Juan Carlos Navarro’s stint in the NBA was short and unimpressive. He was a bench role player on a miserable squad that watched his best friend on the team, Pau Gasol, be traded to L.A., stranding him there in 2008. He couldn’t find time on the floor or a suitable role. He still showed flashes but was never used the way he should be, the way he is in Spain as a scoring point, which has led to MVP awards in European competition.
Memphis fans have to be thrilled with how things have gone since that horrific season, but there’s got to be part that wonders if things could have been different had he stayed and played under Lionel Hollins. In an interview with Intereconomia, Navarro was asked if he regrets leaving the NBA. The answer is no, but not for independent reasons. (Rough translation via Google Translate.)
No, because there was a series of circumstances that did not make me feel at ease. The team was bad, the language was a barrier and my family, my girls were not comfortable. So when I had the option of returning to my team life, earning headlines again, and to be important, not waste it. If it had fallen on another team that would have been better, Playoffs, everything might have been different. I do not regret having gone, but not to be back.
The family issues are a serious concern. But that’s one that could have been worked out, hundreds of athletes face that issue. Instead, the bigger problem was that Navarro wound up on a losing team that did not invest in making him a part of the club. Now, that would likely not have been different with the Tony Allen-Zach Randolph-Rudy Gay composite of this year’s playoffs team, but with Greivis Vasquez having been successful (Vasquez of course played ball in Maryland), you never know. Instead, “La Bomba” goes down as a trivia item, someone who showed flashes in the NBA then returned to Spain to be an icon. It’s better to be a hero at home than a grunt abroad, I suppose.