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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There’s no doubt Ricky Rubio has been the jolt of electricity the Timberwolves needed. From the moment he arrived in Minnesota, he’s been fan favorite.
The fears and speculation during the two years of contract negotiations melted away as soon as he arrived. Rubio says he’s here and he’s 100 percent committed.
“Two years ago, when I came here I had problems with the buyout and all this stuff. I decided to stay there two years and I talked with the general manager David Kahn; and I said to him, I have to wait two years but after two years I’m going to come, I’m 100 percent sure.”
Rubio has taken a big step into the NBA. But he wasn’t afraid of playing on a young team or the talk of an NBA lockout, what worried Rubio was the Minnesota winter.
“I heard a lot of good things [about Minnesota.] There’s good people,” he said. “In the summer, in the city, it’s nice, but not in the winter, because of the weather.”
He hasn’t done much sight-seeing yet.
“The last couple days it’s been cold and I hate cold, so I’ve stayed home,” he laughed.
While it may be relatively cold outside, the Timberwolves have turned up the heat on the hardwood at the Target Center. Rubio built a reputation for being a playmaker during his time in Spain.
When comparing the difference in playing in the NBA, he simply said: “Basketball is basketball. You have to pass the ball, you have to score.”
There may be five people on the court, but Rubio understands the pressure and expectations for him to play well are there, too. For now, the fans are behind him and the rest of the team.
“Sometimes you can feel it,” he said. “And when everything is going well, all the people are going to be there. But what you don’t know is when it’s going to be bad: Are the fans going to be there or not?
“It’s not only on me, it’s on all the team. We have to believe. We’ll have to work, and we have to win.”
Rubio emphasized he doesn’t want himself or his teammates to get caught up in the hype.
“You have to try to play well and focus on your game, and that’s it. It’s nice that the people [are supporting] the team, and me. I feel comfortable with that, but I have to be focused only on the game.”
The team is working hard and winning. Their condensed season has started off with a 3-5 record, but don’t let the numbers fool you – most of those losses were within a basket or two.
Rubio works hard off the court, too. When he’s not in interviews or at appearances, he hits a different type of net – the Internet. His Twitter account has nearly a half-million followers and is growing by the thousands each day.
“I try to do it in both languages: English and Spanish,” Rubio said. “But sometimes I just Tweet in Spanish. When I tweet in English, Spanish people get mad at me. When I tweet in Spanish, English people get mad at me. You never can be 100 percent for everybody, you know. I try to do both, at the same time; but it’s hard.”
He goes on to explain: “I’m not a great English writer, because I learned English when I was young — but only talking. My English is not perfect. I’m talking classes, and I’m going to improve. But at the moment, it’s not my best. Sometimes I need a translator to write the right word.”
Rubio’s fast feet and hands are helpful on the court. He’s been quick to adjust to life in Minnesota. However, it’s the flavors of Spain that he’s really craving.
“I miss Spanish food,” he said. “But I’m gonna try the Minnesota food.”
Traditional local favorites like walleye and wild rice aren’t on his menu just yet, but Rubio did unwrap the special snack he can’t get enough of.
“Last year, I was playing with Allen Anderson, who’s from Minnesota, and he always brought us Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I love them! But I ate too many. I hate them now, you know what I mean? Because when I came here, I start eating it and eating, eating and eating and then: I’m bored with them!”