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Meet the MVP Houston has tried to sign for 10 years & have failed again & again

The Houston Rockets have enjoyed plenty of successful imports in their time, from Nigerian great Hakeem Olajuwon to other greats like Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo. Yet one international talent has proved elusive to them has decided to close the door on a potential NBA stint.

Real Madrid icon and 2017 Euroleague MVP Sergio Llull has been chased by the Rockets for 10 years, always leaving the door ajar for a potential crossover to the NBA, yet the Rockets persistent ways have not proven convincing enough to have him make the jump.

The Rockets had acquired his draft rights from the Denver Nuggets in 2009 for $2.5 million, which at the time was a record payment for a second-rounder. The Rockets were convinced they had found a gem, a player with championship experience that could thrive in a pace-and-space game.

“We’ve been trying to get him to come over for almost 10 years,” Houston director of global scouting Marko Radovanovic told Bleacher Report’s Matthew Foley. “Three years ago, we were in serious talks. He could have been our starter.”

Yet starting isn’t something that motivates a player like Llull. A staple in the Spanish National Team lineup, the 32-year-old shooting guard is coming off the bench for Los Merengues, though he surely is on the court to finish games.

“That drives my colleagues here nuts,” said Radovanovic. “In Euroleague, you’ll see [Llull] or [former NBA forward] Anthony Randolph coming off the bench. What counts is the minutes at the end of the game.”

Others who have made the crossover from Spain to the United States, know Llull has the chops to stick in the NBA.

“He is a perfect fit [in the NBA],” said former NBA and Spanish point guard Jose Calderon. “He has enough size and physicality to finish. He can make shots and beat you one-on-one. I have no doubt he would be a good player here.”

Llull wants to test himself, but he’s already carved up a legendary career in Spain, on pace to shatter many of Madrid’s records. He ranks seventh all-time in scoring and assists in the Euroleague. He can climb that ladder to third, past his former national team teammate Juan Carlos “La Bomba” Navarro by the end of this season.

While the Rockets could use someone like Llull as a difference-maker in their small-ball lineup, the 6-foot-3 sharpshooter has a lot more to gain by cementing his rightful place in the record books than proving he’s another success story in the NBA.