Ricky Rubio

Central Notes: Rubio, Washington, Cunningham, Thompson

Ricky Rubio‘s decision to take time away from basketball and focus on his mental health leaves the Cavaliers with an uncertain situation at backup point guard, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes in a mailbag column. Rubio didn’t offer any indication of how long he might be inactive, so there’s no way of knowing if he’ll be available when training camp opens in seven weeks or when the season starts in late October.

There’s no urgency for Cleveland to make a roster move, Fedor adds. The Cavs signed free agent Ty Jerome in the belief that he can handle a larger role than he had with Golden State, and Donovan Mitchell, Caris LeVert and two-way player Craig Porter Jr. are all capable of running the offense for short stretches. Fedor points out that there aren’t any strong options remaining in free agency, but Kendrick Nunn, Michael Carter-Williams, George Hill, Ish Smith, and D.J. Augustin are among the players still available.

General manager Mike Gansey scheduled a trip to Malaga, Spain, this summer to visit with Rubio and watch the Spanish World Cup team in action, according to Fedor. However, Rubio left training camp before Gansey arrived, so he devoted the trip to scouting instead.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers have expressed interest in P.J. Washington and may be “lurking” as his standoff with the Hornets continues, Fedor adds. He notes that Cleveland was able to take advantage of a similar situation in a sign-and-trade with Lauri Markkanen two years ago by offering a contract beyond what the Bulls were willing to pay. Fedor states that Rubio and Dean Wade would be enough to match salary if Washington would accept about $15MM per year, but he’s not sure if that and a few second-round picks would satisfy Charlotte.
  • Cade Cunningham is the only untouchable player on the Pistons‘ roster, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic writes in his annual evaluation of the team’s most valuable assets. Even though he missed most of last season after shin surgery, Cunningham is still viewed around the league as a potential superstar, according to Edwards. Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren and rookie Ausar Thompson follow Cunningham on Edwards’ list.
  • Overtime Elite general manager Gerald Wilkins believes Thompson has a bright NBA future, per Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. Wilkins offered a glowing recommendation to Jarrett Jack, a new member of the Pistons‘ coaching staff under Monty Williams. “He would ask me things like what are his strengths, what are his weaknesses, how can I get him the ball,” Wilkins said. “I would just tell him, ‘Just put him on the floor. Just put him in the game. They are basketball players, Ausar and Amen. They’re basketball players. You put him on the floor and a lot of good things are going to happen.’”

Central Notes: Mitchell, Rubio, Cunningham, P. Williams

Donovan Mitchell is eligible for a contract extension this offseason, but there’s no indication that he and the Cavaliers intend to seriously discuss a new deal, and that shouldn’t be a cause for concern in Cleveland, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said during a recent NBA Today appearance (YouTube link).

“Maybe if the Cavs had won the championship last year, maybe Donovan would extend, but I don’t think under any (other) circumstances he was ever considering extending this season, and I think the Cavs knew that when they traded for him,” Windhorst said. “I think the pressure point comes a year from now, when he’s got one year left on his contract. … The Cavs have another year to see where their team is at and where Donovan sees that the Cavs are at.”

Mitchell actually has three seasons left on his current contract, but the final year is a player option, so he can reach free agency as early as 2025. That means he’ll essentially be entering a contract year next summer, which is why Windhorst refers to it as a “pressure point.” The Cavs’ performance – and Mitchell’s own play – in 2023/24 could go a long way toward determining whether the star guard is willing to sign a long-term extension with the team a year from now.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Although Ricky Rubio made his announcement about putting his career on hold for mental health reasons through the Spanish Basketball Federation, the Cavaliers were aware the news was coming and are “fully supportive” of the veteran point guard, sources tell Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. It remains to be seen whether or not Rubio will be available for the Cavs when the NBA season begins this fall.
  • Pistons guard Cade Cunningham has been the standout player on the U.S. Select Team that has been competing against Team USA’s World Cup squad this week in Las Vegas and has beaten it in multiple scrimmages so far, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. While Cunningham’s play in those scrimmages is encouraging for the Pistons and their fans, the former No. 1 pick says he’s simply happy to be back to 100% after a leg injury limited him to 12 games in 2022/23. “I feel healthy again,” Cunningham said. “My leg isn’t a problem for me right now. So I think that’s the biggest difference, just that I can just play freely and not think about my body too much.”
  • Given Cunningham’s strong play in Vegas, it’s fair to wonder whether he should be a part of Team USA’s actual World Cup roster instead of the Select Team. A previous report indicated that the Pistons guard was invited to join the World Cup team, which Joe Vardon of The Athletic confirms. According to Vardon, Cunningham explained this week that a desire to manage his workload this summer ahead of his NBA return was the “deciding factor” in turning down that invitation.
  • While it’s unclear if former No. 4 overall pick Patrick Williams has shown enough in his first three NBA seasons to warrant a rookie scale extension from the Bulls this offseason, teammate DeMar DeRozan remains a big believer in Williams’ potential, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times details.

Ricky Rubio Pausing Career To Focus On Mental Health

Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio, the MVP of the 2019 FIBA World Cup, won’t be participating in the 2023 World Cup this summer, announcing in a statement through the Spanish Basketball Federation (Twitter link) that he’s taking a break from basketball to focus on his mental health.

I have decided to stop my professional activity to take care of my mental health,” Rubio said. “I want to thank all the support I have received from the FEB (Federación Española de Baloncesto) to understand my decision. Today #LaFamilia makes more sense than ever. Thank you. I ask to respect my privacy to be able to face these moments and to be able to give more information when the time is right.

Rubio’s Spanish teammates Willy Hernangomez, Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Llull were among those who took to social media to post messages in support of his decision, while Spain head coach Sergio Scariolo wrote in depth about Rubio.

In La Familia, people have always come before results,” Scariolo said. “All my love and support to Ricky, and my admiration for his transparency and, through it, his ability once again to lead by example.”

The decision to release the news through the Spanish Basketball Federation – rather than the Cavaliers – suggests that, for now, Rubio’s hiatus will only affect the national team. But with no timeline specified for his return to basketball, there’s no guarantee he’ll be available this fall for Cleveland. Of course, Rubio’s mental well-being comes before basketball.

Rubio, 32, is a 12-year NBA veteran who has made 712 total appearances (614 starts) across the regular season and playoffs. The Spanish guard began his career as the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft by the Timberwolves. He stayed in Spain for a couple more seasons before suiting up for Minnesota in 2011. After departing the Wolves, Rubio made stops in Utah and Phoenix before rejoining the Timberwolves in 2020/21. Following that season, Rubio was acquired by Cleveland via trade.

The veteran guard hasn’t yet played a full season with the Cavaliers. Rubio tore his ACL in December 2021 after appearing in 34 games for Cleveland and thus, wasn’t able to make his ’22/23 debut until January 2023.

Central Notes: Middleton, Rubio, Jerome, Morris, Pistons

Khris Middleton‘s new contract with the Bucks includes a series of bonuses related to his total games played and the team’s postseason success, as Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel outlines (via Twitter).

According to Owczarski, Middleton will earn $1.5MM if he appears in at least 62 games in 2023/24 and $617K if the Bucks make the playoffs. He’ll also receive $206K if Milwaukee makes the Eastern Conference Finals, another $206K if the club makes the NBA Finals, and an additional $206K for a championship. Of those incentives, only the $617K playoff bonus is currently deemed likely, since Middleton and the Bucks didn’t achieve any of the other benchmarks last season.

Those figures add up to about $2.735MM — Middleton has approximately $2.963MM in total bonuses next season, so it sounds like at least one of his incentives is missing. However, Owczarski’s reporting gives us a pretty good sense of how the veteran forward would be able to max out his earnings in ’23/24.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Cavaliers are optimistic about Ricky Rubio‘s bounce-back potential in 2023/24, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscriber link). As Fedor explains, Rubio is another year removed from ACL surgery and is expected to play for Spain in the World Cup, which could be a spring-board to a successful season. The Cavs’ addition of Ty Jerome was more about acquiring “playable depth” than an expectation he’ll usurp Rubio on the depth chart, Fedor adds.
  • Monte Morris, who was born in Grand Rapids and grew up in Flint, spoke on Saturday about what it means to him to get the opportunity to play for his hometown Pistons, per Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. “I always dreamed about playing for the Pistons, just where I grew up,” Morris said. “I was at the Boys and Girls Club a lot. We would get a lot of Pistons gear and I remember when Chauncey (Billups), Ben (Wallace), Tayshaun (Prince), and Rip (Hamilton) came down, it was like 2003, I believe. I was 8 years old running around the Boys and Girls Club. … I used to watch the games in the nosebleeds at the Palace. That pride of just being a Piston, I know what it feels like.”
  • In a separate subscriber-only story for The Free Press, Sankofa answers mailbag questions about the Pistons‘ rotation, Ausar Thompson‘s role, and Thompson’s potential ceiling, among other topics. Within a discussion of trade possibilities, Sankofa expresses skepticism that James Wiseman will be moved this offseason, but acknowledges that if the former lottery pick can’t crack the team’s rotation this season, his days in Detroit could be numbered.

Cavaliers Continue To Eye Free Agent Market

The Cavaliers remain interested in adding at least one more free agent to their roster before training camp, sources tell Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscriber link). According to Fedor, the team isn’t targeting any specific position and is simply focused on “playable depth.”

As Fedor outlines, the Cavaliers currently have 12 players on guaranteed contracts, plus Sam Merrill on a non-guaranteed deal. The club has about $3MM in breathing room below the luxury tax line and has no interest in becoming a taxpayer, so the 15th roster spot will probably remain open to start the season. In all likelihood, the Cavs would add one more player on a minimum-salary contract (or two, if Merrill is cut) in order to set the regular season roster.

Sources tell Fedor that Cleveland has registered interest in some of the top unrestricted free agents still available on the open market, including forward Kelly Oubre and center Christian Wood. Oubre was viewed as the Cavs’ Plan B if they hadn’t been able to land Max Strus via sign-and-trade, Fedor adds.

Fedor also mentions restricted free agent P.J. Washington, noting that the Cavs might have enough expendable salary (starting with Ricky Rubio and Dean Wade) to build a sign-and-trade package for the Hornets forward. However, I don’t see a scenario in which Cleveland could put together an offer that appeals to Charlotte, pays Washington the sort of money he’s seeking, and keeps the Cavs out of the tax.

Cleveland’s next signing will probably be a “minor” one, Fedor acknowledges, with the team looking to land a “cheaper-than-expected” rotation player at the veteran’s minimum like Golden State did with Dario Saric.

And-Ones: Expansion, I. Thomas, Rubio, K. Chandler

NBA commissioner Adam Silver once again addressed the possibility of expansion during a press conference on Monday, telling reporters – including Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic – that the league will more seriously consider that possibility after completing the next media rights deal. The current media deal expires after the 2024/25 season.

Silver acknowledged that Las Vegas and Seattle are two markets the NBA will consider if and when the time comes, but stressed that the league hasn’t started that process and that it would involve more than just those two cities.

“We will look at this market,” he said from Vegas. “There’s no doubt there’s enormous interest in Seattle. That’s not a secret. There are other markets that have indicated interest. For the people who hear or read about this interview, we are not engaged in that process now. We’re not taking meetings right now with any potential groups. What we’re saying to everyone, privately is the same thing I’m saying publicly that there’ll be a very open process at the time already to consider expansion. But that’s not yet. That’s not yet now.”

Silver also addressed several other topics during his press conference in Las Vegas, including the influence of gambling on the sport and sovereign wealth funds purchasing stakes in NBA franchises. Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press and Tim Bontemps of ESPN have quotes from Silver on those issues, among others.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • As first tweeted by Jamal Crawford and later confirmed by the guard himself, Isaiah Thomas is among the veteran free agents conducting workouts for teams in Las Vegas as he looks to get back into the NBA. John Wall, Dion Waiters, and Harry Giles are a few of the other free agents who have worked out for NBA clubs in Vegas.
  • Could this be Ricky Rubio‘s last season in the NBA? According to a report from Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo, the veteran point guard is considering returning to his home country and playing for Barcelona in 2024. Rubio is under contract with the Cavaliers for two more seasons, though his ’24/25 salary is only partially guaranteed.
  • After being waived by Memphis last season, guard Kennedy Chandler is owed guaranteed salaries for the next two seasons. However, he’s not satisfied to simply cash those pay checks, telling Brian Lewis of The New York Post that he’s determined to get back on an NBA roster in 2023/24. “I don’t really care that they still have to pay me for two years. I really don’t care about that because I want to get paid more,” he said. “It’s not just about the money. I could say ‘Nah, I’m good.’ I could sign a regular G-League, or a two-way. But I want to push myself and get back on a contract with another team and get back to what I used to do and be me, be myself.”
  • Speaking to Howard Beck of GQ, veteran agent David Falk – who represented Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing, among other stars in the 1990s – explained why he finds NBA free agency “a little bit boring” these days. In Falk’s view, the league’s cap and contract rules have limited agents’ ability to get creative when they negotiate contracts. “The nature of being an agent, it’s become so restrictive that it doesn’t require a lot of skills,” he said. “Mathematically, only 30 percent of the contracts are negotiated. And I think that most players really don’t need agents today.”

Draft Rumors: Cavs, Pacers, Jazz, Warriors, Suns, Bucks

The Cavaliers currently only hold a second-round pick (No. 49) in the 2023 NBA draft, but they’ve been exploring ways they might be able to move into the first round, reports Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Sources tell Fedor that the Cavs have an “organizational desire” to trade up in the draft and have made calls to teams in the 20-30 range to determine what it would cost to move up.

As Fedor explains, there’s a belief that there will be some older prospects available in that range who might be ready to claim NBA rotation roles as rookies. Several of those players are wings, which would appeal to a Cleveland team that has been on the lookout for help at that spot for the last year. Fedor identifies UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez as one of several prospects who could intrigue the Cavaliers.

It may be tricky for the Cavaliers to put together a package capable of getting them into the first round, however. They dealt several future first-rounders away in last year’s Donovan Mitchell blockbuster and would probably only be able to offer second-rounders along with a player or two. Lamar Stevens, Cedi Osman, Dean Wade, and Ricky Rubio are among the Cavs players who could be moved, Fedor writes, but none of them are likely to have substantial value on the trade market.

Here are a few more draft-related rumors from around the league:

  • The Pacers and Jazz are among the teams with multiple first-round picks who are worth keeping an eye on as the draft nears, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. According to Fischer, rival teams continue to mention that Indiana is interest in packaging some combination of No. 26, No. 29, and No. 32 in order to move up. Utah has talked to teams about various trade scenarios involving the No. 9, No. 16, and No. 28 picks, Fischer adds.
  • Sources who spoke to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic believe the Warriors may be focused on landing an older, more experienced prospect at No. 19 after getting mixed results when investing in young lottery picks in recent years. Meanwhile, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer has heard that Golden State have some interest in trading down from No. 19 or out of the draft entirely.
  • Sources around the NBA have named the Suns and Bucks – in addition to the Cavaliers – as teams interested in trading up into the late-20s or early-30s to draft an NBA-ready player, Vecenie writes for The Athletic. Phoenix and Milwaukee would have to move up even further than Cleveland — their second-round picks are at No. 52 and No. 58, respectively.

Central Notes: Cunningham, Rupert, Griffin, Rubio

Cade Cunningham continues to make progress in his recovery from surgery for a stress fracture in his left shin, Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press writes in a subscriber-only mailbag column. The Pistons haven’t given a recent indication of Cunningham’s status, but Sankofa states that he’s made numerous checks with people in the organization and the response Friday was that “he’s doing very well.”

Cunningham told reporters in April that he was pleased with his progress four months after the operation. He said he was running and taking jump shots and was hoping to start change-of-direction work soon. Sankofa is optimistic that Cunningham will be fully ready for the start of next season.

The 21-year-old guard will be an important part of Detroit’s plans to move into contention for a play-in spot. The top pick in the 2021 draft averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists as a rookie, but was limited to 12 games last season before opting for surgery.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Searching for versatile players to help improve their 29th-ranked defense, the Pacers hosted international prospects Rayan Rupert and Mojave King at a workout Saturday, according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Both could still be available when Indiana makes its second pick of the first round at No. 26. “I love being switchable defensively with my wingspan,” said Rupert, who played in the Australian League this season. “Just bringing a lot of energy to my teammates. If I want to get minutes in the NBA next year and have a good career, it’s going to be because of my defense.”
  • At his introductory press conference this week, new Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin said he’s thrilled to have a veteran like Terry Stotts on his staff, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Griffin indicated that he plans to rely heavily on advice from the former Trail Blazers head coach. “To get a guy like Terry is a home run,” Griffin said. “He brings unbelievable experience. Yes, he’s a mastermind on the offensive end, but he’s well versed. He brings a wealth of experience. He’s coached elite players in (Damian) Lillard and (CJ) McCollum. I don’t just see him as an offensive coach; he’s gonna be someone that I lean on.”
  • In a TV interview during the Spanish ACB semifinals, Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio was asked about recent comments that he hopes to finish his career in Europe, according to a Eurohoops report. “The idea when I left Europe to play in the NBA was to come back at some point,” said Rubio, who’s expected to represent Spain in the FIBA World Cup this summer. “I don’t know where I will be mentally and physically and if I will continue to play, but yes, my NBA days are coming to an end!”

Cavaliers Notes: Bickerstaff, Mitchell, Love, Draft

The Cavaliers were disappointed by their first-round playoff exit, but they never considered making a coaching change, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic writes in a mailbag column. President of basketball operations Koby Altman said in a post-playoff news conference that the organization remains committed to J.B. Bickerstaff, and Russo doesn’t believe next season should be considered “make or break” for him.

The Cavs continue to show progress under Bickerstaff, reaching the 51-win mark this season for the first time in six years. They also claimed the fourth seed and gained some valuable playoff experience for a roster that largely lacked it. In addition, Bickerstaff has strong support from his players, Russo adds.

“Since Day 1, I fell in love with the culture that they built here,” Ricky Rubio said. “I fell in love with how J.B. treats everybody, and it’s something that, that’s why I came back. And, of course, when you see results, you can look back and say, ‘Oh, I wish he could do this or that better.’ But at the end of the day, in the heat at the moment, it’s super hard to really see sometimes. And I think what he built here is something special. He’s a great locker room guy.”

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • Lauri Markkanen had a breakout season in Utah, but Russo doesn’t think the Cavaliers would have been better off by holding onto him, Ochai Agbaji, and the collection of draft picks they gave the Jazz in the Donovan Mitchell trade. She points out that Markkanen benefited from returning to his natural position of power forward in Utah, which wouldn’t have happened in Cleveland with Evan Mobley on the roster. She adds that having a superstar in Mitchell is more valuable than the various pieces that were surrendered to acquire him.
  • The Cavs’ buyout decision with Kevin Love looks worse than it actually was because of Miami’s run to the Finals and Cleveland’s playoff failure, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com states in a mailbag column. He notes that Bickerstaff removed Love from the rotation because he wasn’t producing and the team had other players who were more effective. Back and thumb injuries contributed to Love’s down season in Cleveland, but he only shot 30% from the field in his final 15 games with the Cavs and was frequently targeted on defense.
  • Holding just the 49th pick in this year’s draft, the Cavaliers had to be disappointed by seeing so many prospects decide to return to school, Fedor adds. Sources tell Fedor that Kentucky’s Chris Livingston will work out for the team next week, and a session has been scheduled with Eastern Michigan’s Emoni Bates. Fedor also hears that Cleveland invited Kansas State’s Keyontae Johnson to work out, but he’ll probably turn it down because he believes he’ll be off the board by No. 49.

Ricky Rubio Hopes To Play In Europe Again

Ricky Rubio has at least one more season left on his contract with the Cavaliers, and he’s thinking about finishing his career in Spain once his NBA commitment is complete, writes Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.

I am starting to consider my return,” Rubio said in an appearance Sunday on the La Sotana podcast. “Going home. To Barcelona. Close to home.”

The 32-year-old guard is under contract for $6.1MM next season, but he has only a $4.25MM guarantee on his $6.4MM salary for 2024/25. Cleveland will have to terminate the contract by June of 2024 if the team decides not to pay him the full amount.

Rubio had a limited role for the Cavs this season after his year-long rehab following an ACL tear. He wasn’t able to play until January and then appeared in 33 games, averaging 5.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 17.2 minutes per night.

Rubio was a star in Europe for six years before coming to the NBA. He helped Barcelona capture the EuroLeague championship in 2010 and the Liga ACB title in 2011.

He has played 12 years in the NBA with the Timberwolves, Jazz, Suns and Cavaliers.