Despite being on vacation for a week at a rather remote lake in northern Minnesota, I was able to stay in touch with the sports world while away. The following post is going to cover a variety of topics that I wanted to touch on. There are lots of things that get on my nerves, and sporting events are no exception. If I may go back a week or so in the sports world, I’d like to discuss the Ricky Rubio situation that has arisen. After being drafted 5th by the Minnesota Timberwolves, the same guy who said he’d play in the NBA “for free” and that getting out of his current contract wouldn’t be a problem, now is talking about remaining in Spain for one or two more years. Couple that with him saying that Minnesota is “too cold” and skipping the Timberwolves post-draft press conference, it looks as though Rubio has no intention of putting on a Wolves jersey anytime soon, if at all. While this situation bothers me in part because I am a Timberwolves fan, I would dislike this situation regardless of the team. I still hold a grudge against Eli Manning for refusing to play for the Chargers and think that Yi Jianlian and his agents were wrong in how they scoffed at the idea of playing in Milwaukee. The point of the draft is that the best players go to the worst teams. Demanding a trade or refusing to play defeats the purpose of the draft and, in my opinion, lowers the integrity of the sport in question.
Looking at the Rubio situation, it is obvious that he would not balk if he were to play in New York (which can be cold as well, Ricky). All I heard about from Rubio was that the NBA was his dream and he was excited to play, but once he found out he was headed to Minnesota, he changed his song. This is nothing more than a desire to make as much money as possible. New York is not a better team than Minnesota, but endorsements may come quicker for him there. There are some who believe that the big name players belong in the big markets because it “helps the NBA”. My question in return is that if a big name player refuses to play in a small market in favor of a New York or Los Angeles, how does the small franchise survive and thrive? If every college/foreign star heads right for a large market, how does the NBA expect to make money from the small market teams? Do they just bank on a sellout when the Knicks or Lakers come to town? Or should the NBA allow the small market teams to become glorified junior varsity teams who are perenially whipping posts for the big teams on their run to the playoffs? The draft is one of the few things that instills hope in a franchise and its fanbase, and landing a big name player brings some excitement which, in turn, sells tickets and merchandise.
I do not believe for a second that Rubio’s reluctance to play in Minnesota has anything to do with his desire to win with a better team. If that was the case, he would absolutely refuse to go to New York whose only hope is landing LeBron James via free agency next year. Rubio wants the spotlight, and he wants it now. Ironically enough Minnesota, in terms of media markets, is the 14th largest in the country which is higher than all but 12 other NBA cities. Maybe Ricky Rubio should take a look at previous NBA stars and where their careers started and how much money they made there. Kevin Garnett spent the majority of his career in Minnesota and he signed what was at the time the largest contract in professional sports history. He was one of the most recognizable players in the world way before he headed for Boston. Tim Duncan has spent his career in a relatively small media market, 28th, and has numerous endorsements as well as four championship rings. Shaquille O’Neal started his career in Orlando and made gobs of money there. Hakeem Olajuwon dominated and won in Houston. Chris Paul helped revive the city of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina and is loved there. The list goes on. The point is that players become famous and make money depending on how they play, not where they play. Ricky Rubio needs to play where he is drafted and if, after three years, he isn’t happy with the team or the location, make a move to a place that suits him. Maybe he goes to a team that is a contender. Maybe he goes to a city he really likes. At that point, the choice is his because he will have earned his stripes playing where he was drafted.
At the risk of sounding totally vindictive, I hope that the Wolves do trade him. I hope the Wolves get some excellent, proven players in return and Rubio flops like a fish out of water. This opinion could change if news comes out that he wants to play here and that, perhaps, it was his agent pushing him away from Minnesota. But for now, I have little love for him.
The next topic I wanted to touch on was fan voting for All-Star games. After I read espn.com’s own expert picks (AL and NL), I had to say that I agreed with most of their picks outside of Derek Jeter starting in front of Jason Bartlett who is having a career year. Then when the official starting lineups came out, I officially gave up on the All-Star voting process. New York Yankee fans and yes, you too, Boston Red Sox fans somehow find the time to log thousands of votes each in order to put their players, many times undeserving, in the starting lineup. Derek Jeter starting at shortstop is unfortunately a given until he retires, but Mark Teixeira over Justin Morneau? Please. Do you even look at the stats or just look at the team name? Morneau is having, by FAR, the better season but won’t get the “honor” of starting thanks to the fans. And if someone can tell me how Josh Hamilton deserves to be an All-Star starter (considering the ESPN folks didn’t even have him as a runner up), please let me know.
I wouldn’t care as much if the All-Star game didn’t actually mean something. Home field advantage is at stake. This should not be a popularity contest if something is on the line. I want the best players out there because if my team makes it to the World Series, I want home field advantage. Period. The NBA All-Star game is a 48 minute dunk-fest, no defense, popularity contest but it doesn’t count for anything so I don’t care if Yao Ming leads the league in votes even twenty years after he retires. But in baseball something is at stake and allowing millions of voters to put Derek Jeter as the AL leading vote getter, something is wrong.
I’m also not thrilled about the Lakers getting Ron Artest, but that’s just me Laker hating and not the fault of anyone. I hope to see some other contenders make a few more moves so that they can give the Lakers a run for their money. Keep an eye out for an NBA article soon to come focusing on all the trades and free-agency moves and who I think the winners and losers of the deals are.
I’ll try to post something a little more positive next time but what can I say…..I can be a negative guy!