Spurs, Timberwolves going international

AP Photo/Eric Gay

Tim Duncan has been one of the most successful international players in NBA history.Wednesday night, the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves will meet in Mexico City. It will be just the second NBA regular-season game played in Mexico City. However, when you include exhibitions, this will be the NBA’s 21st game in Mexico overall.

The other regular-season NBA game in Mexico was Dec. 6, 1997, a 108-106 victory for the Houston Rockets over the Dallas Mavericks. In that game, Michael Finley led all players with 35 points in a loss, while Charles Barkley had 19 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Rockets.

It’s fitting that the NBA is expanding to play more games outside the United States and Canada, as the NBA is growing more international league-wide.

According to the NBA, there were a record-breaking 92 international players from 39 countries and territories represented on opening-night rosters. Wednesday’s matchup will be between two of the most international teams in the NBA.

The Spurs have 10 international players on their roster, the most such players ever on an NBA roster. Minnesota has seven, the second-most by any team.

Let’s take a look at two of the premier international players who will be facing off in this game.

Tim Duncan

Although Duncan enters Wednesday’s game averaging career lows in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage this season, his accolades over the course of his 17-year NBA career are exceptional.

Most Points Among Active Players
Born Outside United States

His 23,994 career points are the second-most by an active player born outside the United States, trailing only Dirk Nowitzki. His teammate, Tony Parker, sits fifth on that list.

With six points tonight, Duncan would also become the ninth player in NBA history with at least 24,000 points and 13,000 rebounds in their career. Of the other eight, all six who are eligible are in the Hall of Fame (Shaquille O’Neal is not yet eligible, Kevin Garnett is still active).

Ricky Rubio

Although Kevin Love and Kevin Martin have handled the bulk of the scoring for the Timberwolves this season, Ricky Rubio has shown his effectiveness, especially with Love on the floor.

Ricky RubioRubioThis season, in 574 minutes with both Rubio and Love on the floor, Minnesota is outscoring its opponents by 12 points per 48 minutes. The team as a whole is outscoring its opponents by four points per 48 minutes on the season.

The combination is especially effective on the offensive end, as the team averages 110.2 points per 100 possessions when the two are on the floor together, the most of any two-man combo on the team among those who have played at least 200 minutes together. To put it in context, the Rockets lead the NBA as a team with 109.5 points per 100 possessions this season.