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Friday, 20 June 2008

Navarro heading back to Spain -- leaves the Grizzlies

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Is this a sign of things to come for the future of international basketball?

Juan Carlos Navarro has left the Memphis Grizzlies behind and returned to the comforts of home in Spain. After making $538k last year in the NBA, he'll sign for a deal worth more than $20m over 4 years with FC Barcelona.

The standard of Spanish basketball is remarkable and is arguably the top league outside of the NBA. With such a strong Spanish contingent in the NBA over the last few years and the addition of Rudy Fernandez to those ranks this season, it is no wonder that the USA is having bigger problems in international competition.

Team USA is having to take their Beijing Olympic preparations seriously, with players such as Kobe Bryant delaying surgery, to ensure that they are available for the tournament where the USA tries to reassert its dominance over world basketball.

Players such as Navarro question the need to play in the NBA, when they can often command more money in Europe, whilst enjoying a lifestyle that they prefer and being closer to their families. As the standard of leagues outside of the USA continues to improve, it will be no surprise to see this type of situation continuing to occur.

No wonder David Stern is so zealously pursuing the NBA's expansion to Europe, with potential plans to set up permanent teams in the continent, following on from the successful NBA Live Europe tour, which continues this year.

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