Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin a good match in Wolves’ backcourt
MINNEAPOLIS — If it had gone Kevin Martin’s way, this union
would’ve been established four years ago.
But Sacramento went with Tyreke Evans with the 2009 NBA
Draft’s fourth overall pick — one spot ahead of the Timberwolves, which took
international sensation Ricky Rubio at No. 5. Then a senior member of a Kings
franchise trying to get its house in order, Martin implored front-office
general Geoff Petrie that summer to snag Rubio and his zany setup abilities.
“I thought it was gonna be the backcourt of the future
for the Sacramento Kings, me and Ricky, but they decided to go in a different
direction,” Martin said. “Here we are today.”
Here is Minnesota. And today, for the most part, has been
worth the wait.
For the first time in his young career, Rubio shares the
backcourt with a bona fide, proven scoring threat. Martin, in turn, benefits
from an expanded starter’s role after spending last year as Oklahoma City’s
If there’s such a thing as a shooting guard’s dream, it’s
Rubio — unselfish, pass-first and happy to reward a wing player’s efforts to
“I don’t like playing with Ricky,” Martin cracked
through a mouthful of sarcasm recently. “No, he’s great. … Fun guy to play
Entering Monday night’s game at Boston, Martin is scoring
20.6 points per game, making 40.8 percent of his 3-point attempts and shooting
92.8 percent from the foul stripe — even after struggling mightily and nursing
what has appeared to be a sore knee the past three games. Rubio, meanwhile,
ranks fourth among NBA players with 8.2 assists per game and has opened up the
scoring part of his offensive game, notching 12.6 points a night during his
last eight outings.
Those metrics are a product of several factors. But one big
reason is how well the two guards complement each other.
“They’re working well together,” coach Rick
A 17.9-points-per-game scorer for his career, Martin has
worked with good point guards before, including Mike Bibby, Goran Dragic and
Russell Westbrook. But there’s a certain element of enjoyment and effectiveness
that comes with playing alongside Rubio, whose assists generate 19.3 points per
That’s good for fourth in the NBA, according to league
Martin mentioned after being signed as an unrestricted free
agent this offseason he was looking forward to finishing the back end of
between-the-leg and behind-the-back passes from Rubio. It’s been as fun as
expected, he said.
“I always thought that,” Martin said. “I
thought that when (the Kings) had a chance to draft him back whenever he got
Martin is currently mired in a slump that’s three games long
and counting. He went scoreless and asked to be taken out in the second half of
Sunday’s win at Memphis and had mentioned a sore knee affecting him last
Tuesday at Detroit.
In contests against the 76ers, Spurs and Grizzlies, Martin
went 5-for-24 from the floor and scored 19 points combined. Before the
Philadelphia game, he ranked ninth in the NBA in scoring.
The dropoff hasn’t sullied Rubio’s view of his new two-guard
partner. Since entering the league, he has had Kevin Love to find inside or for
the occasional 3.
But with Martin around now, the third-year pro has twice as
many premier scoring options.
“He’s been great for us so far,” Rubio said of
Martin. “In moments like tough games where we can’t find an easy shot, he
can take that chance.”
Martin’s threat to score from distance or creates space for
Rubio — and contributes heavily to his assists tally — and Kevin Love. Inside
and out, Love does the same for his backcourt teammates and has scored 26 or
more points in Minnesota’s past four games.
It’s all a product of Adelman’s corner-offense system that
emphasizes ball movement and works best with a distribution-minded point guard
and wing players with a knack for producing points.
Check. And check.
“He is a true point guard,” Sixers and former
Australian National Team coach Brett Brown said of Rubio, a staple of Spain’s
international success in recent years. “He is a pass-first, creative,
elusive type of point guard, and Kevin’s a scorer, a stone-cold scorer.
“I think Coach Adelman’s offensive system is extremely
hard to guard, so the combination of (Rubio’s) skill package plus their
partnership in a pretty lethal offensive system is dangerous.”
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