Ricky Rubio gets real on leaving Cavs due to mental health: ‘If you lie to yourself, it can catch up in a wrong way’

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Brian Westerholt-USA TODAY Sports

Former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio opened up on his reasoning for leaving the team.

“I’ve always been that guy trying to be positive,” Rubio said. “But sometimes it was me lying to myself, saying, ‘Don’t feel that way’ because it might stop you. … Eventually, if you lie to yourself, it can catch up in a wrong way, like what happened to me. So be true to yourself.”

The 33-year-old also admitted that he sometimes thinks back to his mental state at the time.

“I have goose bumps thinking about those days when everything was dark,” Rubio said. “I had something clouding my mind that I couldn’t get over. Now I’m doing much better with the help that I needed and building myself from inside-out instead of outside-in.”

Earlier this month, Rubio agreed to a contract buyout with the Cavaliers and announced his retirement from the NBA.

On the bright side, Rubio will train with FC Barcelona’s basketball team. He played 140 matches with the team before joining the NBA ahead of the 2011-12 season.

“Hello everyone,” Rubio said in a statement.

“I wanted to say these words because I have reached the final phase of my recovery.

“I have been thinking it over for weeks, and after many weeks working on my body and mind, I feel keen and strong enough to see how I feel with a ball in my hands.

“My next step has been to ask FC Barcelona if I can, with no obligations and without interrupting their plans for the season, to train with them. I would like to say thank you in advance for their help and understanding with my situation.

“Finally, I would like to thank everyone who has shown their respect and support for me throughout this process, and also thank everyone for respecting my privacy on this journey.”

Rubio spent two of his 12 seasons in the NBA playing for the Cavaliers organization. He also spent time playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves — who drafted him with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft — Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns.

Arguably his best season with the Cavaliers came during his first season in Cleveland, the 2021-22 season, when he averaged 13.1 points, 6.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game while shooting 36.3 percent from the floor and 33.9 percent from 3-point range. Rubio suited up in just 34 games (eight starts) for the Cavaliers during the regular season, however.

In his second and final season with the team, Rubio’s numbers took a dip across the board. In 33 appearances and two starts with the Cavaliers in the 2022-23 regular season, he averaged 5.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game on 34.3 percent shooting from the field and 25.6 percent from deep.

The Cavaliers have had a successful 2023-24 regular season to this point without Rubio. Cleveland owns the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference at the moment at 27-16 and is within striking distance of a top-three seed, as the Cavaliers are just one-and-a-half games behind the Philadelphia 76ers in the standings.

It’s disappointing that Rubio’s time with the Cavaliers had to come to an end after just two seasons with the organization. However, at least he is seemingly doing better from a mental standpoint than he was a few months back when he announced he had to step away from the team to focus on his mental health.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer at SB Nation’s CelticsBlog and The Knicks Wall.