clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ante Tomic to return to FC Barcelona, spurns Utah Jazz once again

New, comments

Breaking News!

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

According to Jose Ignacio Huguet of Mundodeportivo, Ante Tomic, the long lost Utah Jazz bigman, has decided to re-sign with FC Barcelona for another three years. He had recently been represented by the Wasserman group in order to help him get to the NBA, but in a turn of events returned to his former agent Danko Drakulic, and is now on the verge of signing a contract that will pay him between € 2.5 to € 3.0 million Euros a year. David Pick adds:

UPDATE From Katarina Stimac:

This is tragic news for me because from YESTERDAY I had been writing a huge Tomic piece. I'm just going to post it here -- this was going to go up last night, but whatever. This is what I get for trying to right longform articles . . . .

[ The following was written last night, but not posted ]

There have been rumblings over the last two years of Ante Tomic sightings, he is the proverbial Loch Ness Monster (or Sasquatch if you prefer) for Utah Jazz fans. Each time Tomic's in a contract year his name gets a bit louder -- loud enough to be heard over here in America. Is this just a marketing or negotiating ploy by his agent? Or is it for real? We may never know, but one thing I do know is that Ante Tomic would be taking a big risk if he decides to never, ever join the NBA. He was drafted by the Utah Jazz #44 back in 2008, seven years ago. This quasi-fictional player is a mystery to some, so let's go over who he is, where he is, and what he could add to the Jazz.

.

Ante Tomic from then to now

Ante Tomic has had quite a career in Europe. Starting off his professional career as a teenager, like so many others, he played in the Adriatic League for hometown Dubrovnik (Aka. King's Landing), and Zagreb. While a player there he won a Croatian Cup (2008) in the same year the Utah Jazz decided to draft him in the second round. The next season (draft and stash season #1) he ended up being the Adriatic League MVP with per game averages of 15.5 point per game, 8.6 rebounds per game, 2.3 assists per game, 0.8 steals per game, and 1.0 blocks per game. The next year he moved up to the big leagues -- the Spanish ACB.

In Spain he has played for Real Madrid and Barcelona over the last six seasons. He's gone from Rudy Gobert's age (22) to being now older than Joe Ingles (27). In Spain his game further developed and he has been recognized on the individual level as one of the best bigmen in Europe.

For his play in Spain he has been added to the All-ACB 1st team twice (2011, 2013), and has been the Player of the Month before. While he wasn't an MVP candidate like he was in the Adriatic league he was still voted as what we would regard as an "All-NBA" team member. Furthermore, he has been involved in a lot of winning in Spain, being a Spanish League Champion once, and Spanish Cup champion twice. (Winning the League is like winning the NBA Finals, winning the Cup is a mid-season tournament for the top teams at the half-way point.)

Being good in Spain is one thing, but it's about being good in the EuroLeague that matters. And when the games do matter he seems to always perform. He has been player of the week six times, player of the month three times, and made the All-Euroleague 1st Team twice (2013, 2014, with this season still going on). That said, he has never won a EuroLeague championship.

It's easy to see that Tomic has been a part of a lot of winning (dominating in the Adriatic league, winning Gold for Croatia in the Mediterranean Games in 2009; winning a lot of hardware in Spain; etc) but we don't know if he has won enough to feel like he wants to move on from European basketball. Since playing for (effectively) the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics of Spain (Real Madrid and Barcelona) he hasn't really won the big one.

Season Age Team ACB Finish Spanish Cup EuroLeague Finish
1 2009 2010 23 Real 3 2 Elite Eight
2 2010 2011 24 Real 3 2 Final Four
3 2011 2012 25 Real 2 1 Sweet Sixteen *
4 2012 2013 26 Barca 2 1 Final Four
5 2013 2014 27 Barca 1 2 Final Four (Bronze)
6 2014 2015 28 Barca TBD 2 Elite Eight

N.B. * In 2011-12 Real won enough games to advance to the Eight team playoff round of Euroleague, but they didn't do well enough in +/-.

This past season his guys were eliminated 3-1 (Best of 5 series) by Olympiacos Piraeus. That kinda sucks and is a let down for sure because in the Top 16 round his squad finished 11-3 and tied with the top seed Real Madrid (and former team) in win/loss record for their "conference". Their loss in the Elite Eight stage wasn't Ante's fault, he did his job by averaging 12.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.8 apg, 0.5 spg, and 0.5 bpg in 24.4 mpg during the series. (Per 36 minutes that's 17.7 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 4.1 apg, 0.7 spg, and 0.7 bpg, by the way.) And for the entire EuroLeague season he is #2 in Total Player Index rating, and #5 in Index Rating per game. That doesn't change the fact that Barca was a higher seed that didn't make it as far as they should have.

You may feel, if you were him, that there is some unfinished business left in Spain. Coming over from the minor leagues to be one of the best bigmen in Europe's top league; and not being able to win a EuroLeague title for either of his storied Franchises (Barca -- won in 2003, 2010, made the Finals five other times; Madrid won it in 1964, 1965, 1967, 1973, 1978, 1980, and 1995) isn't so hot, especially after all the money they have paid you over the years that kept you out of the NBA. Still, Tomic is a very successful fish in a very successful pond, but no one is going to confuse him of having the Global presence of Vlade Divac, or the basketball career of Shaquille O'Neal. And he'll never get close if he never plays in the NBA, that's for sure.

.

Financials -- For Utah

He has won almost everything he could have, from individual awards to team awards; but there's no EuroLeague championship on his resume. Is that enough of a pull factor to keep him in Europe? He did ask for an extension on his contract (he is eligible for one) that is valued at € 2,000,000. That's not the end of the world, because according to sources (Encestando.es; Sportando.com), it doesn't look like Barca is going to want to pay that.

     Free Agency 2015 Ante Tomic Euro Conversion

Today that's only about $2.18 million. (It would have been much more of a big deal back in the 2011 era when buyout talk looked like an absurdity.) With what we know about the Utah Jazz cap situation they currently have $20.070 million to spend this summer. Millions will go to draft picks (currently there are three new dudes coming in from the draft alone), and clearly you're going to throw some money at the guard problem in Utah. (Joe Ingles, Elijah Millsap, Chris Johnson, and Bryce Cotton may all be coming back, or none of them.) Even if most everyone is brought back at reasonable rates there's still enough money to pay for Tomic -- and the cap goes bananas over the next few seasons. Money theory isn't a worry. (The LHM Group of companies will have enough cap space to be able to pay everyone . . . that's different from actually knowing if the LHM Group of companies HAS enough money to pay $140 million in player salary like some teams like the Lakers or Knicks will be able to.)

Of course, just because he wants € 2.0 million EUR to stay with his team (hometown discount or raise regardless? I don't know.) doesn't mean he wants only $2.2 million USD if he moves his life and his game over to the NBA. I don't really know how much he could get paid on the NBA open market. ($6 million?) But because Ante did wait 3+ years from the draft he counts more like an NBA Free Agent than a rookie, and doesn't get paid based upon the rookie scale contract for his draft position. That's a huge sigh of relief for Tomic, who was drafted #44 back in 2008. Last season Markel Brown was drafted #44. Brown made $507,336 in 2014-15 and has an non-guaranteed contract for 2015-16 that tops off at $845,059. Of course, Forbes reminds us that the rookie scale is a model, an agent and team can agree on 80% of the scale all the way up to 120% of the scale. But that's still ridiculous for a guy like Tomic to be forced to throw all that money down the drain.

Going from $2.2 million USD down to $0.5 million USD is a huge deal. And that doesn't include the off-the-balance-sheet factors, like how in Europe/Asia many players get paid in other ways beyond their salary. (Talking to players who did play in Europe personally I've heard about everything from drivers, to groceries, to luxury apartments with utilities and maids included.)

But we don't have to worry about that because a) we can't pay someone in a shady way (you don't see any "Carlos Boozer Regardless" Toyota dealerships in Sandy, right?), and b) the rookie scale doesn't matter anymore because Ante has been drafted and stashed for seven years. Because the Jazz are under the cap they can't use any mid-level exceptions to sign him (which is what the Chicago Bulls did with Nikola Mirotic this past season). But, again, the Jazz have lots of cap space. So there's no need to worry on that side of the equation.

.

Financials -- For Barcelona

If you want to worry about something you do worry about what FC Barcelona does. And yes, while Utah is ready to pony up and pay an indemnity clause to secure his rights (according to Joan Solsona, for Marca.com), no one knows what Barca is going to do this summer. This chaos could be good or bad for the Jazz.

Point A, Javier Maestro of Encestando lays it down here that Barca may be forced to blow things up -- their head coach (Xavier Pascual) piloted his club to one of their worst finishes: no EuroLeague Final Four, no Spanish Cup (Copa del Rey), and so forth. As I mentioned earlier they were a higher seed that just didn't get it done this year. It's a crappy year for them, and their summer is going to be even worse as so many of their players are finishing up contract years. A number of guys already feel like they're not returning, while others are going to have to wait till later in the summer to figure things out. Edwin Jackson, Bostjan Nachbar, Marcelinho Huertas (Wojbomb yesterday about him planning to move to the NBA), and Maciej Lampe could all bounce, and it is likely that they will if you read Javier's piece.

He adds that Mario Hezonja (whom we know is entering the NBA Draft) could be a gonner too, the Croatian player didn't get along well with Coach Pascual. We are led to believe that his countryman Ante Tomic didn't either, or at least was sympathetic to how Hezonja was Corb'd this past year. But it doesn't end there! American player Deshaun Thomas could be gone too, and Tibor Pleiss (but that's unlikely). So all in all that's seven players BEYOND Tomic that Barca needs to figure out. Who returns? Who doesn't want to return? Does the team fire their coach? Compounding all of this is Tomic's desired contract value that averages € 2.0 million a season. Maestro writes (and paraphrased by me and my Spanish translation ability):

Tomic is a personal weakness for Pascual. As a free agent his numbers are very good, but his desired contract price is very high. As reported to Encestando, he is asking for Barcelona to sit down at the table and negotiate a 2 million Euro contract, one that Barcelona doesn't want to start talks at.

- Javier Maestro, Encestando.es -- translated and paraphrased by AllThatAmar

When it rains it pours, it seems; Maestro also hints that what the Jazz do and say could also muddy the situation if they give Ante a "dizzying offer". But all of that could be for naught, because . . .

Point B, Barca may just have to blow things up ANYWAY because there are changes within Spain that make life hard for owners and general mangers alike. Enea Trapani, who writes for Sportando, suggests that the new state tax could make Tomic's € 2.0 million EUR contract desire balloon up to € 4.6 million EUR in total costs to the team. That's ridiculous. I don't doubt Trapani's appraisal of what the new Catalonian tax will do, but that's some serious tax if the team would have to pay upwards of 115% of Tomic's contract value in tax.

If you add up these two points it could create a situation where Barca is willing to move forward from the 7'2 bigman -- and if Tomic doesn't sign with another European team (he did this before when he moved from Real Madrid to Barca three seasons ago) the Jazz could have a good chance at having him. Of course, because there are SO MANY free agents for Barca they could end up dropping other guys and having the money to sign Tomic. Spanish reporters do not anticipate this being resolved anytime before June, and the end of the ACB season. Which is fine because . . .

.

Setting the Timeline

The Jazz scouts had their eyes on Tomic back when he had peach fuzz on his face. He was on their radar, remember, back BEFORE he was even the MVP of the Adriatic league. That was back when the team already had Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur as starters, and Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Millsap, Jarron Collins, and Kyrylo Fesenko on the bench. They went out and drafted Tomic in the same draft as they got Kosta Koufos in. There was no space for Tomic on those teams. And there weren't any back during the Logjam (PBUH) years where Tyrone Corbin went to war with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter in the paint.

There may be space now, though. The conditionals here are what the team will do a) during the NBA Draft, and b) during the early part of free agency.

Right now the Jazz have three bigman fully on the books for next season: Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, and Grant Jerrett. The next opportunity to change their roster will happen at the NBA Draft. If you pay attention to the NBA Draft (and I do) there are a lot of bigmen who are supposed to go in the first round. The Jazz currently hold onto the #12 draft pick. That guy could very well be another big. That would expand the Jazz paint presence to four bigmen. Of course, we can't know if the team is going to go with a big in the lotto, or if they pick two in the second round, or if one of them is another draft and stash . . . or if they trade all three of them to move up. Dennis Lindsey makes the draft an unfun situation to be in if you are REPORTING on the events there. But at this stage I am just going to pencil in four bigs on the roster by Free Agency. (Favors, Gobert, Jerrett, and a rookie; or Favors, Gobert, and two new guys if Jerrett is used in a deal for either vets, prospects, or drafted players in other spots.)

NBA Free Agency starts in July, which is AFTER Barca will figure some of their internal strife out a bit (we hope). For this exercise let's assume that Tomic is available to the Jazz if they want him.

Free Agency means the Jazz need to decide on Trevor Booker (partially guaranteed deal for next season), and Jack Cooley (non-guaranteed contract). Also, Jeremy Evans will join the ranks of Unrestricted Free Agency -- and be added to a pool of players Utah could dip into: Elton Brand, Paul Millsap, Brandon Bass, Brook Lopez (player's option), Al Jefferson (player's option), LeBron James (player's option), Kevin Love (player's option), Kendrick Perkins, Tyson Chandler, Joel Anthony, Greg Monroe, Roy Hibbert (player's option), Luis Scola, David West (player's option), DeAndre Jordan, Carlos Boozer, Marc Gasol, Kevin Garnett, Omer Asik, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez, Reggie Evans, Tim Duncan, Matt Bonner, Amir Johnson, Drew Gooden. Oh, and Ante Tomic too.

If you remove all the obvious guys who won't sign with the Jazz (Lebron, Millsap, etc) you are left with a much more manageable pool. How many of those guys are willing to be "at best" the third big? Not a lot of them. In a way, the type of money the Jazz may be willing to part with to solidify the bench bigs rotation may be best spent on Tomic.

Though, we're not going to get to that step without first a) seeing what the team does during the NBA Draft, and b) seeing what Barca does with Tomic at the end of June as he enters European Free Agency. (Though, reading the comments section on Spanish ACB Websites leads me to believe that not a lot of them are crazy about paying him so much.)

.

How does Tomic fit in with the Jazz?

Right now the Jazz start two defensive talents who are long and can protect the rim, and both have the potential to be All-Around studs on both ends of the floor. Rudy Gobert is a game changer on defense, and his offensive ability (putting the ball on the floor, getting offensive rebounds, passing ability and court vision) make him a tough guard. Derrick Favors could be a 20-10 guy if the team picks up the pace a bit. Both of them have made comments to suggest that they are going to work on their face up game and shooting range this off-season; however, no one can claim them to be stretch bigs at this stage.

The closest thing the team finished with this season in stretch ability was 6'8 Trevor Booker. Booker, whom we love, was a 1st rounder years ago but appears to be a spot starter / energy guy. He's not big enough to be a legit defender against the best players but his energy level and hustle make up some of the difference. (And yes, Grant Jerrett is supposed to be a stretch big in that Brian Cook mold, but went 1/15 from downtown in his rookie year. He has gone 86/229 from outside in the NBADL, though, which is 37.6% over his two years there.) It is clear that the Jazz would be more efficient if they specialized a little more with the 4th and 5th bigmen spots on the roster.

They need an actual stretch big. And they need another big rim protector.

Ante Tomic is not, overly, either of those things. However, he is 7'2 and few guys that tall are useless on defense; furthermore, while he can't shoot the three, his ability to be an effective passer in a ball sharing offense could maintain floor space in a diagonal way.

Something like this.

But in actuality, Tomic does not satisfy the two most overt needs of this team. He's not a stretch big (0/3 in his last four seasons), and he's not a rim protector (179 blocks in his last four seasons, 274 games, or 0.65 bpg). He is very big though, and changes shots -- and perhaps he would have nicer blocks numbers if guys played more minutes? (Over the last four seasons he averages 1.09 blocks per 36 minutes, if that helps.) I'd give him a zero out of five on the Mehmet Okur scale of floor spacing as a stretch big, and about 3.5 to 4 out of five on the Mark Eaton scale of rim protection. So at about 4/10 he's not a perfect fit. But he does enough of one of those two things to at least be called an upgrade.

After all, he's about as much of a stretch big as Jack Cooley is, and unlike the 6'9 Cooley, he wouldn't be playing out of position at back-up center. I love Cooley's block, but I think opponents overall would have more trouble going up against Tomic in the paint.

Right?

Where Tomic does fit in is on offense, where the Utah Jazz were 26th in the league last season (in PPG), and 17th in the league (in Off RTG). The Jazz have willing bigmen in Derrick, Rudy, and Trevor. But as a team still only managed 19.9 assists per game (29th in the league). Tomic is somewhere between Andrei Kirilenko and Lamar Odom in his passing ability. He's not quite Arvydas Sabonis, but he is inventive and willing. So much so that bench bigmen will not be ready to handle his jelly. Or whatever frozen animal collagen based treat they have in Croatia. He's used to playing inside the paint near the rim, and also outside of it setting screens or looking for cutters. This is a hand-in-glove fit for Quin Snyder's offense even if he can't bomb from 23 feet.

Furthermore, Tomic already does something that our offense seems to rely on -- he is great at getting offensive rebounds, tipping the ball back to a teammate if he can't control it, or just tipping the ball in or getting put back dunks. With so many "missing guards" on the team a higher percentage of our total points the last four seasons have been on offensive rebound possessions. He understands shots, and thus, understands misses. This allows him to use his length to get his hand on a lot of balls even if he doesn't have the strength to box people out. That is more of a problem on defense, but on offense he is sneaky good at following the play and giving his team extra chances to score. With a team like the Jazz that play at such a slow pace this is important. If one of Rudy or Derrick gets in foul trouble having Ante around to continue the Jazz' rebounding dominance is a nice safety net if our guards don't all magically improve their shot making ability over the summer.

One thing Tomic does that no one else on the team does is that he's someone who is very comfortable with his back to the basket. He grew up as a bigman, he didn't grow up as a guard like some other players today. And as a pro since he was a teen he has received a lot of coaching and is fundamentally sound. He has fantastic post discipline, and doesn't try to rush things there. We've seen Rudy Gobert be a fantastic post passer, and Derrick Favors be someone who can get going inside. But Tomic is a bigman who actually has base-level bigman moves beyond a turnaround jumper, or a drop step. For one, he actually has a jump hook -- something American bigmen learned in their first year of NCAA play. Tomic's arsenal on offense is one that puts him into a rare group of NBA players. Very few bigmen today are his size, fewer have his moves, and only about three have his passing skills. Sure, he's not as finesse-y as Big Al Jefferson. But at 7'2 he doesn't have to be. He will help advance the offensive games of Derrick and Rudy in practice, though.

If he is able to maintain the plane of verticality on defense, and not collect fouls, he can be an agent of change on that end of the court. (Trevor Booker and Rodney Hood are great at sniffing out rebound if someone on the court is there to force the team into bad shots.) Offensively he is a huge upgrade over every big on our current roster. And his combination of size, skill, and experience make him an unfair player to use off the bench.

Coming from a series of winning programs where long runs in the playoffs were expected will help this club that has almost no playoff or big game experience (outside of NCAA tournaments).

.

How does Tomic not fit in with the Jazz?

The obvious one here is that, well, he's going from being an All-EuroLeague 1st team Center to being a bench guy behind a 22 and 23 year old. That is a transition to say the least, even if he's being paid $4-7 million off the bench. And he's going to a team that isn't in the playoffs form being on teams that were expected to go to the Final Four in a tournament with teams from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Also, and this is probably the biggest one -- he's going from a series of leagues where the best athletes were the American players who couldn't make it in the NBA or NBADL to playing guys who obviously did make it. Now he'll be in a league where the guards are faster than him, can jump higher than him, and are also stronger than him.

A change of scenery is nice, and it can be invigorating for your career. Will that be the case for Tomic? We've seen many Euro stars come to the NBA, and leave without any regrets (Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernandez, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Nenad Krstic, and so forth). Tomic could be a guy who doesn't find the NBA to be in his long term future. We're not going to know this, and neither will the Jazz, until he comes to the NBA and finds out for himself if he is a fit or not. The Croatian population has gone down in the USA significantly -- from 544.3k in 1990 to 420.8k in 2007, and now 414.7k people in 2012. In Utah there are only about 2.3k people who claim full or partial Croatian ancestry. It's not what Toni Kukoc had in Chicago and Milwaukee, where there were several thousands.

Of course, European players have loved living in Utah, so maybe that would be a moot point. Tomic left his homeland, culture, and language years ago when he was 21 to live in Spain. Now he's a man, and seasoned professional. And probably going to be paid like a man. Millions of people live in another country for work. Tomic would just be another one of them, and I would hope the lifestyle change wouldn't be crushing. (Though, I will say that the weather he is used to -- in Croatia and Spain -- is a lot different than what he'll see in Utah.) I don't know if he is married or has any kids, that usually is an issue for the Jazz culture than for the players though.

The Jazz want to build something here, and bringing in a rent-a-vet for a major rotation role only to lose him in two or fewer seasons is something I am strongly against. It would be racist for me to be against the Josh Howard / Randy Foye types, and be welcoming of Ante Tomic. (A rookie vet.) And by the time Free Agency starts on July 1st, 2015, Tomic will be 28.39 years old. That is older than what Elijah Millsap (27.91), Joe Ingles (27.77) or Trevor Booker (27.62) will be. But significantly older than our "core" group of guys + rookie contract guys: Gordon Hayward (25.29), Derrick Favors (23.98), Alec Burks (23.97), Rudy Gobert (23.03), Rodney Hood (22.71), Trey Burke (22.65 -- and yes, Trey is younger than Rodney), and Dante Exum (19.98). And I mean significantly. Their average age on July 1st will be 23.09 years old, with a standard deviation of +/- 1.65 years. Guys like Joe, Eli, and Trev will be between 2 and 3 standard deviations above the younger group. But Ante is BEYOND 3 standard deviations in age.

Who's his buddy going to be? Are the Jazz going to bring in one Croatian Joe Ingles to keep him company? Are they going to move up in the draft to take Hezonja? Will it just be Joe Ingles, who previously played for FC Barcelona back in 2010-2013? (Tomic's first year there was Ingles' last) One of the reasons why Andrei and Memo got along so well was that they had each other to rely on. If you didn't have someone at work to make work fun work becomes a job. And jobs suck. Not having fun in the NBA (harder level of competition, coaches who don't understand your talents, teammates who you don't bond with, culture shock of living on America, etc) leads many Euro stars to bolt.

Utah has a good track record on avoiding this, and I wouldn't want a guy like Tomic to break our streak.

So far all of these issues are structural or off-the-court. If he helps the team win games on it that is a help. He's a size upgrade over Jack Cooley, and his skill range in this bigman free agent market would make him cost more if he was a better known product. But there are flaws to his game too. He's not terribly quick. And at 28, he's pretty much at that point where every year going forward he's going to lose something physically. I'm not familiar with his injury history, but he has played a lot of basketball over his career. That catches up to everyone at some point, even Karl Malone. His age right now and his peak ability may place him completely out of the Jazz' actual window of greatness.

He's more of a "win now" type of player than a "grow with the rest of the team" type. Being aged outside of the core group, and not being someone who has played 3+ years in the NBA before, his transition could be harder -- especially if he cannot connect with his team. There is no evidence to suggest that he will not, though. This is just a 'what if' situation. Quin Snyder has coached EuroLeague basketball before, he will be on a team that has had European players before, and playing with a former teammate from his days in Spain (and Spain isn't his home country either). Utah's a lot colder than Croatia or Spain, but they have central heating in America. As far as I know that was never one of Gordan Giricek 's concerns with the Jazz.

Giricek didn't enjoy his role changing every three games. I think Quin is more of a planner than Jerry Sloan, and if Tomic is brought over his role with the team is made explicitly clear even before he packs his bags. He would be a much needed 3rd big who is actually big, and can be expected to slide into DF or RG's spot if any of them are in foul trouble -- and more people will be going AT Rudy this season as scouting reports and player bounties increase.

.

Concerns for Ante Tomic:

Does Tomic want to give up the hunt for a EuroLeague Championship (he's much closer to that than an NBA Championship, beeteedubs) to play on a lotto team behind two guys he'll never have a chance to earn a starting spot over? He may make a little more over the table, but his prestige will be much, much lower: from being an All-Euro player to being a guy who will struggle to get enough minutes to make the All-Rookie 2nd team.

All of this has to go up against the allure of the NBA. I think he recognizes that the Jazz aren't hurting for bigs, and aren't going to rush to buy him out if he signs another contract with another European club. They may eventually trade his rights -- even to a higher profile team in warm weather, but that doesn't mean they'll buy him out either. (As an aside, it would be fun to see him on the Miami Heat an older team in a great location that is trying to win a championship before their window closes. Him with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Goran Dragic . . . yikes.) I think he also recognizes that this may be his last shot at going to the NBA and being still kinda okay there. He's not as young now as Luis Scola was when he joined the league after being a long-time holdout. He can always go back to Europe to play after his NBA days are over. So this is a chance he has to take now . . . or never.

The initial hubbub right now is that his current team, Barca, will balk at his contract request. He wants to stay there (obviously, close to a championship, and you are familiar with that situation), but we do not know if his desire to stay there is more than his desire to play in the NBA? Whatever he does will be scrutinized for sure.

If he's about winning and hardware it's a no-brainer for him to stay in Spain, or join some other team there that's close, like CSKA Moscow (which has NBA guys on there that may tell him what he is missing out on). If he's about the intrinsic fight to be his best and test himself against the best of the world -- it has to be the NBA. If it's about money, then he should sign with the Dubai Billionaires basketball team (I don't know if they have a league or whatever . . . but I bet they'd pay a lot for Tomic's skills).

Ante has a big decision to make, and he does have some valid concerns.

.

It's all up to Ante Tomic

I've personally lived all over the world during many different parts of my life. It's not fun to move. It's not a decision you make lightly. As sports fans, though, we want the best players on our team because we want the best team possible. Adding Tomic to the Jazz is a talent win. It's a basketball move. It's an upgrade even if he's not a stretch big or another 7' defender. It gives the Jazz an even fearsome frontcourt of Favors, Gobert, Tomic, and Booker -- with space for a solid draft pick or an improved Jerrett. Financially the Jazz have the money to spend, or even overspend, to bring him over. His club in Spain could be blowing things up and want to move away from Ante implicitly. A lot of clubs get close and never win a championship. That could just be his fate in Europe, but America is the land of opportunity. The Jazz are on the rise. And he can be a solid rotation guy for a team that becomes more and more popular all over the world. It could be win-win.

I would love for this to happen. But what will or won't happen depends entirely upon Ante Tomic. Not Dennis Lindsey. Not his agent. Not what Barcelona does this June. It's pretty much his call. I hope he makes the right one for his career. And I really hope that means joining the Jazz this July.