Basketball

NBA taking its game to Cuba to ‘share values of game’

Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash (10) takes a shot with center Robert Sacre (50) looking on against Golden State Warriors center Ognjen Kuzmic (1), of Bosnia, and guard Leandro Barbosa, of Brazil, from behind during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in Ontario, Calif.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash (10) takes a shot with center Robert Sacre (50) looking on against Golden State Warriors center Ognjen Kuzmic (1), of Bosnia, and guard Leandro Barbosa, of Brazil, from behind during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in Ontario, Calif. AP

The NBA is going to Cuba.

The professional basketball league announced Tuesday that it is hosting a development camp in Havana April 23-26. Recently retired guard Steve Nash and NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo are among the players who will lead the four-day event, which the NBA trumpeted as the first visit to Cuba by an American professional sports entity since President Barack Obama announced plans to improve diplomatic relations between the two countries.

“We’ve seen the bridges that basketball can build between cultures,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said. “We look forward to sharing the values of our game with Cuban youth and learning together through the common language of sports.”

Initial planning for the NBA’s trip to Cuba came together not long after President Obama’s announcement in December that the United States and Cuba would begin steps toward restoring full diplomacy between the governments of both countries. An advance team from the NBA’s league office in New York visited Cuba in early March. During those meetings, Cuban officials were enthusiastic about the NBA conducting a camp.

The big question: Will the Miami Heat play a preseason game in Cuba anytime soon? It’s certainly possible — the New York Cosmos soccer team is playing the Cuban National Team on June 2 — but there are no current plans for the Heat, or any other NBA team, to play an exhibition in Cuba, according to a league source. Major League Baseball has expressed interest in hosting a game in Cuba in 2016.

Though isolated in many ways from the United States for half a century, Cuba has fostered a strong foundation of basketball development through the decades. The men’s national team won a bronze medal at the 1974 Summer Olympics, and the women’s national team finished third at the 1990 FIBA World Championship. The women’s team most recently won the FIBA Americas championship in 2013.

In addition to the development camp for the Cuban men’s and women’s national teams, the NBA and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) also plan to refurbish three basketball courts during the trip and also conduct two youth clinics. The NBA’s trip to Cuba is in association with the Cuban sports ministry, Cuba’s National Institute of Sport, Physical Education, and Recreation (INDER) and the Cuban Basketball Federation.

“This is a great day for Cuban basketball and our federation,” said CBF president Ruperto Herrera. “To have both the NBA and FIBA collaborate on youth instruction and the development of the game in our country is magnificent.

“We thank the Republic of Cuba and INDER for opening the doors for these basketball camps that will end up benefiting the future of national and international basketball.”

In addition to the participation of Nash and Mutombo, WNBA legend Ticha Penicheiro will also provide instruction during the basketball camp. Other camp instructors include Orlando Magic coach James Borrego, Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz assistant coach Brad Jones, USA Basketball youth development coach Don Showalter and Victor Ojeda, director of the Basketball Academy of the Americas.

“In the continued effort to strengthen our national federations, it is extremely gratifying to see Cuba serve as the center of a development camp of this magnitude,” FIBA President Horacio Muratore said. “This is a country that loves basketball and we are proud to work together with the NBA on this historic venture.”

Tommy Sheppard, the Washington Wizards’ vice president of basketball administration, along with New York Knicks associate athletic trainer Anthony Goenaga and FIBA Americas referee Geraldo Fontana also will conduct workshops for coaches, trainers and other sports professionals, according to a news release by the NBA.

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