After veteran guard Dante Exum signed a three-month contract with Barcelona in early December, reports indicated that his plan was to return to the NBA once that deal expired on February 28. However, the former NBA lottery pick eventually decided to stick with Barcelona for the rest of the 2021/22 season.
Appearing on the BasketNews Talks podcast with Donatas Urbonas, Exum explained why he signed an extension to remain in Europe rather than seeking out a new NBA opportunity.
“For me, it always goes back to just — I’m a basketball player, I want to play. Coming over here, I was given the opportunity to play. The fans showed a lot of love and wanted me to stay,” Exum said. “… If I went back to the NBA, it’s just so many unknowns. Is it a 10-day (contract)? Is it just going there and just sitting on the bench?
“Instead of going back and just trying to find a place or trying to find where the next home is, I just wanted to stay here, be comfortable. I started to get comfortable in Barcelona. I was starting to play well, so I think I wanted to finish out (the season).”
Exum, 26, was the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft and spent most of the next seven years in the NBA, first with the Jazz and then with the Cavaliers. However, he battled injuries during those seven seasons and was limited to just 245 total regular season appearances.
Known as a strong perimeter defender, Exum averaged 5.7 PPG and 2.1 APG with a .407/.305/.764 shooting line for Utah and Cleveland. This season in Barcelona, he has recorded 7.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG, and 1.0 APG on .528/.556/.867 shooting in 13 EuroLeague contests (17.6 MPG).
According to Exum, one of his goals this year was to show he can stay healthy for a full season. If he avoids injuries for the rest of the season in Spain, he could revisit the NBA free agent market this summer, though he indicated he’d also be comfortable continuing his career overseas.
“I think the biggest jump is making that first step to come over to Europe and play,” Exum said. “If nothing works out (in the NBA), I know I can come back to Europe. I know the system. I know how everyone plays over here. So it will be an easier adjustment.”