Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Mavericks | Nov. 8, 2013

Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Mavericks

Wolves guard Ricky Rubio, right, poses with Jose Calderon before their first matchup at the NBA level on Jan. 2, 2012. (Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images)

Calderon Talks Friendship, Matchup With Rubio

Wolves guard Ricky Rubio’s flashy passing never gets old for fans at Target Center, and the repertoire seems to be endless. Just ask longtime Spanish National Team friend and teammate Jose Calderon.

No matter how many times he sees Rubio play, Calderon still gets surprised.

“Every night he has something different out there, and it just shows you how good he is and how I think he’s getting better every day,” Calderon said. “I think he’s more mature every day, and he’s going to be a great basketball player. And he’s going to be one of the top NBA point guards for sure. So it’s great. I’m excited to see him be successful and doing his thing for sure.”

Rubio and Calderon have spent a lot of time together during the summers playing for Team Spain over the years, most recently during this summer’s EuroBasket tournament in Slovenia. Tonight, they’ll go head-to-head at the NBA level for the third time in their careers as Minnesota hosts Dallas at Target Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.

There’s quite a large group of Spanish National Team players in the league today, ranging from Calderon and Rubio to the Gasol brothers to Victor Claver. And they all share a special bond because of all the time they spend together during the summers and the duration of years they’ve spent doing so. Calderon said it’s not like joining a team when you’re 28 years old. It’s a group that has played together since they were teenagers.

That’s what makes them more than just teammates—they’re close friends, too.

“You grew up with these guys, so it’s a different relationship because of that,” Calderon said. “That’s what makes it a little bit special.”

It runs deep, and Calderon said they try to stay in touch throughout the NBA season even if they aren’t going head-to-head like tonight. The group as a whole, he said, talk frequently and send texts to catch up if they haven’t touched base for a week or so. Calderon, who has been in the league for nine seasons, has been around a bit longer than Rubio and has shared that type of relationship with other Team Spain teammates like Gasol for years.

“It’s not just totally being teammates in summers,” he said. “We’re really good friends, our families, girlfriends, wives, whatever, we spend so much time together. It’s a real friend.”

This will be the fourth time Rubio and Calderon have faced each other, and it will be the third different team for Calderon. He played for Toronto during their first meeting in January 2012, and he was with Detroit during both meetings late last year.

So far, Rubio has a 2-1 record against Calderon’s squads and is averaging 7.0 assists per game during those three contests. Both players are averaging 11.3 points per game in those head-to-head matchups, but Calderon is shooting 56.0 percent from the field.

This particular meeting will hinge in large part on how well both players protect the basketball. The Wolves are a fourth in the league with 10.4 steals per game, and the Mavericks are coming off a game in which coach Rick Carlisle wasn’t happy with his team’s ball security at Oklahoma City. Rubio is always a pesky on-ball defender and gets his hand in passing lanes, so his particular matchup with his friend Calderon could be a big one when it comes to transition opportunities.

That will be in the forefront when they’re on the court. Until tipoff and after the final seconds tick off the clock, though, it will be another special meeting for both of them.

“It’s always good to play against a friend, you know?” Calderon said. “And even when you’re on the court, you kind of like to forget about it. You concentrate on your stuff, but you know it’s nice. He’s been doing great, and we’ve been friends for a while now, so it’s nice to see each other for sure.”

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.