Las Vegas • As the Utah Jazz’s summer league team was in the second quarter of Tuesday’s game against Portland in Cox Pavilion, Ricky Rubio was but a few thousand feet away, in a conference room at the adjoining Thomas & Mack Center.
In an event that marked the official end to his two years as the Jazz’s starting point guard, Rubio was being introduced as the new starting point guard of the Phoenix Suns.
A day after the Jazz introduced Bojan Bogdanovic and Mike Conley — the latter the man whose acquisition sealed Rubio’s departure — the Spaniard was explaining how he went from the point guard of a team that was among the best in the Western Conference to a group trying to end a run of lottery appearances, from an outfit that won 50 games a year ago to one that won just 19.
Asked how he felt about the end of his two-year run with Utah, Rubio was typically straightforward.
“This is a business and you understand that things [don’t] work the way that we want in the beginning, I guess. There’s things that change,” he said. “… I was just really excited with the two years I spent out there — I really learned a lot. Coach Quin [Snyder] is special. And what they’re building over there is something that I’m proud of being a part of, that organization. But it’s time for me to move on, and I’m really excited to be here.”
Now, instead of setting up the likes of Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles, he’ll be looking for Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and rookie sharpshooter Cameron Johnson.
After the team took heat a year ago for not having a true floor general on the roster, Phoenix general manager James Jones said it was imperative to add a point guard this summer, and was confident Rubio would do all he could to earn the $51 million he’s due over the next three seasons.
“We’re just really thrilled to have Ricky with us, knowing that his experience, his winning pedigree, his ability to control a team, to run a team, to lead a team is something that we’ve missed, something that we haven’t had recently in Phoenix,” Jones said. “And with his addition, I expect our young guys to be able to take a huge leap forward this year.”
New coach Monty Williams added that adding Rubio to the mix will help the Suns both on and off the court.
“He’s about all of the things that we want to promote — the habits, the attitude, the experience. … I’m really excited about him as a person,” Williams said. “… Like James said, he’s gonna make all of us look a lot better than we should. Our young guys are gonna be in for a treat just being around him.”
For his part, Rubio (who will wear No. 11 with Phoenix) acknowledged that the change in circumstances, in teammates would be an adjustment.
That said, he added that part of the appeal of joining Phoenix is that his veteran status could make a significant difference on a young, developing squad trying to find its way.
“It’s been an honor to really see a franchise where they’re building something special. A lot of young guys, and I can bring to the table my experience,” Rubio said. “I’m already 28, been eight years in the league. … I think I can bring that to the young guys, really help them reach the level that they deserve. … It’s just a really exciting project — it’s a challenge.”