It's such an eye-opener when international players speak to media from their home country. It often seems as if they've never considered the possibility that their statements could be translated and read by their NBA team. For Spurs fans, these instances often give us not only a glimpse into a player's true self but also information that the franchise might not be eager to release.
Livio Jean-Charles recently gave an interview to French site BeBasket and while his answers were by no means scandalous, there are some great nuggets there. For starters, Livio states that he doesn't know whether he is a small forward or a power forward and he and his coach will try to develop his game to be able to play both positions, which I consider great news. He also mentions that he wouldn't be too thrilled to play in the D-League, which is not great news. But the biggest takeaway from that interview has to be this paragraph:
An assistant for the Spurs is by your side this season. What exactly is his role? Is he here for your personal development?
David was sent by the Spurs, and he will be present throughout the year. He is here to monitor my season but also to take an active role. But I want to be clear, Peter Vincent is in charge of my evolution at ASVEL.
This is something I've never heard of being done. The Spurs have a guy in France actively participating in the development of Jean-Charles? That's huge. I won't pretend to know everything about other franchise's draft-and-stash practices but I can't imagine that this is standard operating procedure. It's the first confirmed instance I've seen of an NBA team being so closely involved in the growth of a draft pick playing overseas. The fact that the question was asked in the first place -- and that Jean-Charles goes out of his way to point out that he still answers primarily to the team's coach -- points to the Spurs guy being a fixture in Jean-Charles' routine.
Most teams probably wouldn't be comfortable with a coach from a different franchise meddling with their handling of a player that is under contract. It could even be considered disrespectful to the developmental coaches on that team's payroll that the NBA team would send a guy to check in on his evolution through the entire season. But Jean-Charles plays for ASVEL, the team Tony Parker partially owns, and I'm guessing that plays a part in how this all came together. Yet it's not the only instance in which the Spurs have been involved in the career path of a player they don't even have on their roster.
According to Sportando, a site that specializes in international basketball, the Spurs played a part in setting a timetable for 2011 draft pick Davis Bertans to return from injury last season. Sportando quotes Bertans' former coach saying:
"The recovery is going very well. The recovery would take six months but due to some obligations to the Spurs, which owns his NBA rights, he won't return before eight months from the surgery"
To be clear, Bertans was a second rounder that the Spurs have no contractual obligations to, nor he to them. And it's not like Bertans was a bit player for Partizan that they could afford to be extra patient with, in order to cultivate a relationship with the Spurs. The most likely explanation is Bertans pushed for a longer recovery period on the advice of the Spurs', which again points to the heightened level of involvement..
And San Antonio's reported influence on Bertans' career doesn't end there. Sportando reported that the Spurs wanted Bertans to sign with Laboral Kutxa, Tiago Splitter's former team, at least partially because he'd be under Italian coach Marco Crespi. Whether that ended up playing a big part in Bertans' decision remains unclear, but in an interview with a Latvian outlet he mentioned that the Spurs were happy with it due to their strong relationship with the Spanish team.
Finally, both Bertans and Jean-Charles were in Las Vegas for Summer League training with the team. Bertans even mentioned that he had tests done and engaged in physical training in Santa Barbara prior to Summer League and R.C. Buford was there. It's doubtful Jean-Charles was as available back then, since he was under contract. But the Spurs sure are keeping close tabs on him now.
There are two reasons why all this is important. First, it signals that the Spurs are very intrigued by both Bertans and Jean-Charles. This type of individual attention wouldn't be paid to prospects unless the Spurs are confident they'll make the team eventually. It's also a good reminder of the diligence the Spurs show when dealing with these players. It's possible neither guy joins the team. It's possible they come to San Antonio but fizzle out of the league. But they are talented enough to make a successful transition in the near future. And if that happens, a lot of analysts will ask "how do the Spurs keep finding these guys?" The answer is by spending the time and resources necessary to make sure they achieve their potential.
Stashed players update
Bertans will represent his team in a three point shooting contest before the Spanish league kicks off. He will also visit Argentina in a few days to play some friendly matches. I'll let you know how he looks out there, but early reports suggest he's adapting to his new surroundings well.
Jean-Charles' ASVEL will have a chance to qualify for the Euroleague through a mini-tournament that starts at the end of September. The French league hasn't started their season yet, so we still can't tell whether he has improved since the season-ending injury he suffered last year.
It was reported that Thomas was going to join Avellino of the Italian league. Instead, he became Barcelona's latest signing. That is a huge step up for Thomas, who had a great rookie season in France. Barcelona is a traditional powerhouse which makes it deep into the Euroleague season every year. How he handles himself on a team that plays at that level will tell us a lot about his NBA potential.
Selected with the 54th pick of this past draft, Dangubic is a long shot to make the NBA any time soon. But he already made a significant jump, career-wise, by joining Euroleague-bound Crvena Zvezda. He also made the 20 men preliminary squad for the Serbian national team that played the FIBA World Cup finals, although Dangubic was cut before the competition. The 6-foot-8 wing will have to continue to develop before becoming a viable NBA prospect (a consistent outside shot would be nice) but at only 21 years of age, time is on his side.
Adam Hanga and Marcus Denmon
Hanga was sent to Avellino on loan from Laboral Kutxa, he'll have to bounce back after an injury-mired year if he wants a a shot at ever making it to the league, since he's 25-years-old already. Something similar happens with Marcus Denmon, who at 24-years-old hasn't even established himself as a high profile player in Europe. He would have to have a seriously impressive season in the Italian league playing for Enel Brindisi to resurrect his NBA prospects.
European competitions will start soon. We will have more detailed updates when they do.