Saunders impressed by Rubio's defensive presence at EuroBasket tourney
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Getting back into playing shape shouldn't be an issue for point guard Ricky Rubio when the Minnesota Timberwolves open training camp in a couple of weeks.
Rubio and the Spain national team moved two victories away from earning their third straight EuroBasket title on Wednesday with a 90-60 trouncing of Serbia in the quarterfinals. Rubio was all over the place, racking up six assists, four steals and six rebounds.
Having played in nine games so far in the three-week long tournament, Rubio's minutes have hovered around 21 per game, sporting a 7.9 points, three rebounds, 3.3 assists average.
Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has liked what he has seen from afar.
"He's had some real good games where he's shot it well," Saunders said Tuesday, shortly after the Wolves officially introduced newcomer Ronny Turiaf. "It's always a tough situation, because he's playing with another point guard a lot (Jose Calderon). He doesn't have the ball in his hands as much as he normally does."
"The one thing I have been impressed with is that's he's had great energy defensively. Hopefully he'll get enough rest and have that same energy when we start."
Wolves guard Alexey Shved's stint in the Eurobasket Championships was short-lived, with Russia's disappointing tournament run cut short in tourney's preliminary round.
But Saunders thought Shved's 16.4 ppg, 4.8 apg, five-game performance was a strong sign of improvement.
"Shved played really good," Saunders said. What I liked about him is that he kept his composure. He was their best player. At times he made good scoring plays. He made good assist plays. Maybe guys didn't finish plays, but he didn't get frustrated."
Not to be forgotten in the Wolves' offseason international tournament action, guard J.J. Barea is coming off an impressive finals run with Puerto Rico at the FIBA AMERICAS championship. A win against Mexico in the finals would have likely earned Barea tournament MVP honors, having posted double-digit scoring nights in all but one of the nine games he played in (15.6 ppg, 4.2 apg, 3.8 rpg).
With Barea now set in a clearly defined backup role in the Wolves' backcourt, Saunders expects to see 6-foot point guard thrive in the season ahead.
"He's going to be able to get comfortable, do the things that he needs to do to be effective like he was in Dallas," Saunders said. "He's going to get into that comfort role."
• Players are slowly trickling into the Twin Cities with the Wolves' closing in the start of training camp. Rookies Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng and Lorenzo Brown, along with returing forward Chase Budinger, have been in town for the last few weeks working out with new Wolves player development coach Bobby Jackson.
Turiaf and forwards Dante Cunningham and Corey Brewer have also arrived. Saunders said expects Shved to return to Minnesota some time over the weekend. All-Star forward Kevin Love is expected to joint the team next week.