The latest comments by point guard Ricky Rubio will likely be a bit frustrating for Utah Jazz fans to hear as he seems to be forgetting the opportunities the Jazz extended him.
There’s no mistaking it, despite having run back a near-identical roster a season ago, the Utah Jazz are bound to undergo some major player changes this summer. With a trio of unrestricted free agents in Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha and Ekpe Udoh, non-guaranteed contracts for the likes of Derrick Favors, Raul Neto and Georges Niang, and Kyle Korver potentially contemplating retirement, it’s almost impossible for the team to remain intact as is.
Not only that, but it’s become highly evident that the squad has to make changes to improve as a whole if they’re going to reach the illustrious heights that they desire. Among the positions that most need an upgrade, it goes without saying that Utah has to find a way to patch up its starting point guard spot formerly held by Ricky Rubio.
There’s talk of pursuing free agents such as Kemba Walker or D’Angelo Russell should he be released by the Brooklyn Nets if they need to carve space for a marquee player, but those options will likely be long shots at best.
However, regardless of if the Jazz hit the big time with a free agent point guard or not, it is looking more and more as if a Ricky Rubio return is just as far of a long shot as acquiring a difference maker. Ever since he was purportedly on the trade block for Mike Conley earlier in the season, he’s seemed to lose faith in his place on this Jazz team. He was clearly bitter about it while the talks were ongoing, and he’s made several remarks since the end of the season indicating that he’s no longer pleased with how things have winded up with his place in the Jazz organization.
He continued that trend with an even more pointed comment this past week when speaking with Spanish journalist Ernest Macia. The subject of the conversation turned to the success Rubio’s former Spanish teammate Marc Gasol has had with the Toronto Raptors, and Ricky had the following to say:
“I want to play a leading role and to be in a team with playoffs aspirations. Marc Gasol made me envious.”
Now, on one hand, this could just be little more than a generic statement. Aren’t those the things all NBA players want? A leading role and playoff success? However, when considering the attitude Rubio has held towards the Jazz and the offseason of late and when taking into account that Dennis Lindsey seemed much more adamant about bringing Favors back next season than Rubio, it’s hard not to wonder if his comments are leaning a bit more towards being a slight.
And either way, there are a few things that rub me the wrong way about the comments and that quite frankly are downright groan-worthy. First of all, Ricky Rubio certainly has played a leading role with the Utah Jazz the past two seasons in which they’ve gone to the playoffs. In fact, they’ve given him ample opportunity after ample opportunity to prove what he can do as Utah’s starting point guard.
Despite the chances he received, he never did much to capitalize on them, as he failed to become an efficient scorer, never was the prolific assist-man it was hoped he could become in Utah, and he often faltered on defense and in turning the ball over. With that kind of reputation, Rubio is going to be hard-pressed to find a team that’s willing to give him a larger role than what the Jazz have handed him. That’s even more true if he expects to have that kind of a role on a team that wants to seriously contend as Gasol’s Raptors are currently doing.
In essence, Rubio needs to look inward first before looking outward and expecting a new team or opportunity to instantly thrust him into a more competitive situation. The fact of the matter is that Utah very well could have done better and gone further in the playoffs had he himself been more steady and reliable in both the regular and postseason.
If he wants to hold any sort of meaningful ‘leading role’ on a playoff team as he indicated, then he absolutely has to add some semblance of a jump shot. He provides little to no shooting threat to opposing teams which often inhibited the Jazz from being any kind of force offensively. If he were capable of being the key piece he supposedly wants to become, then the Jazz wouldn’t be looking to move him, yet here we are. Again, he may want to look inwards first.
Furthermore, he’s claiming to be envious of Gasol, but one thing Gasol has done is certainly ceded a larger role to his more talented teammates for the better of the team, rather than looking to be that key guy as Rubio is indicating. Marc Gasol was once the focal point of a daunting Memphis Grizzlies team that made the playoffs over and over again. Now, while he’s certainly important for the Toronto Raptors, he’s taking a clear backseat to the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and you could even argue at times reserves such as Fred VanVleet or Serge Ibaka.
In other words, not only will Rubio have a hard time finding a better opportunity than what he’s had with the Jazz and have difficultly earning a leading role with his glaring deficiencies, but this latest declaration seeking such usage (especially when he has under-performed) goes against Utah’s mantra of ‘The Strength of the Team is the Team.’
This latest development feels to me like yet another nail in the Ricky-Rubio-returning-to-Utah coffin. My guess is that even if Utah and Ricky may have considered exploring it previously, that at this point the two parties are bound to part ways. The Jazz, though it may be difficult to do, know they have to improve the point guard spot. Meanwhile, Ricky Rubio is quite obviously seeking greener pastures.
But he would be wise to be careful what he wishes for as the grass is not always greener on the other side. The Utah Jazz have given Ricky Rubio every opportunity to succeed, but ultimately his inability to step up or enhance his game inhibited the Jazz much more than anything the Jazz have done inhibited him.
These latest comments are quite frustrating when considering the chances he had in Utah and the apparent blindness Rubio has to his own shortcomings. If he does find himself in a leading role on another team, hopefully he’ll come to realize that his ability to stay in that position as well as lead the team to postseason success will largely depend on him improving and becoming more reliable.
Because it appears that lesson was never learned during his time as member of the Utah Jazz.