Spotted courtside at the Marriott Center Saturday for the BYU versus Pacific game was Utah Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio on his day off.
Right next to him was his lifelong friend and business partner, Lucas Charte-Garcia.
So whether things are going good or bad, the Spanish floor general keeps an even keel through his tight-knit circle. If he’s not with Charte-Garcia, he’s likely with his other longtime friend/business manager Josep Heredia, and they aren't afraid to keep it real with him.
Even after a couple of clutch performances in Detroit and Toronto, that isn’t going to change.
“When we go home and it’s a good game, we don’t give him lot of praise because that’s what you’re supposed to do, that’s why you’re here,” said Charte-Garcia, who met Rubio at 4 years of age. “When it’s a bad game, it’s just a game, suck it up, man up, go back to the gym, make some shots, remember who you were.”
Rubio has displayed a new level of confidence in Utah’s two big road wins this past Wednesday and Friday and could possibly be turning a corner on his season.
At times, Rubio hasn’t been as engaged defensively by gambling too much, has struggled with his shooting and coughed up loads of turnovers.
Granted, the team has pushed through a boatload of injuries and lineup changes, but lately that hasn’t been the case.
In Detroit on Wednesday, Rubio logged 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists but more importantly forced overtime with his heads-up inbound pass to Joe Ingles for a layup to end regulation.
Then in Toronto on Friday, he ended with 14 points, six assists, six rebounds and two steals, plus the game-winning 3-pointer to quiet a sellout crowd at Air Canada Centre.
Defensively, he even pestered Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry, while holding him to just five points and five turnovers on 2-for-14 shooting.
“It ranks high. When you win a game like that, especially with a shot like that, it ranks high,” Rubio said nonchalantly after the Toronto game. “You remember, but luckily I had a couple like that in the league and I remember them and it gave me confidence.”
That shot. That defense. That confidence.
It’s the little things like those that are helping the Jazz click better. It’s what the team expected from Rubio when the front office acquired him from Minnesota in the offseason for a 2018 first-round draft pick.
“I don’t think it’s a watershed moment,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of the 3-pointer in Toronto. “He’s been in this league a long time and he’s take big shots and made big shots, but it’s always good to win a game. I’m not downplaying it, it was a big shot, but it’s not like Ricky needed that shot just to prove himself in any way, shape or form.
Rubio is now averaging a career-best 11.2 points, career-low 4.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals. Those statistics only tell half the story, though. More importantly, his teammates are starting to gain trust in him, which prompted star rookie Donovan Mitchell to even pass the ball to Rubio in Toronto with the game on the line.
That might not have been the case earlier in the year as Rubio is shooting 50 percent for 3-pointers and 47.5 percent from the field in Utah’s last two games. He’s also posting 12.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
“It definitely builds a lot of chemistry in late moments,” Mitchell said. “You understand who is going to step up, and clearly we have guys who are going to step up and be ready for the moment.”
Utah (21-28) will need all the help it can get on Tuesday when the defending champion Golden State Warriors roll into town.
Golden State (40-10) has won seven of the last eight games and currently leads the league in points per game (116), assists per game (30.6), offensive rating (113.8), net rating (10.5), 3-point percentage (39.6) and a host of other categories, led by four All-Stars in Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.
Rubio’s big shot in Toronto is already in the past, but maybe it can carry over. One thing’s for sure, his team certainly isn’t worshipping him over those key plays. He’s been playing professional basketball since he was 14 years old, so two good games won’t make him or break his mental toughness.
“He has barely changed. He was really smart, really mature since early age,” said Charte-Garcia. “He was always the one on the team who was pushing us and trying to keep the hype down when we were winning and keep us back on track when we were losing.”
NEW LOOK: The wait is over. Utah will break out its new Nike “City Edition” uniforms with a matching alternative court at 7 p.m. Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors at Vivint Arena. The colorful jerseys fade from bright gold to deep burgundy as a nod to the state’s natural beauty. Utah will sport the red rock uniforms for nine games this season — including six at home.