Spanish coaches pick up pointers

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 9, 2012 - 12:01 AM

A group came to Target Center to watch how the Wolves practice and play.

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Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio faced tight defense from Knicks guard Jeremy Lin last month.

Photo: Jim Mone, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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For Ricky Rubio, there were some familiar faces at Target Center for Wednesday night's game and Thursday's practice.

A group of coaches from Spain is in the Twin Cities for a few days to observe how the Wolves practice and play. Included in that group are two men Rubio knows very well. Aito Garcia Renses first saw Rubio play when he was 12 years old. As the coach of Joventut Badalona, Renses sent a 14-year-old Rubio into his first professional game. And Renses was also head coach of the 2008 Spanish team that lost to Team USA in the Olympic gold medal game.

Also in the group is Juan Maria Gavalda Robert, president of the European Union and the Spanish Basketball Coaches Association. He also helps run Rubio's basketball camp. After practice, Wolves coach Rick Adelman talked at length with the group.

Renses talked about the poise Rubio had from the start and his ability to get along well with his veteran teammates.

"When I just came to the national team, all of the other players ... were thinking, 'Perhaps its too soon, he's only 17,' '' said Renses, who added it only took three days of practice for the team to come around.

Rubio, meanwhile, credited Renses for much of his success.

"All I am is a part of him," Rubio said. "He gave me the opportunity to be a pro when I was 14, in Europe. He gave me a lot of confidence. I love the way he coached me. I learned a lot from him. I am happy he is here."

Injury update

• First the good news: Center Nikola Pekovic, who has missed the past two games because of inflammation in his right foot/ankle, took part in the Wolves' light practice Thursday, then said he would play Friday against the Lakers.

Pekovic said there is still some pain but that it wouldn't stop him from doing what he need to do on the court. His return would be big, given the size the Lakers present with 7-footers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

• And now the bad news: J.J. Barea, who sprained an ankle Wednesday, did not practice and isn't expected to play.

Adelman said rookie guard Malcolm Lee would be called back from Sioux Falls of the Developmental League for the weekend. "I don't know how much he'll play," Adelman said of Lee. ''It's for insurance, if we get in foul trouble or if something happens."

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