Perhaps the Minnesota Timberwolves should have been a part of the NBA's Christmas day spectacular. After all, has any fan base been waiting to play with a new toy longer than T-Wolves fans have waited to see what point guard Ricky Rubio could do?
At long last, the precocious Spanish sensation made his domestic debut on Monday night. Within minutes of checking into the Timberwolve' opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he gave fans a glimpse of the skills that dropped scouts' jaws while most kids his age were in junior high. Rubio, who was drafted by Minnesota with the fifth overall pick in 2009, entered the game at the tail end of the first quarter and started to get comfortable as the second quarter began.
His first highlight came off a defensive rebound as Rubio began to push the temp in transition. Running a four-on-four fast break, the 21-year-old connected with J.J. Barea on his left with a no-look pass that sent his teammate bearing down on the basket for an easy layup. That pretty dime brought the crowd to its feet, but was just the beginning. Seconds later, Rubio recorded his second assist with a surprising pass to rookie Derrick Williams under the basket.
As Minnesota tried to keep its surprise lead going into halftime, Rubio sent T-Wolves fans into a frenzy with another beautiful pass, slinging the ball through two defenders with his right hand to the cutting Anthony Randolph for another easy layup.
"He makes it so easy," one of the Timberwolves broadcasters gushed.
"Anything may happen when he has the ball," the other commentator replied.
It would get better from there.
Capping his impressive debut, Rubio shined in the fourth quarter as lead went back and forth. Early in those final 12 minutes, Rubio authored his highlight of the night while helming a three-on-four fast break. After he crossed half court, Rubio delivered a gorgeous bounce pass through Nick Collison and Eric Maynor to Williams on the baseline. The pass set up the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft for a two-handed reverse dunk that gave the Timberwolves a 79-78 lead.
Rubio finished with six points, six assists and five rebounds (no turnovers), but the Thunder would go on to grab the lead late and hold on for a 104-100 win. Yet, that didn't stop the buzz in Minnesota. Or on Twitter.
The performance prompted Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star Tribune to write that Rubio and the Wolves "gave their fans reason to believe that better days lie ahead."
Rubio looked as good as advertised in his debut, which might have been the most impressive thing about his performance because of all the speculation and hype that preceded it. Nobody walked out of Target Center disappointed in what they witnessed from him.
The reactions on Twitter, from LeBron James, ESPN's Bill Simmons and basketball bloggers and fans of all affiliations were equally as effusive. Check out some of the best reactions below.