NEW YORK – Now I know what all the fuss has been about. Now I know why NBA executives and Euro talent scouts were so enchanted all these years. Now I understand why Donnie Walsh offered to give up smoking to make Ricky Rubio a Knick.
All it took was one probe and penetration Friday night against the Heat for me to realize I was beholding a visionary. From then on, each time the Timberwolves rookie fondled the fleece I couldn’t help but notice myself staring at the sleight-of-hand, slight-of-body Spaniard.
I almost passed out.
Man, is this 21-year-old entertaining. Oh, yeah, and effective; in his third NBA concert, he accumulated 12 assists, 12 points (2-for-2 from the outskirts, utilizing the one-handed set shot he isn’t supposed to have) and six rebounds.
Even Rubio’s five turnovers created more thrills than chills.
Exempting the Knicks’ maestros, any point guard who makes it all worthwhile, can locate a spot-up shooter and a cutter . . . a moving target bench boss Mike D’Antoni apparently no longer has any use for coaching isolationists.
Conversely, Rubio owns the capacity to find players who aren’t open . . . until the ball arrives point blank in picture-perfect position to score and/or be fouled.
Ole! Ole! What can you possibly do for an encore to top that?
Internationally experienced since the sandbox, Rubio unhesitatingly and effortlessly split a daunting double team sprung by LeBron James and Chris Bosh in the final minute of Miami’s two-point road victory. He drew a foul.
Moments later, Eric Spoelstra — whose outstanding in-bounds play call schooled Rick Adelman and provided the margin of victory — paid Rubio the ultimate respect; he sicced fundamentally superior Shane Battier, 7 cm taller, on the 193-cm Rubio for the last two pivotal possessions.
Walsh should’ve thought to give up butter as well.
As usual, D’Antoni offered a textbook excuse; moments after Wednesday night’s game in Oakland, the Knicks coach said he still hadn’t gotten a chance to see the X-ray of the 92-78 loss to the Stephen Curry-less Warriors, or gotten back the blood work, so he couldn’t quite explain, among other things, why his Eddy-Curry-less team managed a measly 35 points in the second half.
Evidently, D’Antoni’s solitary impression was that the Warriors weren’t whatsoever culpable.
As far as he could remember, their opponent had nothing to do with Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire deciding to play outside in the cold all night.
In his mind, the Warriors’ double-teaming, trapping, helping, rotating and constant communication, just as coach Mark Jackson had primed, wasn’t slightly to blame for the leather-bound bookends aborting 21 of 28 pot shots.
In D’Antoni’s post-game prattle, he patronized, “I’m sure they feel their defense was responsible, and they should feel that way. But, no, it was our mistakes that did us in. Every mistake that could be made we made.”
It’s astonishing how, season after season, he’s permitted to brush off media inquiries with straight-faced corn pone that the crime-scene tape must first be reviewed. As if there’s any mystery why the Warriors were able to focus fully on Melo and Amar’e; until Baron Davis proves he’s half the headache he used to be, the Knicks desolately lack a guard capable of disrupting the defense by getting inside it and creating easy shots for him or teammates.
Basically, the Knicks are waiting for Baron, who’s never healthy, to get unhealthy enough to play.
The way Toney Douglas dribbles he must have practiced on a cobblestone driveway as a kid.
Davis watching Douglas dribble must’ve been like Obama watching George Bush give a speech.
If Toney starts talking about his crossover, D’Antoni better check his wife’s closet for missing items.
Since the NBA oddly avoids acknowledging anything affirmative regarding its referees, but takes the time at times to spotlight slip-ups, allow me to applaud Dick Bavetta.
Last night in Orlando, the 72-year-old whistle blower worked his 2,500th consecutive regular- season game. Ruminate on that statistic for a second. And now consider this appendage:
Bavetta hasn’t missed an assignment, excluding 300 in the playoffs (28 straight years) and another 300 exhibitions, since he joined the league in 1975 . . . and hasn’t once gone postal.
We’re talking no sick days to mar his immaculate attendance record. No personal problems requiring a visit to the chaplain. No absence due to snowy flights or death-defying car rides. No “Bob Barker’s spayed and neutered dogs ate my homework.” Thirty-seven years, 27 Finals appearances . . . and yet the association offers zero public praise of the man’s work ethic. It’s a win-win situation for commissioner David Stern; glorifying one means glorifying all.
Instead, to recognize Bavetta’s milestone, Tim Donaghy bought him a couple of scratch-offs.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.