Despite its war with Ukraine and controversial imprisonment of WNBA star Brittney Griner, Russia is still viewed as a viable destination for some U.S. basketball players, writes Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times. There are projected to be about 30 American men participating in Russia this year, which is twice the normal rate. Those who made the decision cited the financial incentives, which include salaries of more than $1MM, along with free housing and cars.
“Everybody’s going to say, ‘Why would you go there?’” said 35-year-old K.C. Rivers, who has played for several Russian teams. “But at the end of the day, you still have mouths to feed. You still have family to provide for. And sometimes it is not always the easiest decision, but you have to do what’s best for you. You can’t make decisions based off of what the general society says.”
Female players, even those in the WNBA, formerly viewed Russia as a great money-making opportunity, but that has largely changed because of the Griner case. However, those who are still willing to travel to Russia are finding offers more lucrative than ever. An agent told Abrams that Russian teams are paying 50% more this year to women and sometimes they triple the salaries offered in other countries.
Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball globe:
- The Mexico City Capitanes, who will be a full-fledged participant in the G League regular season for the first time in 2022/23, have acquired the returning rights to NBA veterans Jahlil Okafor and Gary Clark, league sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link).
- Overtime Elite will add three high school teams for its upcoming season, states Jacob Polacheck of Zagsblog. The programs are Hillcrest Prep (Arizona), Our Saviour Lutheran (New York) and Word of God (North Carolina). The league will have 20 players returning from last season, including Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson, who are both projected as top-10 picks in the 2023 draft. The newest addition to Overtime Elite is 7’0″ high school junior Somto Cyril, who is considered among the 25 best players in the Class of 2024, per Eric Bossi of 247 Sports.
- Former Knicks player Mindaugas Kuzminskas has signed with Pinar Karsiyaka in Turkey, according to Eurohoops. The 32-year-old small forward played for Lithuania during EuroBasket.
- USA Basketball will resume its Junior National Team minicamp after a two-year absence due to the pandemic, writes Jonathan Givony of ESPN. It will take place October 7-10 in Colorado Springs. “This camp has been an important part of developing our junior national team, and we’re really happy to be back doing it again,” said Sean Ford, national team director of USA Basketball. “The world is getting better at a faster rate than we are improving, so we need to continue to improve with more camps, continuity and teaching.”