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The last hurdles for Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio to join the Minnesota Timberwolves have been cleared, sources told ESPN on Thursday.
|Despite Ricky Rubio's offensive struggles this season at Barcelona, he's still seen as the Timberwolves' point guard of the future.|
Rubio wrote on Twitter on Thursday that he will hold a news conference in Barcelona on Friday to discuss his basketball future.
"Goodnight everyone," Rubio tweeted in Spanish. "Tomorrow morning I give a press conference to say my future. A hug and see you tomorrow."
Rubio had to reach a contract agreement with the Timberwolves and submit it to the NBA by May 31 to be eligible to play next season. The Timberwolves selected Rubio with the fifth pick of the 2009 draft. The 20-year-old has played the last two seasons in Spain, in part because he felt he wasn't physically ready for the NBA and in part because the buyout price of his Spanish League contract -- $6 million-plus -- was too steep for him to pay out of his own pocket.
Rubio, the Timberwolves and his Spanish team, FC Barcelona, agreed to the necessary terms to meet the May 31 deadline, sources said. Several outlets reported the deadline had been met two weeks ago. The Timberwolves, Barcelona and Rubio's representatives have refused to comment.
Rubio's move to the NBA could not happen, however, without chain-of-command overseas approval. FC Barcelona had to authorize his release with Spanish League officials, who then had to forward their approval to FIBA, the international basketball federation. No action could be taken until Rubio's season with FC Barcelona was over, so the final approval process did not begin until the team completed its league championship run Tuesday night. A letter of approval from FIBA, the last step, awaited NBA commissioner David Stern when he arrived at his office Thursday morning, a source with knowledge of the process said.
The release of drafted international players had not been an issue previously because international league play consistently ended well before May 31. The NBA and FIBA, a source said, reached an agreement in the last few years that supersedes the existing language of the league's collective bargaining agreement to get around the timing issue.
Rubio has been compared to the late NBA legend Pete Maravich, in part because of his ballhandling skills and floor vision and in part because of a physical resemblance. He's listed as 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds with a 6-9 wingspan. He will turn 21 in October.
Although competition at the point guard position in the NBA is as fierce as it has been in years, Rubio is expected to have an immediate impact for a Timberwolves team that finished with the worst record (17-65) in the league last season, a result that earned Minnesota the second overall pick in next Thursday's draft.
Stern must officially give his approval, but a source said, "It's just a formality. It's done."
Ric Bucher reports on the NBA for ESPN The Magazine.