Nearly every NBA player with a player option for the 2016/17 season turned down that option, electing free agency and seeking a better contract. Most of those players indeed found better deals — DeMar DeRozan, Bismack Biyombo, Chandler Parsons, and Pau Gasol were among the veterans who got huge raises and multiyear contracts after opting out of their deals.
One player who didn’t strike pay dirt after declining an option was point guard Shane Larkin, who turned down a $1.5MM salary from the Nets in order to look for a new contract. Larkin ultimately signed with Baskonia in Spain, and while he’s expected to earn more after taxes this season than he would have with Brooklyn, the pay increase is marginal and he won’t be an NBA player.
Larkin, who changed agents during his free agency, spoke to Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype, about his opt-out decision, his search for a new team, and his outlook going forward. Here a few highlights from the former first-round pick:
On whether he regretted his decision to turn down his player option with the Nets:
“Not really. The situation in Baskonia is a better situation than Brooklyn, knowing that they wanted to go in a different direction. I could have possibly been in a bad situation with the guards they drafted perhaps playing in front of me because the new management might want to see them play. That situation wasn’t ideal. I don’t feel any regret about my decision. Obviously, it’s not all about the money, but I’m playing for more money this year than I did last year and I’m playing in a good situation where I’m going to have a lot of people watching me play and seeing my improvement.”
On why he decided to seek new representation, and how it affected his free agency:
“It was a pretty anxious free agency for me. I had a few teams that were interested in me. I don’t really know where the conversations went with those teams, but I ended up switching agents halfway through free agency because I wasn’t really happy with the direction I was going in with my other agent. So I made that switch and by the time it happened it was really late in free agency and all the teams pretty much had their spots taken up.”
On his choice to sign in Spain rather than with an NBA team:
“A few teams called with invitations to training camp with partial guarantees and options like that, but I just thought the opportunity to play in Spain and in the Euroleague with the option to get big minutes, work on my game and become a better basketball player was the better opportunity at the time compared to the other options on the table. If you go to a team on a partial guarantee, the opportunity might be there, but obviously you’re not going to be one of their first options. Baskonia really wanted me and wanted me to be a big piece of the team.”
On what he’s expecting as he heads overseas for the 2016/17 season:
“In a lot of ways, me playing overseas and getting this experience being one of the most important players on the team will help me, whether I stay playing in Europe multiple years or go back to the NBA. Obviously, everybody wants to play at the highest level of basketball and, although the Euroleague is a very high level, everybody’s goal is to win an NBA championship. The mindset is you have to be aggressive and be a bulldog as a small guard and I think Baskonia can help me develop that mentality and make me a better [player].”