Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea will return to the Twin Cities this fall a little more decorated.
The veteran backup point man led host Puerto Rico to the Tuto Marchand Continental Cup championship last week, scoring 18.3 points per game and earning co-tournament MVP accolades. His team went undefeated in a four-game, round robin showcase and now turns its attention toward the FIBA Americas Championship, which begins this Friday.
In a tournament featuring Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, Barea ranked as the second-best scorer. His best night came in Puerto Rico’s opener against Canada, when he went 7-for-11 from the field, scored 23 points and distributed eight assists.
In a winner-take-all finale against Argentina on Monday, he made 3-of-5 3-pointers en route to 21 points, and provided another octet of helpers in an 89-81 victory.
The FIBA Americas Championship boasts a larger field — essentially the western version of Eurobasket. Barea and Puerto Rico will play four first-round games in hopes of advancing to a second stage of round-robin, then a four-team semifinal and final series.
The tourney concludes Sept. 11.
Barea is not the only Minnesota guard competing internationally the next couple weeks. Both Ricky Rubio (Spain) and Alexey Shved (Russia) are training for Eurobasket play, which begins Wednesday, Sept. 4.
Spain is after its third title in a row.
All three Timberwolves players will be back in plenty of time for training camp, which is expected to commence on Oct. 1. Minnesota president of basketball operations has said he favors players competing for their countries, even this late in the offseason.
“I like players to play,” Saunders said recently. “That’s how you get better.”
Saunders expects coach Rick Adelman and the team’s training staff to tailor Rubio, Shved and Barea’s workout regimens to ensure they aren’t overworked when the Timberwolves open the season OCt. 30.