By Chris Sheridan
BILBAO, Spain — Ricky Rubio has already signed a contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the holdup keeping him from leaving Barcelona is related to his buyout agreement, multiple sources told ESPN.com.
“This is just a bump in the road for (the Timberwolves),” said one source.
Rubio’s Spanish club won the ACB championship Tuesday, after which Rubio said:
“We are talking with Barcelona and we will soon see.”
That fueled speculation Rubio might not come to Minnesota for the 2011-12 season. But two sources told ESPN.com Rubio has already signed with the Timberwolves. He still must receive a letter of clearence from FIBA, the sports’ international governing body.
Earlier this month, The Associated Press and The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reported that Rubio, the No. 5 pick in the 2009 NBA draft, had reached an agreement to join the Timberwolves after two seasons with Barcelona.
The Timberwolves did not confirm those reports, which followed years of speculation that Rubio, 20, did not want to leave Europe or pay the multimillion-dollar buyout of his Barcelona contract out of his own pocket.
Rubio said he was “very happy” after Barcelona won the Spanish league title, according to the Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo. “This title is the most widely appreciated. At last I have it and we must all be proud of it.”
On Wednesday, a source close to Rubio told ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher that he is unaware of any change to Rubio’s plans to play in the NBA next season.
Timberwolves president David Kahn called Rubio “a virtuoso and somebody special” after drafting him in 2009. Kahn and agent Dan Fegan had an agreement to bring Rubio to the NBA that summer, but Rubio withdrew from that deal at the last minute after deciding he did not want to pay a $6 million-plus buyout.
With the passing of two seasons, Rubio’s buyout from Barcelona has decreased to $1.4 million. The Timberwolves can contribute up to $500,000 of that amount under current league rules.
Rubio averaged 6.5 points a game on 39 percent shooting this season at Barcelona, where he dealt with a foot injury and fell out of the starting lineup. The Timberwolves believe Rubio will flourish in the NBA, where guards have more freedom to create than they do in the stricter offensive schemes common in the European game.
“He’s gotten bigger and he plays outstanding defense, and because he’s a pass-first guard he’s going to be liked by everybody who plays with him,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said last year. Krzyzewski coached Team USA against Rubio and Spain in the Beijing Olympics.
Rubio dominated the junior circuit in Europe and turned professional at 14. His flashy style and baby face made him an instant sensation in Europe.
Although Rubio’s stock dropped this season, the woeful Timberwolves — winners of a combined 32 games the past two seasons — remain in need of a point guard to feed the ball to Kevin Love and Michael Beasley.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Follow Chris Sheridan on Twitter: @csheridanespn