The Minnesota Timberwolves' new president of basketball operations, David Kahn, created draft night intrigue when he drafted point guards with both the fifth (Ricky Rubio) and sixth (Jonny Flynn) picks.
In the week-and-a-half since, the Timberwolves have held press conferences to introduce draft picks like Flynn and Wayne Ellington, but not Rubio, who has made ambiguous comments about playing for the Timberwolves.
Rubio is under contract in Europe, and would need to negotiate a large buyout from DKV Joventut before he could join the NBA. Since the draft, there has been an uptick in talk that Rubio may stay in Europe for another season or two. Theories differ as to why, with the presence of Flynn, the enormity of the buyout, Rubio's lower-than-expected draft position and the climate in Minnesota chief among them.
Here is some of what Kahn had to say in a phone conversation Tuesday morning:
One of the things that I found surprising was that the day before the draft, Ricky Rubio told us that he was coming to the NBA no matter what happened with his buyout. The first person I heard suggesting that his buyout could be a big obstacle was you, on TV on draft night.
His agent had informed us that day that he might have to play overseas because of the buyout. I just wanted to be clear that we are the kind of team that can afford to wait.
Shortly after you made the picks, I talked to people in front offices for a lot of other teams, and none of them could fathom that your plan would really be to play Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn together.
I'm not a person who believes that every player is neatly packaged and fits with other players only in certain ways. I'm not hard-headed. I think there are lots of different ways players can fit together. ... And this notion that we have to play them together for 48 minutes, I don't expect that's what we'd do. Ultimately, we will have a coach here who will figure out how to best play our players together.
And as for people from other teams telling you this, isn't that a little like me telling you what I think the Toronto Raptors are going to do?
Ricky Rubio didn't come to Minnesota to meet 'Wolves fans, there has been more talk he might play overseas. The people I talked to seem to think that has a lot to do with the presence of Flynn, but not much to do with the buyout, which is seen as something of a red herring, as lots of parties would have an interest in paying that off.
You presume he hasn't been here to visit. ... And as for the suggestion that Flynn being here is a problem, I haven't been told that.
What is the state of his buyout?
I don't know. We're not running the point on that. It's really a question for Dan Fegan.
What about the state of relations between the Rubios and the Timberwolves?
The buyout comes first, right? Not too much can happen until that's taken care of.
Have you been getting a lot of offers for Ricky Rubio?
A lot the week of the draft, yes. But we have stated our position that we are not interested in trading him, and the offers have slowed right down.
What about the idea that the buyout is a red herring?
Does $5.7 million seem like no big deal to you? $5.7 million is nothing to sneeze at.
Your questions are legitimate, but a lot of them are about atmospherics. Right now we're in a stage where Ricky and his family have to figure out what makes sense for them.
What's your best guess as to what's next?
It's very fluid. It's going to be topsy-turvy for some time. We knew stepping into this that it would be a little fuzzy. But there is no concern in my mind about how things have gone so far. He has a significant buyout, and they're sorting through that now.
From reading online, it seems like there has been a lot of excitement among Timberwolves fans. People want to see Ricky Rubio in a Timberwolves uniform. To the extent you do consider trade offers, does this fan reaction drive the price up? If maybe on draft night you would have considered taking player X, do you now want players X and Y?
The politicians always say that you shouldn't answer hypotheticals. I'm going to be like Barack Obama on this one. ... The likeliest scenario by far is that Ricky Rubio will be in a Timberwolves uniform. Now, I have always couched my comments on that topic just in case someone floors us with some offer. But I'm highly skeptical that someone will floor us.
How's the coaching search going?
Great. We're a third of the way through preliminary interviews. There's no time pressure on this process, so we're going to take some time.