EUROPEANS IN THE NBA
|Ömer Asik will play for the New Orleans Pelicans next season in the NBA|
Turkish center Ömer Asik and Spanish point guard Jose Calderon will become the first European players to change teams in the NBA when the summer transfer window opens officially next Tuesday.
Asik is to be traded from the Houston Rockets to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for a first-round draft pick in 2015, while Calderon forms part of a multi-player transfer deal between the Dallas Mavericks and the New York Knicks.
Dallas has traded the Spanish guard together with Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and two second-round draft picks for Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler, the USA international who had formed a highly successful frontcourt partnership with Dirk Nowitzki during the Mavericks' title-winning 2011 campaign.
Both Asik and Calderon are expected to play a crucial role for their respective national teams in the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014, which tips off on 29 August in Spain.
However, and despite Thursday's trade announcements, it is quite possible that the Turkish big man will be the only one of the two players to arrive at the World Cup without any doubts in his mind about his next destination in the NBA.
It is unclear at this moment whether Calderon will remain at the Knicks and become the second Spanish player, after fellow point guard Sergio Rodriguez, to pull on the jersey of the storied New York franchise.
While a look at the current Knicks's roster would suggest they intend to hand the starting point guard spot in their line-up to the Spanish veteran, New York are expected to be extremely active in this trade window and they are also trying to retain the services of their superstar Carmelo Anthony, who has become a free agent.
In this context, whether Calderon ends up directing the New York philharmonic this coming year will largely depend on whether his current contract, which runs until the end of the 2016/17 season, can fit within the Knicks's salary cap.
Asik on the other hand must be delighted with the fact he is leaving Houston, where his playing time dropped significantly after the arrival of US international Dwight Howard last summer.
The Turkish star asked to be traded to another team but Houston did not accept any of the offers that arrived before the closure of the transfer window and head coach Kevin McHale tried to work out a combination of the two centers in the Houston frontcourt.
Almost inevitably though, Asik spent 10 less minutes on the court on average compared to the previous season while he contributed 5.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, down from a season double-double of 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds in the 2012/13 campaign.
At the Pelicans on the other hand, Asik's prospects appear to be very promising as he could form a perfectly harmonious partnership with up-and-coming star Anthony Davis.
The young Davis is essentially a power forward but had to play at center during his first two years in the NBA, so joining forces with Asik would enable both the Turkish and the American big man to revert to their natural positions and compliment each other.