SALT LAKE CITY — The morning after his team bowed out of the playoffs, Ricky Rubio came to the exit interviews at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus wearing a shirt promoting the classic TV sitcom "Friends."
Of course he did.
With team chemistry and teammate friendship being so plentiful this season and Rubio smack dab in the middle of the chumminess, the shirt could've been the official top of this squad with a #teamiseverything mantra.
It would be an interesting exercise to try to figure out which of the "Friends" he most resembles.
Perhaps Ross because of his quieter demeanor and a skill set with enormous potential? Maybe Joey because of his heartwarming smile, charm and the way he stole the show on occasion? Or was he more like Chandler, an important and likeable figure who seemed to be at the center of it all for good and/or bad?
OK, you're right. He was Phoebe.
Regardless of your thoughts on that silly Facebook-quiz-like game, the shirt was fitting for Rubio and his relationship with this Jazz team and the larger Jazz community.
Though his future in Utah isn't clear with his upcoming status as an unrestricted free agent, Rubio has been a friend and an important character in the success of this organization for the past two seasons.
"He has Jazz DNA," Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey said.
Question is: To get to the next level of success — winning around 60 games and advancing deep into the playoffs — do the Jazz need to acquire a more powerful Jerry Seinfeld type or can they do it by adding more talented cast members around this cherished friend with flashy passing and dribbling skills, a twinkle in his smiling eyes and the best human "meow" delivery in commercial history?
Having won 50 games this past season and qualified for the playoffs for the third straight spring, it's clear the Jazz need another couple of dynamic pieces, including in the backcourt.
Shooting guard Donovan Mitchell needs another offensive weapon or two at his side to take the pressure off of him and put it on their opponents. Some believe that the Jazz need a different point guard who is a more consistent and reliable shooter. Others believe Rubio could be the answer as long as Utah gets another wing player who can create his own shots or a stretch four with a nice outside game to complement Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
Mitchell showed he's capable of running the show at the point in spurts, too, so that adds another variable for Lindsey & Co. to consider in an important offseason.
With the Warriors possibly approaching the end of their current reign of terror — what with the possibility of losing Kevin Durant and/or Klay Thompson to free agency — now is a prime time for the Jazz to make moves to bolster a roster that's solid but not quite stellar.
"We want to move the group forward," Lindsey said. "And while we have a very good team, the results told us that we don’t have a great team."
Rubio is a wild card here.
Lindsey addressed the fact that the team tried to upgrade the point guard position leading up to the trade deadline in February. Reports leaked at the time that Utah had inquired about trading for Memphis point guard Mike Conley.
"Unfortunately," Lindsey said, "a team leaked something and it was unethical."
Rubio admitted it hurt his feelings.
"I tried to stay as positive as I could and focus on the team and what we were doing here," Rubio said. " It’s hard. ... I play with heart, and you go out there and you want to play with heart, but you don’t know if tomorrow you’re going to be here.
"It’s tough. I’m not going to lie. Luckily, it didn't happen and I ended the season on a good note and I’m happy."
Rubio wasn't able to play against Houston in the 2018 playoffs, and he played like he wanted to win in this rematch. That didn't happen — the Rockets took the series 4-1 — but Rubio's effort was inspiring. He also became more vocal to teammates this postseason, which was only the second of his eight-year career.
"I gave it all, all I had. I could play better, yeah, but I’m finishing the season and who knows if I finish here, with everything I have," Rubio said. "I’m proud about it. This series, we could have won it. That's why it's so disappointing."
The 28-year-old Rubio said he tried to not think about where he might end up — either this year with the trade rumors floating around, or in the future.
"I’m honest. During the season it came out to my mind, like, 'Yo, what am I going to do next year?'" he said. "I learn that you can’t be thinking of what’s ahead until it happens. You don’t leave the present. Living in the past or in the future doesn’t make you happy. That’s a philosophy I learned through a tough period in my life and tried to stay present."
Lindsey said he admires the empathy and "care factor" that Rubio displays. He's also turned into a terrific mentor for Mitchell.
The Jazz love everything the 6-foot-4 Rubio brings to the team. His inconsistent shooting is one negative. The Spaniard averaged 12.7 points and 6.1 assists, but shot just 40.4% overall and 31.1% from 3-point range.
He's currently the best option as the starting point guard for Utah, considering Dante Exum's continued health issues. Raul Neto had a nice season as a backup.12 comments on this story
"He’s got a decision to make on his end and we’ve got a decision to make on our end, but there’s a lot of scenarios I can see Ricky back,” Lindsey said. “We really appreciate who he is and we think we can get him better from a health perspective and skill standpoint. We know who he is."
Ross? Chandler? Joey?
"One thing I’m going to look at for sure is going to be the best situation with me, with the coach and the team," Rubio added. "I think that’s to a point that no matter what you have, if you’re not happy, you can play basketball, but it’s not what I want. I want to be happy. I’m going to try to pick the best situation for me to perform and be happy."