AS HIGH PRESEASONexpectations for the T-Wolves have been met with a poor start (14--27 through Sunday), opinions about what's gone wrong have proliferated. Few opinions, however, are more informed than those of Ricky Rubio. The point guard from Spain, in his sixth year in Minnesota, is averaging 7.6 points and 7.9 assists. He sat down with SI in Washington last week.
SI: In December you said the team wasn't playing with heart. Now?
Rubio: We got better. In a lot of games we're up by 10 or 15, and we give up the lead really quick. It seems like it's easy to build these leads, but it's not, and as a young team, we've got to realize that if we're up 10, we can't relax.
SI: Some nights it seems as if guys are checked out emotionally, then others it's like the younger players are too locked in. Do you think it would help if guys were having more fun?
RR: When you're having fun, that means things are working. But when things aren't working, you can't just say, "Try to have fun." You have to really try to do things the right way. So we're trying to find our identity, and that takes time.
SI: What's been most surprising watching Karl-Anthony Towns?
RR: What was amazing was that a rookie could be that consistent. Last year, in the beginning of the year, we were thinking that he couldn't keep up at that level. But he did, and he even improved through the season. The sky is the limit.
SI: You and Andrew Wiggins have some similarities: teenage fame, crazy expectations. Do you give him any advice?
RR: Take LeBron and Steph Curry. Their games don't have a lot of [weaknesses], and if those players still have haters, everybody's gonna have them. So stick with what you think you can do well, and realize what you have to improve.
SI: How do you improve in the middle of your career?
RR: I think I'm getting better at controlling the tempo of the game, controlling the ball. I don't get as many turnovers. And not just the shooting, but scoring. "Should I run the team or should I score?" I gotta learn how to balance that.
SI: When you first got drafted, how much did you know about Minnesota?
RR: I just knew about the Timberwolves because of [Kevin Garnett].
SI: How was the first year?
RR: It was really fun. [Minneapolis] is a city that I can call a second home. At the time, I was a little afraid of the cold. Everybody was telling me it was super cold. But the people were super nice, great restaurants. It's one of the most underrated cities in the league.
SI: You played with Kevin Love. How's that relationship now?
RR: We're friends. He was a good teammate and a great player, and off the court he was funny. That kind of dude, who's funny, low key. And we still talk here and there.
SI: It seems like things were tense for a minute.
RR: Of course we missed him. He was the face of the team. But this is business, and we gotta understand.
SI: It seems as if things worked out for everyone.
RR: Yeah. You know, we got Wiggs, and he got the ring with LeBron. I was happy to see his success.
SI: So what's your go-to activity to relax?
RR: I like to keep my mind busy. I like all sorts of games that make you think. Chess, I play a lot, read a lot of books. I'll FaceTime with my family back home.
SI: Do you play chess with teammates?
RR: No [plays invisible controller]. They're more into video games.
SI: What's the last great book that you read?
RR: One is Letting It Go. I like books that make you think. I like to read psychologists' books. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, that's one of my favorites.
SI: How about off season. What's your dream vacation?
RR: I want to go to Australia, rent an RV, go two weeks, three weeks with my friends. Just go all over the coast. And then South America, too. Go backpacking. And then maybe India.
SI: I saw some of the White House photos. What was your favorite part?
RR: We got to meet the President and see the Oval [Office]. That was cool. You only see that in movies.
SI: Who on the T-Wolves would make the best president?
RR: Cole Aldrich.
RR: Smart guy, knows what he's doing, and because all the other guys are 20.
When things aren't working, you can't just say, "Try to have fun."