Playmaking. Defense. Leadership.
Ricky Rubio will provide all three for the Suns as the eight-year NBA veteran decided to join Phoenix at the outset of free agency this summer. A true point guard, Rubio will assume lead playmaking duties alongside Devin Booker as the two will look to establish themselves one of the most versatile backcourts in the league.
“This summer we set out to improve our team,” General Manager James Jones said. “We had two positions of need, primarily the point guard position. I’m just really excited. I know myself, Coach Monty, the entire organization, we’re just really thrilled to have Ricky with us. Knowing that his experience, his winning pedigree, his ability to control a team, run a team, lead a team is something that we missed, something that we hadn’t had recently in Phoenix.”
The battled-tested point guard was the first free agent signing for the Suns this offseason, a move that satisfied one of Jones’s highest priorities this summer. Rubio’s desire to lead, coupled with Phoenix’s need for an experienced point guard, made for an easy match in the Valley of the Sun.
“I didn’t pitch him,” Jones said. “We talked basketball. I think he saw an opportunity to come here and be who he is, who’s he’s always been: a leader. My conversations with Ricky were really direct. It was we need you, we think that you can thrive here and you can make us better...That was a challenge that he was willing to accept and we’re glad that he accepted it.”
Rubio is coming off back-to-back playoff appearances after guiding the Utah Jazz to the postseason the last two years. Head Coach Monty Williams believes the Suns are in a similar situation that the Jazz found themselves in before Rubio helped elevate the team to the next level.
“I think the thing that impacted me more than anything is what he did in Utah,” Williams said. “They were in this position a few years ago and he was able to make those guys better. I know he has the ability to do the same and more here.”
Widely regarded as one of the craftiest passers in the league, Rubio is a true two-way talent that also brings relentless tenacity on the defensive end. He’s one of just five players in NBA history to rank top 20 in both assists and steals per game (Jason Kidd, Magic Johnson, John Stockton and Chris Paul).
“There’s a lot of guys in this league who offensively are really, really good, but what separates the best from them, is their defense,” Rubio said. “That’s one of my mindsets. Everything starts with defense and, with that being said, it starts with the point guard because it sets the tone from the beginning.”
While the resume is impressive in itself, the former fifth overall pick represents not only the player the Suns wanted on the court, but off the court as well.
“He’s about all of the things that we want to promote, the habits, the attitude, experience,” Williams said. “Really excited about him as a person. Everybody that I’ve talked to has just been so excited about Ricky and myself and James partnering and going forward.
The 28-year-old is just entering his prime and felt that teaming up with Phoenix’s young core presented the perfect opportunity to take that next step as a leader at this point in his career.
“This one was a really good fit, just because I told him I’m about to hit my prime mentally, physically,” Rubio said. “I would say I’m in the best shape of my career physically… In Utah, with my experience going to the playoffs, I think I can bring that to the young guys. I can help them reach the level they deserve.”
Rubio has proven that he has what it takes to succeed on the court and knows that developing personal relationships with his teammates will be essential in order for the Suns to reach their full potential.
“I like to lead by example, Rubio said. “Always go out there and compete, do my best and play hard, but at the same time, knowing your teammates, knowing as players, but as a person too. Getting to know them off the court helps you lead them on the court, too.”
Rubio said he’s been in contact with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, but the next step will be putting it together and seeing how the playmaker interacts with the team on the court.
“The young guys are in for a treat just being around him,” Williams said. “I am thankful, grateful and I’m honored to be able to partner with him and build our team. I’m glad that I’m starting with Ricky and I look forward to many years of success.”
The young core is now solidified, the vets are on board, the coaching staff is in place and the future looks bright in Phoenix.
“Being here with an organization where they’re building something new, something really good and being a big part of it, I’m really excited,” Rubio said.