If the NBA lockout did not exist, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett would be running lanes alongside Rajon Rondo, and Ricky Rubio would be tossing no-look alley-oops to Derrick Williams on a nightly basis. Instead, in this parallel universe defined by BRI splits and “the system,” Rubio has spent his extended offseason playing pickup basketball with Garnett and Pierce.
Six thousand miles from home and perhaps even farther yet from his first NBA game, Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio has prepped in Los Angeles for his new life and new league by scrimmaging with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce by day and — at least just once — visiting the city’s freak shows by night. …
“The best thing I can do is come here, play with the guys who are playing in the NBA and be ready when the league starts,” he said. “The best thing I can do is see them play. In the end, it’s basketball, you know? But it’s different than Europe. I needed to come here so I can feel and I can see and I can watch how to play.”
And so Rubio has worked with renowned NBA trainer Joe Abunassar and practiced daily with a rotating lineup of players such as Garnett, Pierce, Danny Granger, Joakim Noah, Shawn Marion, Nick Young and fellow rookie Enes Kanter, among many others. …
The last time he visited, Minneapolis was leafy green and warm.
The next time?
“I know the weather won’t be like that when I go back,” Rubio said. “I love the place. The people are so nice. I talk with KG, too, and he talked to me great things about Minnesota. He said the crowd cheers very hard for the team. They love the sport. We have to fight to give them what they are waiting for us to do, to win.
This brings me to exhibit 1A why the NBA lockout sucks: Every single team’s watchable next year. Just think about the four least exciting teams from last season:
Minnesota: Kevin Love makes most basketball purists drool, and the Rubio-to-Williams highlight reel should make anyone with a pulse giggle. Then, there’s always the possibility that Michael Beasley scores 40, or better yet, he might fight a fan. Even better than THAT, there’s a remote possibility Beasley fights Darko to the death. My money’s on Wesley Johnson winning that fight when an errant jumper strikes Darko in the head. If that possibility isn’t enough, rather than trying to play the miserable version of the triangle offense that was employed last year, the Wolves will run Rick Adelman’s sets. In other words, they transformed overnight into one of the league’s most League-Passable teams.
New Jersey Nets: Watching Kris Humphries bang inside while Travis Outlaw jacked shots from outside was, in a word, vomitacious. Watching Deron Williams run pick-and-rolls while hoping this is the year Brook Lopez grows a pair? Not ideal, but at least watchable.
Washington Wizards: Three words: Jan Vesely’s girlfriend. If that doesn’t whet your basketball appetite, there’s always John Wall.
Cleveland: You don’t want to watch No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving? Then at least enjoy the spectacle of Baron Davis shooting jumpers from outside, Anderson Varejao flopping inside, Antawn Jamison growing even older, and Tristan Thompson — um, why’d they draft Thompson with the No. 4 pick, again? Okay, well at least there’s Irving. Not enough? Fine. Retract my previous statement. 29 out of 30 teams are watchable. Except that we can’t watch any of them.