Rubio's skills, floor leadership impress Ginobili

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOODKYOUNGBLOOD@STARTRIBUNE.COM
  • Updated: January 3, 2012 - 12:57 AM

The Spurs veteran -- whose path to the NBA mirrored Ricky Rubio's -- got his first look at the Wolves rookie Sunday.

San Antonio Spurs' Manu Ginobili

Photo: Dave Einsel, Associated Press

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Manu Ginobili sees similarities between himself and Ricky Rubio -- to a point.

Both came to the NBA as seasoned veterans. Ginobili played in international events for Argentina and had been a star in Europe, just like Rubio. Both had played against good players and had played in big games by the time they became NBA rookies.

Of course, there are differences, too.

"Rubio had much more fanfare," Ginobili said. He and his San Antonio Spurs teammates had just finished their morning shootaround Monday. Ginobili, the Spurs guard, is right. He was a second-round pick by the Spurs while Rubio was a lottery pick. Ginobili, relatively speaking, was operating under the radar when he arrived for his first season with the Spurs in 2002. Rubio's arrival in the Twin Cities has been far bigger news.

"He was high in the draft for a team that needs fire, needs him to change things around," he said. "I found myself with a team with a lot of structure, with players who knew the system and I didn't."

Good first impression

Ginobili and the rest of the Spurs arrived in Minnesota early enough Sunday to watch the Wolves play the Mavericks. Like just about everybody else, he was impressed.

"I didn't see him before," Ginobili said. "He made a great, great first impression on me. [Sunday] night he was impressive, the way he led the team in the fourth quarter, finding players open. And, of course, he was helped by Kevin Love, who is playing unbelievable."

But what struck Ginobili most about Rubio was the poise the Wolves point guard showed.

"He is gifted in that regard," Ginobili said. "He has so much control of the ball, and he can see the court so well he can play like that. That's something we knew was going to happen. He might have other weakness and strengths, but he has great poise, and he's very talented passing the ball and dribbling."

But Ginobili knows there will be some adjustment needed. He said San Antonio -- both the city and his teammates -- welcomed him much like Rubio has been welcomed here. But he had to learn a new culture, learn a new offense and learn a new league. Now it's Rubio's turn.

Confidence shows

Spurs backup big man Tiago Splitter played against Rubio in Spain. Splitter is struck by how much more leeway Rubio has with the Wolves compared to his team in Barcelona.

"I'm surprised in the way he's playing with freedom," Splitter said. "When he played [in Spain], it was a good team with a lot of pressure to win everything. The coach here is giving him the ball in the last quarter, and he's playing with such confidence. And that's hard to do in the first year."

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