard.

Rubio didn’t look great in FIBA play this summer, and that’s carried over to his Euroleague play this year. He’s shooting 32%. The kid’s never been known for a great jumper, but that’s a big step backwards. That has to put a damper on the Wolves to some degree in their hopes of him being the savior. But more alarming is the following passage from The Times:

“The bottom line is, why would he want to play in Minnesota?” a senior member of Rubio’s camp said this month. “He’ll continue to say all the diplomatic things, and Minnesota needs to keep his value up for trade purposes, but the family’s preference is to be on the East Coast, specifically New York, Miami or Boston. He wouldn’t be troubled if he has to stay another year.”

But the Timberwolves have leverage. They hold his exclusive draft rights, meaning they are the only N.B.A. team with whom he can negotiate. Their latest strategy in trying to persuade Rubio to sign may center on the possible N.B.A. lockout of players after the collective bargaining agreement expires June 30. The terms of the new agreement will probably be significantly less favorable for rookies.

via Ricky Rubio, No. 5 N.B.A. Pick, Struggles in Europe – NYTimes.com.

Minnesota fans will be quick to point out this is a New York paper, and all New York media has been spinning the story that Rubio wants to come to New York from the beginning, that there’s been no word from Rubio publicly that that’s what he wants. There’s just been word from just about every source around him that that’s what he wants.

So the problem now isn’t just one of whether or not he’ll be willing to sign and commit to the Wolves, which he has at least never indicated he wants to do (whether he’s indicated he doesn’t want to or not), but that he’s not looking like they dynamite point guard he did two years ago. He’s being billed as the savior, but in reality, he may just be a very good point guard. And if that’s the case, he’s still a building block for the Wolves, but no the answer.

One other problem not mentioned in this article? Rollbacks.

Should the CBA greatly restrict cap space and revamp salaries as it’s expected to, there’s a strong contingent that believes there will be salary rollbacks. Which means that Rubio could sign under the current rookie structure, and still have his deal revamped into the new system. There’s no guarantee of more money in the event he decides to come over and sign now.

Things are just never easy for the Timberwolves.

Willy Hernangomez ‘mad’ about falling from Knicks rotation

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Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.

But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.

Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.

Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”

The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.

There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.

But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.

Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.

Report: Eric Bledsoe requested trade from Suns before season

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Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:

In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.

Another Hornets backup PG injured

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Hornets backup point guard Michael Carter-Williamsout.

Nicolas Batum, who handled a lot of playmaking with Charlotte’s second units – out.

Julyan Stone, another Hornets backup point guard – out.

Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that guard Julyan Stone has suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring. The injury occurred in practice on Sunday, Oct. 22 and he did not travel with the team to Milwaukee.  Stone is listed as out for tonight’s game against the Bucks and his expected recovery time is estimated at four to six weeks.

The Hornets have been outscored by an astounding 35.8 points per 100 possessions without starter Kemba Walker, producing an offensive rating of just 61.4. That’s in just 23 minutes, but the problem dates back to last season, when Charlotte was outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions with a 100.7 offensive rating sans Walker.

Now, the Hornets have little choice but to turn to rookie Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring guard, but his 6-foot-3 size means he has at least worked on playing point guard. Is he ready to play the position full-time for a team eying the playoffs. Probably not, but he’ll just have to do his best to keep Charlotte afloat in the few minutes Walker rests.

Report: Suns also fire three assistant coaches

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The Suns fired Earl Watson just three games into the season – the second-earliest firing in NBA history.

They didn’t stop there.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Firing assistant coaches during the season has become Phoenix’s m.o. I’m just not sure what it accomplishes.

Were Watson, Nate Bjorkgren, Mehmet Okur and Jason Fraser all so bad at their jobs? If so, why did the Suns figure that out simultaneously?

Were the firings designed to shake up a losing team? If so, wouldn’t ousting Watson have been enough?

Will Phoenix replace those assistants? If not, will the team have the resources to properly train its players?

The Suns are filled with young players who need coaching, particularly skill development. This move looks like it will put them further behind.