International

Hasheem Thabeet Signs In Taiwan

Former No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet has signed a contract in Taiwan with the Hsinchu Lioneers, agent Jerry Dianis told Hoops Rumors.

Thabeet, who has made past NBA stops with Memphis, Houston, Portland and Oklahoma City, will head to Taiwan for the first time in his professional career. He garnered interest from multiple teams in Europe and Asia in recent months, ultimately choosing the Lioneers for a larger playing role, Dianis said.

Thabeet, a 7’3″ shot-blocker who spent three seasons at UConn, believes he’s in the best physical and mental shape of his career. The 33-year-old veteran worked out for teams such as the Knicks, Nuggets, Bucks and Warriors as recently as last year.

“It’s an opportunity for him to play and do well on the international stage,” Dianis said. “Hasheem expects to dominate on both ends of the floor and is excited to help the team win. He’s been busting his ass and personnel across the NBA say he’s in great shape. He took this opportunity because he wants to play and show just how much he’s improved. 

“Hasheem is an NBA player. He’s an elite shot-blocker because of his unique size, athleticism and insticts. After a dominant performance in Taiwan, he will have a plethora of new opportunities.”

Prior to signing in Taiwan, Thabeet signed a contract in the NBA G League last fall and was drafted in the first round by the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pacers’ G League affiliate. The team concentrated on playing a small-ball brand of basketball in the weeks that followed, ultimately leading to Thabeet’s camp asking for a release.

In addition to being an effective rim-protector, Thabeet has improved offensively and is known for his leadership — Nets superstar Kevin Durant has previously stated that Thabeet was one of the best teammates he has ever had. The big man last appeared in an NBA game during the 2013/14 season when both players were with Oklahoma City.

Joining the Lioneers gives Thabeet a chance to prove his worth, with potential opportunities in China and the NBA still on the table down the road. The veteran center carries several years of experience and has played overseas before, holding a past stint in Japan during the 2017/18 season.

Nikola Mirotic Extends Contract With Barcelona

After forgoing lucrative NBA offers a year ago to return to his home country of Spain, power forward Nikola Mirotic apparently has no regrets about that decision, having opted to extend his contract with Barcelona. The Spanish club announced today that Mirotic has agreed to an extension through the 2024/25 season.

Mirotic, who was expected to receive three- or four-year offers in the range of $45-50MM last July if he had remained stateside, finalized a deal with Barcelona just a day before the NBA’s 2019 free agent period began.

That contract was a three-year pact with a fourth-year option for the 2022/23 season, so even without his latest extension, Mirotic would’ve been under contract in Spain for multiple years to come. His new deal suggests he’s happy in Barcelona and has no intention of returning to the NBA anytime in the next few years — or perhaps ever.

“The club has trusted in me ever since I arrived,” Mirotic said in a statement. “Everyone knows it is never easy to come back from the U.S., but the club has given me everything. They wanted to bring me here, the fans have been good to me, the energy is great and I have often said how surprised I have seen to be so well received.”

After recording 12.3 PPG and 5.9 RPG in 319 games over the course of five NBA seasons in Chicago, New Orleans, and Milwaukee, Mirotic averaged 20.0 PPG and 5.8 RPG in 20 Spanish League games (26.9 MPG) in 2019/20, adding 19.0 PPG and 6.9 RPG in 28 EuroLeague contests (27.8 MPG). He earned Spanish League MVP honors for his performance, an award he previously won in 2013.

And-Ones: Hampton, China, Hamilton, More

RJ Hampton‘s stock has dipped a little in the last year, as he’s no longer a slam-dunk lottery pick, ranking 13th overall on ESPN’s big board. However, Hampton feels that spending the season in New Zealand was a learning experience and believes he’s still very capable of being a difference-maker at the NBA level, as he tells Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

“I was a projected top-five pick last year. I went overseas, I learned a lot, I didn’t have superior numbers and I was kind of forgotten about,” Hampton said. “The message that I was trying to get across (in his video meeting with the Knicks) is, ‘I’m still that same player. I’m still that player that can get you 20-25 points, 6-7 assists, be that lead guard and a franchise changer.'”

Hampton’s jump shot, particularly from beyond the arc, is one potential area of concern for NBA teams. However, former NBA sharpshooter Mike Miller, who has been helping Hampton train in Memphis, is confident that the youngster will eventually be a “high-30s, low-40s percent three-point shooter,” as Begley relays.

“It’s not a guess. I’ve seen the progress he’s done in two months, so I know what the progress is going to be in three years,” Miller said. “… When he continues the way he’s training, he’ll be so dynamic in the NBA.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Asked earlier this week by Bob Costas on CNN about the NBA’s relationship with a “brutal human rights abuser like China,” commissioner Adam Silver offered a long explanation for why the league is continuing to try to grow the game there (link via Sopan Deb of The New York Times). I think those are decisions are for our government, in terms of where American businesses should operate,” Silver said. “I continue to believe that the people-to-people exchanges we’re seeing by playing in China are positive and it’s helping.”
  • Former NBA center Justin Hamilton, who appeared in 113 games for four teams between 2013-17, is signing a new contract with China’s Beijing Ducks, agent Andy Shiffman confirmed to JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors (Twitter link). Emiliano Carchia of Sportando previously reported that Hamilton was expected to remain in Beijing.
  • Zach Harper of The Athletic evaluates how much – or how little – the 12 teams eliminated from the postseason so far should be panicking, explaining why the Sixers, Bucks, and Clippers should be a whole lot more concerned than the Nets, Mavericks, and Pacers.

Dragan Bender Signs With Israeli Team

After spending four seasons in the NBA, Dragan Bender has signed a contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, tweets European basketball reporter Nemanja Zoric. The deal will cover three months with an option to extend it for the entire season, according to Moses Barda of Team Scout (Twitter link).

The brief nature of Bender’s agreement will give him an opportunity to return to the NBA next season if an opportunity arises, writes Johnny Askounis of EuroHoops. Bender played two seasons in Israel before coming to the NBA.

Bender, 22, will replace former NBA player Quincy Acy with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Askounis adds. Acy signed a one-year deal with the team last summer, but couldn’t come to terms for a second season.

Bender’s NBA career was disappointing after the Suns took him with the fourth pick in the 2016 draft. Instead of blossoming into a star, he wound up as a journeyman, with short stints with the Bucks and Warriors this season after spending three years in Phoenix.

His best season was in 2017/18 when he appeared in all 82 games for the Suns, started 37 and averaged 6.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per night. Phoenix elected not to offer him a rookie-scale extension, and he became a free agent last summer.

Bender signed with Milwaukee, but got into just seven games before being waived in February. He joined Golden State on a pair of 10-day deals and averaged 9.0 PPG and 5.9 RPG in nine games before the hiatus began.

And-Ones: Zion, Silver, Chalmers, Bona, Lawson

A panel of 15 NBA evaluators, including four general managers, unanimously agreed that Mavericks star Luka Doncic is the player under 25 whom they would most want to build a franchise around, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Suns guard Devin Booker, and Grizzlies guard Ja Morant received the next-highest scores in the poll.

As Scotto notes, last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Pelicans big man Zion Williamson, placed just seventh on the evaluators’ list, tied with Nuggets guard Jamal Murray. Among the respondents who spoke to Scotto, the enthusiasm for Williamson’s obvious upside was dampened by long-term weight and injury concerns.

“He’s just a special player inside the arc who’s an elite finisher,” one executive said of the Pelicans’ rising star. “… He’s one of the best finishers behind Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and LeBron (James). He can hit the open man. He’s so physically dominant. His shooting shouldn’t be a problem, but we’ll see. I think he’s always going to be hurt, though.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver is expected to be at the league’s Walt Disney World campus this week, sources tell Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). It’s unclear whether Silver’s visit will be brief or if he plans to stick around through the NBA Finals.
  • Greek club Aris Thessaloniki has announced the signing of former NBA guard Mario Chalmers (hat tip to Sportando). A former two-time champion with Miami, Chalmers spent last season in Athens, but continues to hold out hope of making an NBA comeback.
  • Adem Bona, a 17-year-old Nigerian/Turkish big man, will spend the next two seasons stateside at Prolific Prep in California, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN, who refers to Bona as one of Europe’s “most promising” prospects (Twitter links). He’ll become draft-eligible in 2023, Givony adds.
  • Agent Chris Patrick and The Sports Law Group have ended their representation of former NBA guard Ty Lawson following his ban from the Chinese Basketball Association, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). Lawson last played in the NBA during the 2018 postseason with Washington.

Kevin Hervey Signs With Russian Team

After spending most of the 2019/20 season with the Thunder, power forward Kevin Hervey has signed a one-year contract with Russia’s Lokomotiv Kuban, the team announced today (via Twitter).

The 57th overall pick in the 2018 draft out of UT Arlington, Hervey was stashed in the G League by Oklahoma City during his first professional season. He was eventually promoted to the NBA club in December 2019, when he signed a two-way contract with the Thunder.

Hervey spent the rest of the ’19/20 campaign in OKC, where he made his NBA debut but saw limited playing time overall, averaging 1.7 PPG and 1.2 RPG in 10 games (5.2 MPG). He had been set to reach free agency this fall, but it appears the Thunder let him out of his contract early, a signal that he wasn’t in the club’s future plans.

Hervey is one of a handful of NBA free-agents-to-be who have already lined up new deals with international teams, joining the likes of Ante Zizic (Maccabi Tel Aviv) and Johnathan Williams (Galatasaray).

Joe Johnson Talks About Playing Overseas

At age 39, Joe Johnson isn’t thinking about the end of his basketball career. The seven-time All-Star and reigning Big3 MVP played for Overseas Elite in The Basketball Tournament this summer and told Bob Holt of The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette that playing overseas might be his next step.

“I still have that itch to hoop,” Johnson said. “I still love the game. I just can’t give it up right now.”

Johnson said some NBA teams also expressed interest in signing him next season. He scored more than 20,000 points in 17 NBA seasons, but hasn’t played in the league since 2017/18 when he spent the year as a reserve with the Jazz and Rockets. He was with the Pistons in training camp last fall, but lost a battle for the final roster spot to Christian Wood.

Johnson got plenty of accolades from former NBA players for his TBT performance. Dwyane Wade tweeted that “not many guys could guard him on the second unit,” and Darrell Walker said there’s still a place for Johnson in the NBA.

“He doesn’t need to play 35 minutes a night anymore, but he definitely can play 16 or 17 minutes and help your team,” Walker said. “Joe would be a great locker-room guy, too. He’s a good dude. As the old-school guys say, ‘Joe is a pro’s pro.'”

Johnson revived his career in 2019 with a dominant performance in the BIG3. He said the decision to participate was “therapeutic” after his mother died of cancer in February of that year. Trail Blazers assistant coach and fellow Arkansas alum Jannero Pargo contacted Johnson and urged him to play.

“Being an only child, that was tough losing her. I just wanted something to keep me busy, and the BIG3 was it,” Johnson recalled. “Playing was probably the best thing for me. That’s how Jannero presented it to me, prior to me committing to being in the BIG3. He said, ‘I think it will be a good stress reliever, and it’ll give us a chance to play on the same team again. We can have some fun and kick everybody’s butt on the weekends.’ “

Johnson was clearly the best player in the BIG3 during his first season, leading the league in scoring, assists, and its unique category of 4-pointers. He had planned to return this year, but the season was wiped out because of COVID-19. Johnson credits his dedication to health and fitness to helping him stay productive as he nears age 40.

“Right now I’m in some of the best shape I’ve ever been in,” he said. “I watch what I eat. I do a lot of hot yoga, which is so detoxifying for your body, so good for your muscles and joints and bones. I know I can’t give that up, and that’s definitely what’s helped keep me going over the years. Especially these later years.”

Ex-NBA Player Ty Lawson Reportedly Banned From CBA

Former NBA point guard Ty Lawson has reportedly been banned from playing in the Chinese Basketball Association after inappropriate posts about women appeared on his Instagram story, per Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia (Twitter link).

Lawson’s most recent team, the Fujian Sturgeons, issued the following statement to Chinese media outlet Xinhua:

“His inappropriate words are inconsistent with the social responsibilities and values abided by our club and have brought serious adverse social impacts to the club and the league,” the statement reads. “We will not sign him for the new season.”

After last appearing in the NBA during the 2017/18 season for the Wizards’ playoff run, Lawson had found success in the CBA. He first appeared with the Shandong Golden Stars in 2017 before transferring to the Sturgeons. The former first-round pick played well in China, averaging over 25.0 PPG across three seasons.

Lawson, an eight-year NBA veteran, played for the Nuggets, Rockets, Pacers, Kings and Wizards during his career. He averaged 12.7 PPG and 6.0 APG in 551 NBA games.

Marc Gasol May Consider Return To Europe

Raptors center Marc Gasol may consider finishing his professional basketball career in Europe, according to Xavi Saiso Garcia of radio Ser Catalunya.

Saiso Garcia adds that if the 35-year-old decides to play overseas, it would be for family reasons. Before joining the Grizzlies in 2008/09, Gasol spent five seasons overseas with FC Barcelona Lassa and Sant Josep Girona.

The 7’1″ big man will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason after spending the last two seasons in Toronto. This season with the Raptors, Gasol averaged 7.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 3.3 APG in 26.4 MPG.

If the 13-year NBA veteran decided to play in Europe, it would not be the first time that we saw a player of his stature do so. Last offseason, Nikola Mirotic, who was an unrestricted free agent, signed a deal with EuroLeague club Barcelona. The veteran forward reportedly would’ve received offers ranging between $45-50MM in NBA free agency.

And-Ones: Gupta, Bubble, Webb, Agents, Draft

The Timberwolves have long believed that their executive VP Sachin Gupta is a strong candidate for the Kings‘ top front office position and have supported him as he explores the opportunity, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, who says president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas has “spoken glowingly” to Sacramento about Gupta.

As the Kings narrow their search, Gupta appears to be gaining some momentum and is said to be one of three finalists for Sacramento’s top job. With that in mind, Krawczynski weighs some pros and cons for Gupta to consider if he’s offered the job. While the opportunity to run a front office doesn’t come along often, Krawczynski notes that the Kings haven’t been the league’s most stable franchise over the last 15 years, adding that Gupta is thriving so far in his role with the Timberwolves as Rosas’ right-hand man.

As we wait to see whether Gupta is offered Sacramento’s top front office job – and whether he accepts it – let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world…

  • The two teams that advance to the NBA Finals will be permitted to bring three additional staff members, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who tweets that those two clubs will also be allowed to bring 12 more guests of staffers into the Walt Disney World bubble.
  • Former NBA forward James Webb III has joined KAE Larisa in Greece for the coming season, the team announced on Instagram (hat tip to Sportando). A former Boise State standout, Webb appeared in 10 games for Brooklyn in 2017/18 and has also spent time under contract with Philadelphia.
  • James L. Edwards III of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at how agents and rookie recruiting have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which has largely limited the ability of player reps to meet face-to-face with the prospects they’re looking to sign.
  • Jeremy Woo of SI.com has updated his big board for the 2020 NBA draft, with Anthony Edwards leading the way. Edwards’ case for the No. 1 spot centers on the likelihood that he’ll be able to eventually “anchor a team’s offense,” Woo writes.