Spanish boss: Europe not ready for NBA
By Cindy Garcia-Bennett Special to PA SportsTicker
MADRID, Spain (Ticker) - The president of the Spanish Basketball Federation believes there are many hurdles left to clear before the NBA can put expansion teams in major European cities.
NBA commissioner David Stern announced on Saturday that the NBA is continuing to explore plans to expand into Europe and said that such a move could happen within a decade.
But Jose Luis Saez, who has presided over a golden era of basketball in his country which culminated in Spain’s gold medal win at the 2006 FIBA World Championship, told PA SportsTicker on Monday that much work needs to be done before the idea can work.
“There has been talk about important cities in Europe like Madrid, Rome, Berlin, but at this time, no city in Europe has the infrastructure for this project as the NBA will be aware of,” Saez said.
If the NBA were to put a team in the Spanish capital, where ACB giants Real Madrid and Estudiantes both play, there are concerns over the impact it would have on the domestic game.
“It would seem to be a very different competition from that of the domestic leagues and the Euroleague,” Saez said. “It would affect the leagues and competitions currently in place as it would be another competition being played probably at the same time.
“But right now, its difficult to say because we are talking about franchises that are more in dreams than a reality.”
However, Saez did say that the door should not be closed on the NBA.
Several of Spain’s leading players are in the league, including Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol, Toronto Raptors pair Jose Calderon and Jorge Garbajosa, and guards Juan Carlos Navarro of the Memphis Grizzlies and Sergio Rodriguez of the Portland Trail Blazers.
“The project is still not very clear,” Saez said, “but having said that, any project that involves the further development of basketball, from sporting and a financial level, would be welcomed.”
An NBA-style arena is to open in Berlin in October and the O2 Arena in London is already deemed good enough.
The mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, is a big supporter of basketball and there are ambitious plans to build a new arena in the Eternal City, as well as in Madrid.