DALLAS — Donnie Nelson said he would love to bring Eduardo Najera and the Texas Legends to Mexico.
Najera on Friday was officially introduced as the D-League team’s new head coach after retiring from the NBA earlier in the week. Najera will also have a stake in ownership, as well as join Nelson, who is the Dallas Mavericks‘ president of basketball operations and Legends co-owner, in the Mavs’ front office.
The hiring of Najera, beloved in his native Mexico, could very well push the Legends to seek to play games in Mexico.
“We would love to work with the NBA and figure out how we can increase our presence in Mexico and greater Latin America,” Nelson said. “I think the uniqueness of the D-League is that we can be a little more flexible and easier to move around than an NBA team. The NBA’s had a long history of taking teams south of the border. I was involved in one in one of Eddie’s first couple years and they’re still talking about that.
“I think that the Latino, Hispanic community initiatives are going to take a new level with Eddie’s new position.”
Could Najera also serve as the catalyst to deliver an NBA team to Mexico? Commissioner David Stern has long flirted with teams in Europe and obviously the Canadian market has fared well with the Toronto Raptors. For most of the teams in the Southwest and Pacific divisions, a trip to Mexico is a hop, skip and a jump, well shorter than traveling to the East Coast or Pacific Northwest.
The NBA has staged more than 20 games in Mexico over the last 20 years. The Mavs, with Najera on the roster in 2003, played a preseason game in Mexico City. Najera and the Denver Nuggets played the Golden State Warriors in Monterrey in 2006.
Najera, the first Mexican-born player to be drafted in the NBA in 2000 and now the first Mexican-born coach in the NBA or D-League, talked of one day bringing an NBA team to Mexico.
“I’m talking about five, 10, 20 years, but it will be something that I would like to support,” Najera said. “That’s the reason this makes perfect sense being part-owner of the Legends, being the head coach, working closely with Donnie with the Mavericks. It’s sort of a great plan, and basically I can get the experience, and so when I go down to my friends, I can say, hey, this is the way you do things, and hopefully they can buy the idea and hopefully they can make it happen.”