Mindaugas Kuzminskas Hopes To Stay In NBA

Released by the Knicks on Sunday, veteran forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas is poised to clear waivers today, assuming no team puts in a claim. If he becomes an unrestricted free agent, Kuzminskas plans to prioritize NBA opportunities over offers from teams overseas, as he tells Lithuanian reporter Donatas Urbonas.

“My priority is NBA,” Kuzminskas said to Urbonas (Twitter link). “But who knows, maybe nobody needs me. Then I would consider [a] return to Europe.”

After spending a decade playing professional ball overseas, Kuzminskas joined the Knicks last season and showed some promise, averaging 6.3 PPG and 1.9 RPG with a .428/.321/.809 shooting line in 68 games. In five starts, the Lithuanian forward increased those averages to 14.0 PPG and 4.2 RPG, with a .511/.391/.929 shooting line.

However, one of Kuzminskas’ primary advocates – Phil Jackson – is no longer with the Knicks, while another – Clarence Gaines – no longer has the same level of influence in the front office. Kuzminskas appeared briefly in just one game for New York this season before he was waived.

The Lakers, Bulls, and the Hawks are among the teams expected to have interest in Kuzminskas if he clears waivers, so it sounds like there should be an opportunity for him to remain stateside. Still, the 28-year-old didn’t rule out the possibility of participating in this month’s FIBA World Cup qualifiers for Lithuania if he doesn’t sign a new contract right away, per Urbonas (Twitter link). And if he does receive offers from NBA teams, Kuzminskas will seriously consider what kind of role those teams could give him (Twitter link).

“If I needed money, I would have stayed in New York,” Kuzminskas said, implying that perhaps he encouraged the Knicks to cut him, or at least didn’t object to it. “I want to play, not to sit on the bench.”

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