Could G League’s expansion into Mexico be a harbinger for NBA?

We wrote last week about how the late David Stern’s vision was the expand the NBA beyond the borders of the United States, and we saw that in several forms, including international television rights, the Dream Team, an influx of new international talent and teams in Canada.

We noted then how current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was continuing on that vision. The NBA is now more of a global game now more than ever, and that expansion could continue to grow.

During the NBA Mexico City Games 2019 last month, aside from a pair of games featuring the Detroit Pistons, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs, Silver made an announcement regarding the G League. One of the local teams, Capitanes de Ciudad de Mexico, who are currently part of the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional, would be joining the G League next season.

“Bringing an NBA G League team to Mexico City is a historic milestone for the NBA which demonstrates our commitment to basketball fans in Mexico and across Latin America,” Silver said in a release. “As the first G League franchise based outside of the U.S. and Canada, we look forward to welcoming Capitanes to the NBA family.”

The move into Mexico City seems like a no-brainer in the NBA’s quest to expand, as Mexico City is one of the most populous cities in the world and it is a large market.

A Player’s Perspective

To get a better understanding for what this means for the Capitanes players and even G League fans in general, I spoke to Capitanes guard Orlando Mendez, who you may also know as Orlando Mendez-Valdez, who played prep basketball in San Antonio before leading Western Kentucky to several NCAA Tournament appearances.

Mendez-Valdez has also been a member of Mexico’s National Team and has played internationally since graduating from WKU. For him, the opportunity to play in the G League means more opportunities for his family in San Antonio to watch him in person instead of via online streams of his games.

“That’s gonna be amazing. Basketball’s coming full circle,” Mendez-Valdez said. “As I’m getting closer to the end of my chapter of basketball – more than anything playing three teams in the state of Texas is important.”

The Capitanes will be the only G League team without an NBA affiliation. He says as of now they will be playing in both leagues, and while that could change, that seems to be the plan for the team as of now.

Aside from making stops and seeing family closer to home, Mendez-Valdez said it’s motivating knowing it’s part of the NBA and that more eyes will be on the talent there. Mexico has had a very competitive national team, and the increased exposure will help more than just players.

“All in all, it’s a good opportunity for everyone…players, administration, ownership, more opportunity to be seen and having something to look forward to motivating you,” he said.

Mendez-Valdez credits part of the reason the NBA may have finally gotten this to work is because of the Capitanes owners, Patricio Garza and Gilberto Hernández and had nothing but positives to say about the organization. He is currently in the first year of a three-year contract with the club.

“The NBA found some responsible and good business owners, that’s why they got it to work,” he said. “They’re professional and straightforward and want to see it flourish.”

What it means for the future

As we know well by now with several rules and even uniforms changes going through there first, the NBA uses the G League as a research and development arm, so this five-year deal with Capitanes could be to test the waters to see if Mexico City can support an NBA team.

Mendez-Valdez says the city is ready.

“As far as the fanbase, I think it will work in 5 years. It’s been awesome, it’s been incredible here,” Mendez-Valdez said, also referring to the home crowds for Capitanes games. “It was a full arena (for NBA Mexico City Games). Everyone has merchandise and gear. It’s awesome to see that as a player.

The Capitanes just wrapped up their regular season and are in the playoffs. The team has been in the LNBP Finals for the last two years and have a talented roster looking to get back there another year.

There are still several details to work out, especially in terms of contracts, especially with currency conversion, but the NBA has time to work all the kinks out.

After his Mavericks won last month and Luka Doncic finished with 41 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists to MVP chants from the Mexico City crowd, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was happy that the crowd got to see that.

“I’m happy the fans of Mexico City [got] to see a performance like this,” Carlisle told the Dallas Morning News.

If this G League partnership works out, Mexico City could get to see a lot more than the annual Mexico City games at their home arena.

  
Michael is Chief Editor at Lineups.com. He has decades of combined experience in traditional print journalism and online media and is the publisher of the Project Spurs Network, which includes 13 team-specific sports media sites and the flagship ProjectSpurs.com. He is also the creator of the first Spurs podcast and the longest-running sports podcast on the internet, the Spurscast, and was formerly the host of the News 4 San Antonio Sports Roundtable.

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