Earlier today, we relayed the somewhat surprising news that despite agreeing on a one-year, $4.449MM deal with the Sixers earlier this month, free agent Nemanja Bjelica will not sign a contract with Philadelphia or any other NBA team this summer, opting instead to return to Europe for the 2018/19 season.
Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic has more details on why Bjelica chose to return to Europe, writing that the decision ultimately came down to what the 30-year-old Serbian forward believes is in the best interest of his family.
“I’m thankful for Philly for the opportunity, but I will always do what is the best for my family,” Bjelica said. “It’s not about coach or the Philly organization. Brett Brown, he’s a great guy and a great coach. The most important thing for me is family and some kind of stability.”
Bjelica and his wife have a school-age daughter and an infant son, and Bjelica did not want to uproot his family from their home in Minneapolis for the past three seasons to live in Philadelphia for the next eight months before potentially having to move again if he wasn’t able to re-sign with Sixers next summer.
It’s certainly possible, based on Krawczynski’s story, that Bjelica would have been willing and open to remain stateside if he were given a multi-year deal, but unfortunately, the free agent market this summer was largely limited to one-year contracts, with teams determined to keep as much cap flexibility as possible for next summer, when players like Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and Kyrie Irving are all potentially free agents.
Bjelica, who was named the EuroLeague MVP in 2015, returns to Europe with NBA career averages of 6.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game in 192 contests.