Ricky Rubio won't be coming to the NBA until 2011 at the earliest, sources told ESPN.com Monday.
Rubio and the Minnesota Timberwolves were informed late Monday night in Spain that Rubio's former club, DKV Joventut, had agreed to trade his rights to FC Barcelona.
Rubio will be able to get out of his Barcelona contract in the summer of 2011, when the fifth pick of last June's draft will be free to join Minnesota.
The news came as a blow to Wolves general manager David Kahn, who spent the past several days in Spain negotiating with officials from DKV
Joventut, trying to present a worthy counteroffer to the one already on the table from Barcelona for the rights to the 18-year-old point guard.
Joventut had shown itself willing to accept a discount on Rubio's astronomical $8.11 million buyout, with FC Barcelona reportedly offering $5.28 million.
The Timberwolves' offer, which could include only $500,000 in cash under NBA rules, would presumably have revenue streams from Rubio's endorsement deals and his four-year, $15.2 million NBA rookie-scale contract ($3.27 million salary in 09-10, $3.51 million in '10-11, with team options for $3.76 million in '11-12 and $4.76 million in '12-13).
In the long term, the financial implications of getting Rubio to the NBA for the upcoming season were enormous, and would have possibly allowed him (depending on the terms of the next collective bargaining agreement) to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2014, when he would be 23.
For Kahn, this was his third trip to Spain to negotiate for Rubio's rights in the two months since the Wolves selected him with the fifth pick of the NBA draft.
"I'm very proud that the Timberwolves came to Spain to get me," Rubio said, according to El Mundo Deportivo, which reported that Kahn; Dan Fegan, Rubio's agent; and Joventut president Jordi Villacampa had dinner together Saturday night.
"It doesn't surprise me because they have been there all the time, and I always said that my priority was to go to the NBA. I know there was a meeting last night, and now there's chances for both sides," Rubio said, according to El Mundo Deportivo.
Rubio's old contract with Joventut included a 5.7 million Euro ($8.133 million) buyout clause for both this summer and next summer. The buyout dropped to zero in the summer of 2011, and Kahn has said the club is willing to wait until then for Rubio to come to the NBA.
But this latest voyage overseas signals a heightened urgency from Kahn, who has not commented publicly since last Wednesday.
Ric Bucher is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Insider. Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.