This is the first of a multi-part series on the players the writers at 3 Shades of Blue miss the most from past teams.
This is in no way an insult to the current roster of players. It is 3 Shades of Blue’s belief that the 2012-13 Memphis Grizzlies team is the deepest and most talented team in franchise history. However, just being the best team top to bottom doesn’t mean there aren’t former players out there that would appeal more to the fan in us.
For me, that player is Juan Carlos Navarro.
You may remember Navarro from his one season in Memphis. You surely remember him from his performance in the London Olympics men’s basketball final as his 21 points were second on the Spanish team next to another former Grizz player Pau Gasol.
Navarro, or La Bomba as he was affectionately called back then, was the most explosive rookie scorer the Grizzlies had ever seen, mainly because he wasn’t actually a rookie in the purest sense when he arrived in Memphis back in 2007. Navarro‘s career began in 1997 as a 17-year-old on FC Barcelona and made his professional debut on November 23 of that year.
Navarro could explode for the Grizzlies as a bench scorer. Imagine just how good he would be now with experience in that role. I can still remember the Hornets game when Navarro came off the bench to score 28 points including 8 of 9 from the arc. That performance tied the rookie record for three-point shots in the NBA (Jason Kidd 1995 and Chris Duhon 2005).
Now that is the type of shooting this year’s team needs coming off the bench. Navarro finished the season hitting 36% from the arc and 40% from the field. He hit 85% of his free throws too. Sure there have been other players with better individual numbers but how many also had the style of Juan Carlos?
Navarro smiled when he played the game. In some ways he seemed like the little boy in class who just got away with something when he’d drive the lane and flip that high running push shot over a 7 foot center. That is where he got the name La Bomba, not from his long-range shooting. His floater in the lane would hang like a feather in the breeze, tantalizingly out of reach of most centers but tempting them to make inept attempts to block it anyway, before dropping into the basket.
He was a big moment star who shined the brightest when the heat was on high. He rose to the occasion on many nights for a Grizzlies team that wasn’t very good and with his best friend, Pau Gasol, rumored to be demanding a trade. That rumor became reality in at the end of January when he was traded to LA for some expiring contracts and the draft rights to Marc Gasol. Navarro continued to toil for the Grizzlies, but no one was surprised when he accepted an offer for more money than Memphis could offer to return to Spain.
His one year in Memphis wasn’t fun and it was no surprise that he left after the season but wouldn’t it be great if he returned to pair with Marc Gasol on the team? Navarro’s final year of his contract with Barcelona is up at the end of the year.
Maybe he’d like to finish his career in the one arena he hasn’t had a ton of success in yet.