Four on the floor of international movement

Updated: November 30, 2004, 4:02 PM ET
By Chad Ford | ESPN Insider
Three months after being beat up in Athens and two years after getting demolished in Indianapolis, GMs still are asking a fundamental question about how teams are built in the NBA.

If a combination of Argentinean, Lithuanian or Serbian all-stars can beat the hell out of a team consisting of American stars, why haven't any of those countries produced a true NBA superstar?

Sure, Vlade Divac has been an All-Star. Peja Stojakovic might have been the most serious international MVP candidate ever last year.

And teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz are thriving with rosters filled with international players.

But, in large part, international players are still looking for respect in the arena it matters the most to them – the NBA.

Phoenix Suns head coach Mike D'Antoni, who spent years coaching in Italy between stints in the NBA, says the internationals deserve that respect.

"They've come a long way," D'Antoni told Insider. "There was a time when they were just role players – sharpshooters or finesse players. Now you're seeing difference makers. That's the true test."

When D'Antoni's Suns take the floor in Utah and the Dallas Mavericks visit the Spurs in San Antonio on Tuesday night, fans can get their best view ever of what he's talking about.

Those four teams, some of the most successful in the NBA, have a combined 22 players on their roster who were born outside the United States. Of those players, 15 came directly to the NBA from an international team. Eight of the 22 are starters.

While there might be an international backlash brewing in the draft these days, these four teams are proving that not only do international players belong in the NBA – they can thrive there.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer