This was a crazy, interesting day in Sacramento, mainly because we at The Bee didn't learn details about Ricky Rubio's scheduled visit until midafternoon. By then, I had spent 75 minutes with new Kings coach Paul Westphal at a restaurant near Arco Arena, zipped back to the newspaper and written my column for Wednesday's editions, then hurried to a downtown hotel with colleague Sam Amick and photographer Hector Amezcua for our conversation with the Spanish point guard.
Let's just say, there was a buzz around town the minute this kid landed. Whether or not his legal issues are resolved, the Kings actually draft him, or he is the player the Kings SHOULD actually draft, will be addressed in my column in Thursday's editions. But based on first impressions, here are a few thoughts:
- The charisma thing. He definitely has it. The Barcelona native walks into a hotel lobby, and people immediately notice. He also is quite personable, not pre-programmed and packaged like so many boring professional athletes.
- The Kings. Though not totally familiar with the rosters of the teams that might draft him, Rubio had perused the rosters, and interestingly, paid close attention to the birth dates. He wants to join a franchise with young players he can mature and develop with, which makes the Kings an obvious target of his affection.
- The body. Having only watched Rubio on television, most closely during last summer's Olympics, I was surprised by his physique. Dressed in a black T-shirt, shorts and sneakers, he appeared taller than his listed height - close to 6-foot-5. He also had better definition, particularly in his upper arms. He wasn't the skinny young thing he looks like on the tube.
- The idol. His favorite NBA point guard is Chris Paul, though he remembers hearing about Magic Johnson's performance in his hometown during the 1992 Games.
Absolutely, check this out (click below to continue)
Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, who would have to commit to a potentially complicated legal process and/or potential trade scenario if Geoff Petrie identifies Rubio as his NBA Draft Day target (at No.4), are flying in from Las Vegas early Wednesday to watch the 18-year-old run through some drills during an early afternoon workout. Details of the session are unclear, though apparently it won't be too extensive. Rubio recently finished his EuroLeague season and has been taking a break physically. Nonetheless, I am sure Petrie and new Kings coach Paul Westphal are curious for a closer peek.
Oh, to be bilingual
Having Amezcua assigned to photograph our interview with Rubio was a huge advantage. Hector speaks fluent Spanish, and his ability to converse with Ricky and his mother, Tona, immediately put the visitors at ease. This reminded me of how grateful I am that my 13-year-old nephew is taking Spanish next year. As for dinner plans, Petrie and his group dined at Aioli's Bodega on 18th and L, a comfortable environment, one would think.
Amick and I enjoyed a humorous moment while awaiting Rubio at the downtown hotel. It was the same lobby where former Kings coaching candidate Stan Van Gundy blew us off two offseasons ago as he grabbed his belongings and rushed off to a Kinko's to sign his contract ... with the Orlando Magic. Let's see if Rubio's visit has a different ending ....
For those who somehow skipped past the video interview, here it is again...