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VITORIA (Liga Endesa/Olympics) - Almost eight years have passed since Andres Nocioni last played for Baskonia in Spain's top flight.

An Argentina international, Nocioni left for the NBA's Chicago Bulls after the 2003-04 campaign and over the weekend, after enduring the most frustrating stretch of his career on the bench of the Philadelphia 76ers, he rejoined the club in the Basque country.

Nocioni wasn't playing for the Sixers and in an Olympic year, he needed games.

The 32-year-old should see plenty of action for his former team, which is third in the Liga Endesa.

While being introduced to the Baskonia fans before their game against Estudiantes, Nocioni said: "I'm happy and glad to be here again.

"I'm full of pride to be a part of the Baskonia family."

The Spanish top flight has been one of the top leagues in Europe for a long, long time and Nocioni knows that his new club is facing stiff competition from the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid in the title race.

"I want to do the things that I have always done to help the teams I have played for," he said.

More than anything, that means that Nocioni will run onto the court for Baskonia and play with a lot of heart.

In the time that has elapsed since Nocioni's last game with Baskonia, he not only enjoyed a solid NBA career, where he also played for Sacramento, Nocioni went on a magnificent journey with his national team.

In the weeks before his arrival in Chicago to begin his rookie campaign (2004-05), Nocioni celebrated a gold-medal triumph at the Athens Olympics.

Having reached the world title game two years earlier in Indianapolis and claimed a silver medal, Nocioni stepped onto the podium in Greece and shared in one of the great moments of his nation's Olympic history.

Chapu, as Nocioni is known in his country, had other big moments with Argentina, too.

Not only of them were good.

He experienced the disappointment of 2006 at the FIBA World Championship.

In the Semi-Final against Spain, the small forward had a chance to win the game at the death but his shot from the right corner hit the rim and stayed out, condemning Argentina to a 75-74 defeat.

Nocioni scored 15 points in that game.

Spain then beat Greece to capture gold, which remains their greatest achievement, while Argentina lost to Team USA in the bronze-medal game.

Nocioni played two years later at the Beijing Olympics and despite being hobbled by injuries, helped his team win the bronze medal.

He averaged 12.6 points and 6.2 rebounds in China.

Nocioni broke into tears two years later when announcing that a left ankle injury he'd suffered late in the preparations for the World Championship had forced him to pull out of the event.

"It broke my dream of playing here for my country," he said at the time in Kayseri, Turkey.

Last year, however, Nocioni returned to the squad for the FIBA Americas Championship in Argentina and seemed to be at his best as the Julio Lamas-coached squad reached the Final to qualify for the Olympics.

Argentina then captured the gold medal.

Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins hardly played Nocioni this season and the two parted ways just over a week ago, thus paving the way for his return to Baskonia.

Argentina's point guard, Pablo Prigioni, is the playmaker at Baskonia.

Nocioni's arrival means that he now has a very good friend in the ranks.


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