Rubio this, Rubio that. Ricky Rubio is the future of NBA point guards. Rubio is the greatest star for Spain. But in reality, this all overlooks the real driving force of Spain in Juan Carlos Navarro.
Navarro, who has played with FC Barcelona since 1997, played a lone season with the Memphis Grizzlies. He was surprisingly effective, able to translate his speed and known floater into being a talented combo-guard. On a wretched Grizzlies team in 2007-2008, he averaged 15.2 points per 36 minutes.
But of course, it wasn’t to be. On top of his best friend Pau Gasol being traded for… ahem… Kwame Brown and cap room to the Lakers, Navaroo missed home. He returned to FC Barcelona the following season and has remained there, tearing it up and winning Euroleague MVP in 2009.
Today he showed off the full range, leading all players at the half, dropping 20 on Team USA and doing it with an array of floaters, three pointers, and shifty layups that show off his ability. He was dynamic, he was explosive, he was exceptionally fun to watch. And the NBA will not be seeing the 30 year old again.
Now there are things you can’t overcome, like Navarro’s love for his home, and his comfort with the European league. But as the Grizzlies go into battle night after night with Mike Conley, it should be noted what the league lost when they created an environment that at least contributed to Navarro’s departure. He could have helped the Grizzlies, he could have helped expand the league, and he wouldn’t be yet another member of the Spanish team that decided the NBA wasn’t for them (say hello, Rudy Fernandez). One has to wonder what Ricky Rubio’s experience will be, and if a similar pattern will form.