A couple of weeks back this video had the internet salivating at what Juan Carlos Navarro could do, it had the opposite effect on Emmet Ryan. What Navarro did was depressing to BiE’s editor.
Look at it, 21 straight three balls. Even in warm-ups that’s impressive. Now look at Navarro’s stat line from the game he played straight after. 17 minutes, 1 of 4 from the field, 1 of 2 from 3, 5 points, 1 steal, and a PIR of 8. If that was a bench player we wouldn’t be breaking that down too much but he’s not there to high five, he’s the highest scorer in Euroleague history.
The issue with Barcelona’s star is unquestionably physical. When your signature shot is a floater, having chronic foot injuries is a massive problem. The overall line for JCN isn’t terrible. In 7 games he’s made 55 per cent of all shots but only 10 of 34 from deep. In theory three-pointers should be the least of his worries. Navarro doesn’t need to drive for the three. He can step back and fire. The problem of course is that every baller in Europe knows Navarro has issues driving. They’re covering the three more, they are bringing that extra pressure because they know that Navarro is less likely to charge past over-exerting defenders.
There’s no combination of adrenaline and psychosis that can overcome Father Time. If it were that easy MJ would still be playing. Mentally Navarro is still in the game, physically he has run out of room to adjust as a complete player. Xavi Pascual has recognised that in recent weeks, placing less of a defensive burden on him and allowing him to commit purely to his role as a scorer. Some big outings in the middle of the Euroleague regular season and in ACB have pointed to this being better for Navarro and Barcelona. Where they go from here is another matter entirely.
Long-term, what do you do with a player like Navarro? Could he handle the idea of being switched to a sixth man next year? Could anyone in Barcelona even dare to ask that of him. Navarro’s ego isn’t Kobe-sized but like the Mamba, he expects to have the ball in his hands when it matters. That last shot is his property, by right or not.
As an every game starter, JCN is done. He’s relatively young but a foot injury for a player built around being nimble is a killer. Older players have stayed relevant by adjusting their roles and strategically that’s comfortably the best route to go with him. Ask him to be the Ray Allen of this team, the Jason Terry, or even what Saras was last season with Barca. Navarro’s a proud baller but he’s also a smart one. Barcelona won’t remove him from the starting spot until he says it’s time but what if he took the initiative. Next May, when all is said and done, take Xavi for a cortado and talk about a plan to win.
As long as Barcelona’s pockets remain deep, they will be perennially in the playoffs in Euroleague and the top two in Spain. The difference between being one of the best and the team that raises the silverware is slim. Navarro’s a winner. He doesn’t want to lead a team that comes narrowly short of getting over the line. He wants to break the tape every year until he hangs up his kicks for good. If Navarro wants to win, he’s going to have that chat with the boss.