1:09pm: The Pelicans and Babbitt were in the final stages of reaching a deal that would have covered the rest of the season, but BC Nizhny Novgorod refused to yield, reports Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. It’s not clear if New Orleans will continue to try to extract Babbitt from his contract with the Russian team, which would be “a battle,” a source tells Haynes, who nonetheless hears that two other NBA clubs remain in the mix for the ex-Blazer.
9:37am: An NBA team has been in contact with BC Nizhny Novgorod of Russia to see if it would let Luke Babbitt out of his contract, but the Russian club says it won’t sign a FIBA letter of clearance that would allow Babbitt to return to the NBA. Ben Golliver of Blazer’s Edge provides a loose translation of a statement that appears on BC Nizhny Novgorod‘s website, and the Russian team has provided a brief English-language summary via Twitter (hat tip to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia).
Babbitt left the club to fly home to the U.S. when it refused to let him out of his deal, an act that BC Nizhny Novgorod views as breach of contract. That prompted the team to vow that it won’t sign a letter of clearance, which FIBA requires anytime a player leaves a team in one country to play for another. NBA teams are not necessarily bound by FIBA governance, but they’ve honored the letter of clearance system as a matter of practice in the past.
It’s unclear which NBA team was in contact with BC Nizhny Novgorod about the Bill Duffy client, just as it’s not certain what Babbitt’s recourse will be. He signed his one-year deal with the Russian team in August, when it was apparent that the contract didn’t include an escape clause that would allow him to return to the NBA until the end of BC Nizhny Novgorod’s season. The Russian team indicated in its statement that it’s in the midst of an important stretch, helping explain why it’s reluctant to part with Babbitt.
The 24-year-old forward is averaging 13.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in Russia. Most impressively, he’s shooting 57.4% from three-point range on 3.4 such attempts per contest. The 16th overall pick in 2010 spent the past three seasons with the Trail Blazers, who opted not to re-sign him this past summer, when Babbitt failed to generate much buzz on the market.