And-Ones: Euroleague, Aldridge, Huertas

For the first time on North American soil, two Euroleague powerhouses will go head to head when Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv and three-time European champs EA7 Emporio Armani Milan meet this fall. As Maccabi announced recently, the two squads will play at Chicago’s United Center on October 1st before heading to Madison Square Garden on October 4th.

Adding some intrigue to the games, Hoops Rumors has learned that it is very likely that Dragan Bender, whom Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress projects as a top-five pick in the 2016 draft, will be making the trip to the U.S. The Croatian star, who is signed to Adidas, did not take center stage at the Nike-run U19 World Championship games in June, but he’ll now get his chance to shine in NBA territory. Bender, who doesn’t turn 18 until November, has been wowing scouts for a long time with his play for Maccabi’s junior squad.

Euroleague teams have played exhibition games against NBA clubs in the past, but American fans will now be treated to one of Europe’s premier basketball rivalries. In 2014, Maccabi downed Milan in a playoff series to advance to the Final Four and eventually win the Euroleague title. In 1987 and 1988, Milan beat Maccabi in back-to-back championship games that featured legends such as Bob McAdoo and Mike D’Antoni, among others.

Here’s more NBA-related news:

  • The key to perhaps the most significant free agent coup of the summer was Spurs assistant coach Ime Udoka, who “got the deal done” between LaMarcus Aldridge and the team, Aldridge tells USA Today’s Sam Amick. Udoka, a long-ago teammate of Aldridge’s with the Trail Blazers, took a flight with the power forward after San Antonio’s pitch meeting and cleared some of the doubts in his mind as he weighed the Spurs against signing with the Suns. “Everybody was making this big fuss about how I’m not going to be able to take shots anymore, or be the scorer that I am, and he was just telling me, ‘We need a guy to score down there. Tim [Duncan] is older, and we need a guy to command a double team down there,’” Aldridge said in part. “So I was like, ‘Maybe I’m not a Spur, because I’ve been averaging 23 [points per game] for the last three to four years, and maybe I don’t fit into y’all’s system of let’s all average 17 [points per game].’ And he was like, ‘No, we’re not trying to change who you are and make you average 16 or 17. We want you to be you, because you’re going to help us be better and vice versa.’ He kind of reaffirmed that they didn’t want to change me, and that who I am is OK.”
  • Point guard Marcelo Huertas, who had planned a jump to the NBA this season and had been expected to draw significant interest, has instead agreed to sign with Galatasaray of Turkey, according to the team (Twitter link; hat tip to Sportando’s Orazio Cauchi). Agent Gerard Darnes late last month denied reports that Huertas had a deal with the team at that point, though it appears that’s now the case.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

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