The prospect of sitting half a world away and watching their centerpiece point guard play 11 games in 18 days all while his teammates prepare for training camp has to draw a cringe from some NBA general managers. Not Flip Saunders. "I like players to play" the Timberwolves president of basketball operations said. "That's how you get better." Sounds simple enough. Eurobasket sure isn't the Olympics. It's not even the FIBA World Championships recently renamed the Basketball World Cup. But the 24-team two-and-a-half week European national team tournament is still an outlet for hardwood nationalism enough that guys like Ricky Rubio and Tony Parker will spend most of September overseas competing for their countries. "No one has said that we are not going to Slovenia for the gold medal" Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio told eurobasket2013.com. "The national team we have is of a great level." And when past scouting emphases have created a Minnesota roster dotted with foreign athletes chances are a few of them will be competing in Eurobasket every couple of offseasons. It's with notable zeal even for the eccentric assists machine that Rubio returns to competing internationally. He missed the London Olympics last summer while rehabbing from the ACL tear that derailed his 2012 NBA rookie of the year chances looking on jealously as Spain nearly upset the United States in the gold medal game. He sat out 25 of the Timberwolves' first 30 games too but finished his sophomore campaign as by far the brightest beacon during an injury-riddled 2012-13 season. His 2.4 steals per game tied for first in the NBA and his 7.3 assists per game ranked 10th. Moreover he endeared himself to a bitterly disappointed fan base with his energetic feisty style of play -- the same kind that could lead to another injury if he's not careful. But Saunders would rather have his athletes work in game situations than overexert themselves in the weight room or conditioning programs. "I'd rather have them doing that sometimes than overtraining" Saunders said. "I think you have to have a combination of both. But it's one of those things we have to see." Rubio has been in Spain since late July working alongside Memphis' Marc Gasol and Dallas' José Calderón readying for his first taste of international competition since the 2011 Eurobasket tournament. While Rubio won't be joined by veteran countrymen Pau Gasol Juan Carlos Navarro or Serge Ibaka Spain sits among the favorites to claim gold in Slovenia.
Wolves' Rubio, Shved primed for Eurobasket experience
Fox Sports North | Aug 19