Phoenix Suns are in the Western Conference Finals. If you take into account the last decade of the franchise, it is a capital news, even difficult to believe; if you look at the more recent past, the surprise can be lowered a bit. Not excessively, of course, as they are Finals; but everything that is happening is better understood. The team led by Monty Williams, NBA coach of the year, left the Orlando bubble without making the playoffs, but also without losing a game. It was a warning that saves them from any betrayal in this course: something was brewing and, this season, it has simply exploded. Surely, that was one of the reasons that led Ricky Rubio to feel extremely upset about his transfer to Oklahoma City Thunder, a team at a totally different time: If the point of maximum maturity is being reached in Arizona, the seed has not yet been planted in Oklahoma. Finally, and in a period in which he changed teams twice in three days, his destination was at the origin: in Minnesota. Sportingly, it was not idyllic; but at least he had his story.
Ricky returned where it all began, to the franchise that, at 19, had chosen him in the 2009 Draft, in fifth position. Now, with 30, it has little to do with that boy who, already with 21, stepped on the NBA for the first time. Ryan Saunders, his coach both in the first stage in the Timberwolves and in the second, described his evolution for AS: “I have always been a fan of Ricky Rubio, both for what he can do with the ball in his hands and for everything that he gives to his teammates or to the community, with great leadership skills. He definitely has the profile to end up being a coach, “he explained with admiring grins on his face. The point guard arrived as one of those players who do not need geniuses to make the wishes of the spectators come true and, maintaining that magic, has become an advanced veteran, of early age, but with the baggage of a career started from precocity.
El Masnou’s is not yet a coach, but he is not simply a player either. It is no secret. Since his first stint at the Wolves, he has always had promises under his wing: He has been a mentor. Looking back, it’s hard to find active basketball players who have so influenced the careers of various young talents. He did it with Zach LaVine in Minnesota, and now he’s still doing it in the Wolves franchise, but with Anthony Edwards. Along the way, Donovan Mitchell and Devin Booker, two players who already look the superstars in the eye and who, in these playoffs, have stood out like few others. The second, the sun that shines the brightest, together with Chris Paul, in Phoenix. The escort appears to have no roof. In his first final phase, he is in those averages that leave legacy: he scores a lot, he scores well and, in addition, he has time to lead and make good decisions. This season, in addition to all this, he also had it for Ricky Rubio, with whom he was eternally grateful for all that he contributed during the year they shared in Phoenix. “Easier sometimes? Easier at all times,” he responded to whether, during the past course, it made life easier for him as a scorer. “I will never forget what he has done for my career,” he concluded.
He is not the only one who has remembered the Catalan player throughout this campaign. LaVine, in a very similar tone, did too: “Ricky was great to me. A point guard who passes first is someone so selfless that he seeks to make plays for others. I knew that with him, if I ran down the court and used my speed, the ball would find me. Ricky will always be my boy “, he assured. With him, he shared three seasons, in which he went from averaging 10.1 points per game to 18.9, a progression that has also found its peak this season: 27.4. By then, a certain Karl-Anthony Towns was already around, who sat down to listen on more than one occasion, or a novice Andrew Wiggins, with a step forward in the stoic Warriors of this year, although they were left without a prize.
Barriers broken and that, in turn, are widening. The Suns have sneaked into the competition aristocracy, they’ve ignored the status quo and are just a few steps (compared to all there is) from glory; but the Jazz also opted for it. They succumbed, with a certain hum, before they could meet the first; but again, Donovan Mitchell excelled, another rising talent alongside Ricky. This year, without going any further, the Spanish player stepped out when Shaquille O’Neal questioned Micthell’s ability to lead a team to the top. In their free flight, they remain under the protection of the master. And now, Anthony Edwards finds himself spreading his wings. “He is the best leader that I have had in all my life”, came to assure the rookie. One more and, as always, not just any one.