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Ricky Rubio calls Minnesotans the 'nicest people on Earth, I think'

Ricky Rubio at a fan meet-and-greet in 2012, after which dozens of fans were treated at local hospitals for melted hearts.

Ricky Rubio at a fan meet-and-greet in 2012, after which dozens of fans were treated at local hospitals for melted hearts. Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

Unlike the way he plays basketball, Ricky Rubio's arrival in Minnesota lacked in grace.  

Drafted by the Timberwolves in 2009, Rubio held out in Barcelona for a couple years, a hint he wasn't interested joining a middling franchise in a frozen city. Some perceived a me-first diva in the making.

How wrong they were: Look no further than Rubio's utterly classy exit from Minnesota for proof of how mature, how gracious the Spaniard really is.

Last week, just when the only NBA team Rubio's ever played for was shaping up into a serious playoff contender, Rubio got traded to the Utah Jazz. Even better for Ricky, right?

Maybe until yesterday, when Utah's best player, Gordon Hayward, confirmed he'd signed a contract with the Boston Celtics. Rubio responded to this brutal news via Twitter, using a sad emoji. 

 

 

We in Minnesota should also feel sad for Rubio, perennially ranked among the league's best in assists, steals, and charming little smiles at the home town crowd. Those warm feelings toward Target Center attendees were genuine, according to an interview Rubio granted the Associated Press after the Utah trade was announced.

In a story published Tuesday, Rubio has nothing but good things to say the people of Minneapolis, who he connected with, despite the team's never making the playoffs during his six seasons here. 

Rubio says he will "always be attached to that city because I made friends and family there," and credits the kindness of locals for making it easy.

Said Rubio: "The people over there are the nicest people on Earth, I think. I'm truly going to miss that."

(Note to new Timberwolves' point guard Jeff Teague: There are three ways to win Minnesotans over. 1.) Be one of them, 2.) Live here and be excellent at something, or 3.) Tell them how gosh-darn nice they are. Shoot for two out of three.)

Rubio is a little less warm/fuzzy about his experience with coaches and management. Though he loved Flip Saunders -- as made clear in a sweet post-trade Instagram note -- Rubio concedes it was "tough to feel one of the main guys" on a team when you're frequently mentioned in trade rumors. 

With the loss of Hayward, Rubio again finds himself as the ball-holding point man on a rebuilding team just on the cusp of ... something, maybe, but certainly not an NBA championship. Certainly not in the suddenly even-more-brutal Western Conference, where a half-dozen teams trying to keep up with the Golden State Warriors spent their offseasons getting a lot better.

One of those is Minnesota, with Jimmy Butler (and his cell phone), Teague, and Taj Gibson joining Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. That looks like a team -- well, at least a starting five -- that could make serious noise for years to come.

Rubio hopes it does, anyway. "[Minnesota] will be my second team now," he says. "I really have a lot of good friends over there and I wish them the best."

The least Minnesotans could do is prove Ricky right, and cheer their lungs out the first time Rubio returns as a visiting member of the Jazz. 

In exchange for Rubio, Minnesota got a first-round draft in the 2018 draft. Let's hope no matter what else happens, whoever they use it on eventually has nice things to say about us.