The Import of Winning

Playing the Numbers Game

There aren't enough statistics for enough seasons to prove anything, but the fact remains that the top five NBA teams in terms of minutes played by foreign-born players this season fared much better than the five teams with the fewest number of minutes played by foreign-born players.

This is no black-or-white issue. Many of the NBA's foreign-born players are black; and not all foreign-born players were groomed in the Euro style of ball. Also, many players resist easy categorization. The Mavs' Steve Nash, who's white, and the Lakers' Rick Fox, who's black, are both Canadians, but came out of the U.S. college system. Tony Parker's father is African-American, but he's French and a product of Euro ball. Houston's Yao Ming is neither white nor black, nor is he a product of the European leagues.

For purposes of this list, non-U.S.-born players are referred to as "foreigners."


• During the 2002-03 regular season, 56 foreigners saw action and played 10 percent of the minutes, while white Americans got 9 percent of the minutes, and African-Americans 81 percent.


Top five teams in percentage of minutes played by foreigners:

DALLAS: 38 SACRAMENTO: 30 SEATTLE: 22 SAN ANTONIO: 21 DENVER: 19 COMBINED RECORD: 236-174 (.576); Dallas, Sacramento, and San Antonio made the playoffs.


Bottom five teams in percentage of minutes played by foreigners:

NEW YORK KNICKS: 0 ATLANTA: 0 WASHINGTON: 0 CHICAGO: 1 INDIANA: 1 COMBINED RECORD: 187-223 (.456); only Indiana made the playoffs.


• Current speculation, by ESPN's Andy Katz and others, is that Darko Milicic, a seven-foot 17-year-old from Serbia and Montenegro, will be picked second in the NBA's June 26 draft by the Detroit Pistons. It's thought that Milicic, who's actually six months younger than Cleveland's already announced first pick, Akron high school phenom LeBron James, will be picked no lower than third. Here are a dozen other foreign players who wound up picked in the first round of a mock draft conducted by NBAdraft.net:

MACIEJ LAMPE 7-0 (Poland)

MICKAEL PIETRUS 6-6 (France)

LEANDRINHO BARBOSA 6-4 (Brazil)

SOFOKLIS SCHORTSANITIS 6-9 (Greece)

BORIS DIAW 6-8 (France)

PAVEL PODKOLZIN 7-4 (Russia)

ANDERSON VAREJÃO 6-10 (Brazil)

ALEKSANDAR PAVLOVIC 6-7 (Serbia and Montenegro)

ZAUR PACHULIA 6-11 (Georgia)

ZARKO CABARKAPA 6-11 (Serbia and Montenegro)

CARLOS DELFINO 6-7 (Argentina)

VIKTOR KHRYAPA 6-9 (Russia)


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