Can Rubio channel John Elway?

Other than Kobe Bryant’s stance against the Hornets in 1996, throughout the history of the NBA Draft, no other player that I can think of  has ever held leverage in post-draft contract negotiations. Even the better European players like Dirk Nowitzki and Andrea Bargnani did not have the fanfare heading into the draft that Ricky Rubio has coming in to this year’s draft. Rubio played his first professional game at age 15 and was a member of Spain’s national team at age 17.

Every other player selected has simply signed on the dotted line and played for their paycheck.

But, Rubio is already making a paycheck, so he technically doesn’t HAVE to sign if he isn’t happy with the city and the organization that drafts him.

As you recall, several players in other sports have used such leverage including John Elway, who refused to play for the Baltimore Colts instead deciding to play baseball for the Yankees. Eli Manning also forced the Chargers to trade him because of his disdain for San Diego.

It would be hard to find an NBA scout who doesn’t see Rubio as a sure-fire NBA starter for many years. Before Rubio assured his eligibility for this draft, there were rumblings that he was going to wait for the 2010 draft and play out his contract for DKV Joventut (which goes through 2011). So, the issue is whether or not Rubio HAS to come to the NBA this season.

There has been very little written on Rubio’s desire to play in a big city or for a winning team, but if he gets drafted by a Memphis or Oklahoma City where he might not see the postseason for at least one season, and maybe more, could he possibly stay in Badalona?

According to DraftExpress.com, Rubio is represented by Spanish agent David Carro who will partner together with NBA agent Dan Fegan to negotiate his NBA contract. Fegan gained a bad reputation last year when Golden State told him that they would not negotiate a long-term deal with his client Stephen Jackson for as long as he was his agent (which he is no longer).

In case you were wondering, Carro was quoted saying that Joventut will be easy to negotiate a buyout with because “they do not want to have a mad player.”

In the end the Knicks could obviously try and trade up with Memphis or OKC for the chance to take Rubio. But, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few weeks because if the threat that Rubio will return to Spain exists even slightly, it will be very difficult for teams like Memphis, Oklahoma City, and Sacramento to take such a devastating blow to their franchise.

Another interesting sidenote to this is what happened in the 2007 draft with Milwaukee. (As mentioned by Warriors beat writer Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury.)
Dan Fegan wanted his client Yi Jianlian to play in a city with a large Asian population. He warned the Bucks that his client would not be happy if they selected him. Bucks then-GM Larry Harris rolled the dice and drafted Yi. Harris was soon fired and Yi was traded to New Jersey after the 2007-08 season.

Is Fegan trying to sway Rubio to buy into similar desires? I’d say it’s likely. Stay tuned…