Spanish teenager Ricky Rubio, projected as a top-five pick in the NBA draft, took the first step in clearing his way toward the NBA on Monday when he notified his team, DKV Joventut, that he wants to terminate his contract.
Rubio is asking out of his deal, and also is challenging a 4.75 million Euro (approximately $6.6 million) buyout, which climbs to 5.75 million Euros after June 30. Rubio made 70,000 Euros last season (about $97,000) and is scheduled to make 125,000 Euros next season (about $175,000).
"The [buyout] clauses are disproportionate to his salary -- abusive clauses," Rubio's father, Esteban, told ESPN's Chad Nielsen. "We want to know, if he really left, whether or not he'd have to pay these amounts. It's fair for DKV Joventut to get paid a certain amount of money, but what they want to collect is out of proportion with what Ricky earns."
Rubio hasn't filed a lawsuit. Instead, he has asked for arbitration to settle the dispute. A source said that Rubio has retained a highly regarded labor law firm in Barcelona to represent him. If the dispute cannot be settled, a civil legal action would be next for Rubio.
"We tried to renegotiate but couldn't reach an agreement," Esteban Rubio told Nielsen. "The contract wasn't changed at all."
Jordy Villacampa, president of the club, isn't happy with Rubio's move.
"Now it looks like we put a gun to his head to sign the contract," he said, according to the Spanish news agency EFE. "He was young, but he didn't come [to the table] all by himself and defenseless to see what we were going to do with him. We gave him the opportunity to develop as a player in the ACB, to grow as a player, to become an Olympian with the National Team -- he has accomplished these feats via the Joventut. That's what it is, that's what is signed and we will defend it."
The source told ESPN.com that Spanish law allows an athlete to terminate his contract with a team and then pay an indemnity (or buyout) to his team. Both Spanish law and FIBA regulations allow for Rubio to get his letter of clearance to play in the NBA before the amount of the indemnity amount is determined.
If an arbitrator agrees with Rubio and lowers the buyout, Rubio would likely be headed to the NBA next season. If the arbitrator rules that Rubio's indemnity payment to the Joventut is reasonable, it may convince Rubio to stay in Spain another year.
Villacampa said he was willing to lower Rubio's buyout by 50 percent for 2010 if he stayed, but legal action may complicate things.
"I don't know if ethically it will look good that a player who has sued us can keep playing with Joventut; it's really strange," he said.
In the meantime, Rubio plans to arrive with his family in the United States on June 13. Rubio has yet to schedule visits with any team, according to the source.
Rubio has already informed teams that he won't do workouts, but he might visit them to meet the front office and owners. The source said if visits happen, they will be to Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and Sacramento -- owners of the first, third and fourth picks in the draft.
The source said it's likely that Rubio and his camp will skip visits to Memphis. The Grizzlies hold the No. 2 pick, but the source said Rubio is leery about playing in Memphis after two other Spanish players -- Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro -- had bad experiences there.
Chad Ford covers the NBA and NBA Draft for ESPN Insider. Information from ESPN The Magazine contributing writer Chad Nielsen was used in this report.