Wolves Excited To Represent NBA During Game In Mexico City

Wolves Excited To Represent NBA During Game In Mexico City

When the Wolves and Spurs meet in Mexico City on Wednesday, they'll combine to have players from 15 different countries on their rosters. Two of those international players are starting point guards Tony Parker, left, and Ricky Rubio, right. (Photo Credit: David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images)

NBA Commissioner David Stern said during his visit to Minnesota last winter that the Timberwolves are a team that is highly marketable worldwide. There are a couple obvious reasons for this: The team has young, exciting stars like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, and they also benefit from having players representing eight different countries on the roster.

It’s why the Wolves have been part of international initiatives in the past couple years, beginning with back-to-back appearances in the NBA’s preseason Canada Series and continuing this week with the Timberwolves’ matchup against San Antonio in Mexico City. The Wolves will be the home team at Mexico City Arena, with tipoff set for 8:30 p.m. on Fox Sports North, NBATV and 830 WCCO-AM.

It’s a rare opportunity, to be sure, and it’s certainly one that takes the team a little bit out of its regular routine. But it’s also in some ways a badge of honor—a way to showcase the league puts the Wolves in a category of teams they’d like to represent the league in internationally-based contests. It’s a way to gain new fans and followers for the league—and for the team—in an area of the world that doesn’t normally get to see NBA players up close.

The Wolves take that part of this trip very seriously.

“You have to represent the NBA [well], because you know so many countries across the world, they watch the NBA and they love the NBA. We want to represent it to the best of our ability, and we appreciate all the fans across the world that actually do watch the NBA.”

Martin is the longest-tenured NBA player on this team—he’s now in his ninth season. Back in 2004-05, when he was a rookie in Sacramento playing for then-Kings coach Rick Adelman, his first preseason action was in China when the Kings faced the Houston Rockets. That game featured Yao Ming in his home country and generated enormous buzz.

In the decade since, the league has continued making trips around the world for isolated games either in the preseason or regular season. This particular game will include a Wolves team that has players hailing from the United States, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Cameroon, Montenegro, Spain, Russia and Martinique and a Spurs team that has players from the U.S., Australia, Italy, France, the Virgin Island, Canada, Argentina and Brazil.

That’s a geography lesson right there. Even though the Wolves themselves are regionally located near Mexico, they hope they’ll be able to win over some fans by their style of play.

“It presents a great opportunity for us as a franchise as well as San Antonio,” guard A.J. Price said. “So I’m excited to go over to a different area in front of fans that don’t get to see us play all the time. It’s a great opportunity. We embrace it and we hope to put on the best show possible.”

One of the endearing qualities on this Wolves team is it’s filled with players who understand they’re fortunate to be able to play basketball for a living on the biggest stage. And with that comes a sense of responsibility to showcase the game they love to others who might be seeing an NBA game for the first time.

Ricky Rubio has been a professional basketball player since he was a teenager playing in Spain. Now 23, he continues to be awed by the journey he’s taken to get to where he’s at. He brings a youthful enthusiasm to the game, and it’s why fans in Europe wait up all hours of the night to see him play in a Timberwolves uniform.

In Mexico City, a new group of fans will get a chance to see him live this week. Rubio understands that.

“I dreamed about it, and now [I’m] here in the NBA, I’m still waking up every day and thinking, ‘Whoa, I’m in the NBA,’ you know?” Rubio said. “I can’t believe it. But it’s something that I’m enjoying and I’m proud of it.”

With international scouting, high-profile international leagues, Basketball Without Borders and 24-7 access to basketball clips on the internet, the game is more global today than ever. With the NBA working toward making it and even more closely-knit global neighborhood, games like this week’s matchup in Mexico City help take the game—and the league—to another level.

For that reason, and for the fact that the league is packed with talent from top to bottom, it’s an exciting time for these players to be part of the league. For Minnesota to be selected as a team that gets to play abroad, that means something to this roster.

“We have some great players that represent this game well like Kevin Durant and LeBron [James], so we’re just following in their footsteps and making the NBA a positive image.”

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