Warriors, rival Spurs highlight NBA's international flair

Tue Jan 26, 2016 7:30pm EST
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By Julia Love and Rory Carroll

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) - International talent has turned from novelty to necessity in the National Basketball Association and that shift was on display in Monday's clash between two of the league's best teams.

When the defending champion and league-leading Golden State Warriors hosted the San Antonio Spurs, the game featured players from seven countries.

The Warriors, aided by centers Andrew Bogut of Australia and Festus Ezeli of Nigeria, cruised to a lopsided 120-90 win over a Spurs squad that includes French point guard Tony Parker and Argentine veteran guard Manu Ginobili.

The contest highlighted the outsize impact international players now have on the NBA, which for the second consecutive season boasts 100 or more players from overseas.

For scouts savvy enough to spot them, international players can offer great skill and less hype than top U.S. prospects and give teams a key edge as they try to amass as much talent as possible while adhering to salary restrictions.

"If you can get a player who is undervalued, you are getting performance in excess of contract, and that's kind of the name of the game," said Robert Boland, director of the graduate sports management program at Ohio University.

"I don't need to be a great player - I need to be a cost-effective good player."

NBA teams have long pulled from overseas, but international recruits were few and far between, and teams struggled to incorporate them into their lineups.   Continued...

January 25, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli (31) shoots the basketball against San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports