|13 March 2013|
EUROPEANS IN THE NBA
|Ricky Rubio recorded the first of what is expected to be many NBA triple-doubles on Tuesday night|
"Stats are the last thing I try to watch, the victory is the most important thing," Ricky Rubio said on Tuesday night.
His words came just minutes after a stellar performance by the Spanish international had secured both victory for his team and some impressive stat lines for himself.
Rubio picked up the first triple-double of his NBA career, going 9-for-17 from the floor on the way to finishing with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, as the Minnesota Timberwolves triumphed 107-83 over the San Antonio Spurs at home.
This was Rubio's fourth game this season with at least 10 assists and eight rebounds, and the 10th game where he dished out 10 or more assists.
The mighty Spurs were missing through injury on Tuesday both French international Tony Parker, who will return for the play-offs, and star big man Tim Duncan.
But there is not a single NBA player, coach or fan that considers Rubio's first triple-double as a mere statistical anomaly or the fruit of a happy coincidence.
"That's the first one of many to come," Rubio's team-mate on the Timberwolves J.J. Barea said with conviction.
"Not many point guards get 12 defensive rebounds; he's playing with such a resolve just trying to get us over the hump," his coach, Rick Adelman, added.
The season has not exactly gone according to plan for the Timberwolves, who have been mired by injury problems since the start of their campaign.
Rubio himself has only played in 36 games after returning from the serious torn ACL injury he suffered midway through last season.
Two other European stars of Minnesota, Montenegro's Nikola Pekovic and Russia's Andrei Kirilenko, the FIBA Europe Player of the Year for 2012, have watched the last few games from the sidelines, while their USA international Kevin Love has missed most of the season after breaking his arm.
As a result, the Timberwolves stand at 22-39 and their chances of clinching a play-off spot in the Western Division are practically null.
Rubio's fantastic display on Tuesday though, as well as that of another young European on the team, Alexey Shved, is giving their fans much hope about the future.
The Russian guard had 16 points on three-for-four shooting from behind the three-point arc, and added seven rebounds and three assists.The fifth European player to join the team just recently, Mikael Gelabale of France, had five points and five rebounds against the Spurs.
Back in the early days of his career, Rubio introduced himself to a wide audience with a stratospheric 51-point, 24-rebound, 12-assist triple double in the final of the U16 European Championship in 2006.
It's true that, although he was still a couple of months shy of his 16th birthday on the day of that dramatic final with Russia, which Spain won 110-106 after double overtime, Rubio was already known among basketball fans.
That memorable display in the final was the point guard's third triple-double in that competition alone, and he had already debuted with the senior team of Joventut Badalona in the Spanish ACB and the Eurocup.
A lot of people had heard about him already, but that triple-double turned heads among the many more who still didn't - talk of a up-and-coming European superstar by the name of Rubio began that day.