When will Sergio Llull join the Houston Rockets? It's the story that never really goes away.
Each offseason for seemingly the past 30 years, people have wondered: Will this be the year the Spanish point guard finally makes it over to the USA and more specifically to his rights holder the Rockets.
Of late, the rumors started again after his team, Real Madrid, came to America to play the Oklahoma City Thunder in a preseason game and ended up beating them in an overtime thriller. Llull came an assist shy of a double-double pouring in 22 points, dishing out 9 assists, and grabbing 4 rebounds. He hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer in regulation to send the game into overtime.
"He's great," current Rocket Pablo Prigioni said of Llull. "He should be playing here in this league, probably on this team."
ESPN's Marc Stein agrees.
The Rockets, I'm told, are hopeful Llull will join them next season. It's been the Spaniard's choice to stay home to date; Houston wants him— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) October 4, 2016
Llull is highly regarded as one of the best international players that have yet to make a debut in the NBA. He was drafted in the second round in 2009 by the Denver Nuggets but the Rockets brought his draft rights, and they have been clutching on to him ever sense.
Over in Liga ACB, Llull has won two MVPs, two finals MVPs and, in his Spanish league career, he is a four-time champion.
"He's ready, he's ready. A couple of years ago he was ready," Prigioni said. "But he decided to stay there a little bit more, I don't know if he is going to change is mind in the future."
Llull seemed closest to coming over last summer, when the Rockets reportedly wanted to pay him tens of millions of dollars, and his $5.6 million buyout. Llull said no thanks, and stayed in Spain. This summer, he played just so/so in the Olympics as Spain won the bronze medal.
Prigioni went on to say Llull is in a pretty good situation at the moment. He's one of the best players in his league and his team is also one of the best in the entire world — just ask the Thunder.
"I'm pretty sure he's comfortable over there, that's why maybe he hasn't made the decision to come yet," Prigioni said. Prigioni says he’s close with Llull, and his Spanish friend knows everything he wants to know about the NBA.
Where there is smoke, there is fire. While Llull to the Rockets always seems to be nothing more than smoke, it does seem like a marriage between the two will happen eventually.
Llull may be happy where he is now, but as a competitor, everyone eventually wants to test themselves against the best people in the world, and the NBA is the only place to do that.
When the Spanish point guard does make it over, Prigioni sees him having no problem adjusting to the game.
"He's very athletic, his body, his physical condition is perfect for this league," Prigioni said, "he's strong, he can jump, he can run, he can shoot, he's smart and can make plays for the team."