Should LA Lakers Follow San Antonio Spurs’ International Road Map?

It is a tale of two roads taken: the Los Angeles Lakers are heading into a summer rebuild after a disastrous season, while the San Antonio Spurs just won a fifth NBA championship, avenging last year's bitter loss to the Miami Heat.

One team was once fueled by star-power and is now trying to find its way again. The other continually replenishes its roster through pragmatic team-building and the best international scouting program in the NBA.

The former is the LA Lakers. The latter is the San Antonio Spurs. Should the former be taking notes from the latter? 


Spurs' Taste for International Talent

For Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, a belief in the value of overseas players was rooted in early personal experience.

Born to a Serbian father and Croatian mother, Popovich attended the Air Force Academy, playing basketball and majoring in Soviet Studies. Later, while on active duty, he played throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces basketball team.

Writing for ESPN The Magazine, Seth Wickersham notes that Pop’s military experience, along with a return trip to Europe as an assistant coach with the Spurs, solidified his belief that an untapped wealth existed in international basketball:

Pop knew the stigmas against foreign players: They wouldn't play defense, they wouldn't socialize, they wouldn't learn English, they weren't strong dribblers, they couldn't handle a reduced role, they were soft. ‘I thought that was really ignorant,’ Pop says now. ‘I couldn't believe that it was a pool that wasn't being used.

But to spend time inside the Spurs organization today is to uncover another interpretation of the Spurs dynasty: that as America's youth basketball pipeline has produced a type of player that Pop has no interest in coaching, he has found an advantage not only in targeting international player...

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