By Noelia Roman Lamas
In Spain, he is being re-discovered.
Two weeks ago, the Spanish media scarcely mentioned Ricky’s situation when reporting about the end of the NBA lockout and the buildup to the upcoming season.
They talked about Pau and Marc Gasol’s futures, Rudy Fernandez getting traded, Serge Ibaka (a member of the Spanish national team) playing for a legitimate championship contender, even Jose Calderon’s prospects with the lowly Toronto Raptors.
Ricky was forgotten, even though he was about to be the only new Spanish player in the NBA.
There was a reason for that.
His poor showing in Eurobasket last summer, along with his pedestrian performances for FC Barcelona the last two years, had lowered expectations about his chances to succeed in the NBA.
He was no longer the boy wonder who started for Spain at age 17 in the Beijing Olympics, surprising the world with his precociousness, his passing and his wonderful ability to play basketball with the best athletes in the world — all of them grown men. He was just a good player, whereas everyone had come to expect — and then lowered those expectations — that he would be a great player.
It was not that fans didn’t care about Ricky’s future, but they cared less than they did four years ago when Ricky was a phenomenon. He was no longer considered a player who could win a game by himself, someone like Pau, Marc or Juan Carlos Navarro.
As a result, Ricky was less interesting. Having a future in far-off Minnesota didn’t help either. Still, the Spanish fans knew that he was training in Los Angeles, they saw some of his training camp videos and read his feelings about the lockout on his Twitter account.
Then, his breakout performance against the Dallas Mavericks happened, and now he is front page in the TV sports news and in the newspapers.
All of a sudden, Ricky is the new guy in the office, a player fulfilling his NBA dream. People in Spain were curious to know whether it was true (and I think it is) that Rubio’s game is a better fit for the NBA than it is in FIBA. After the first week and a half of the NBA season, we are seeing it is. And I am sure he will get better.
In the States, he doesn’t feel the pressure he felt in Spain. He feels free and he’s playing well. He seems to have regained lost confidence. He is in his natural habitat, as a showtime player.
In just a week, his image has recovered.
Ricky is Ricky again, and the buzz is being felt as much in Spain as it is in Minnesota and elsewhere around the NBA.
Noelia Roman Lamas is a sportswriter for the Spanish newspaper Publico after spending several years at the newspaper El Pais. She covered the Athens and Beijing Olympic Games, Eurobasket ’09 in Madrid, the ACB and the Euroleague. She also writes about soccer, track & field and other sports. Follow her on Twitter, where she occasionally tweets in English — one of five languages she speaks fluently.