Amar’e Stoudemire Signs With Israeli Team

Veteran forward Amar’e Stoudemire is returning to Israel and has signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv for the rest of the season, according to Michael Bachner of The Times of Israel.

We relayed last month that Stoudemire was working out in South Florida in hopes of getting another chance at the NBA. The 37-year-old played briefly in China at the start of the season, but left after 11 games because he wasn’t happy being so far away from his family.

As Bachner explains, Stoudemire’s latest move sent shock waves throughout Israeli basketball because he is still a part-owner of his former team, Hapoel Jerusalem, which is an arch rival of Maccabi Tel Aviv. Because he has become a citizen of Israel, Stoudemire qualifies as an Israeli player. He will make roughly $55K a month.

“I am very humbled for the opportunity, happy to be in Israel, the place that I love,” Stoudemire said in a statement on Maccabi’s website. “I have a chance to play in the highest level in Europe, which is a dream come true.”

Maccabi is leading the Israeli league and has been successful in the EuroLeague, but has been hurt by injuries to several key players, including Omri Casspi.

And-Ones: BIG3, Gortat, Mack, Chalmers

The BIG3 has announced some changes in advance of its 2020 season, as Eric Woodyard of details. Most notably, Ice Cube‘s 3-on-3 league will lower the minimum age from 27 to 22 in order to try to eliminate the perception that the BIG3 is only for retired NBA players.

“I think lowering the age does erase the stigma,” Ice Cube told Woodyard. “It might’ve kept people from playing in the BIG3 because they don’t want to seem like they’re done.”

The BIG3 will also hold open tryouts this spring and will welcome two-sport athletes, as Woodyard details.

The most entertaining change to the league’s on-court rules is the introduction of a team’s once-per-half ability to challenge a foul call. Rather than having a replay official make a ruling, a challenge will result in an in-game, one-on-one possession, with the victor winning the call. The full list of changes can be found here.

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

  • Longtime NBA center Marcin Gortat was recently approached by Polish team Anwil Wloclawek, but rebuffed the club’s interest for health reasons, he told (hat tip to Sportando). Gortat suggested in the same interview that he will likely announce his retirement from the NBA at some point this year.
  • Veteran point guard Shelvin Mack, who had been playing for Olimpia Milano, has left the Italian team and is expected to join Hapoel Jerusalem in the Israeli League, according to Alessandro Maggi and Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Mack, who has played more than 450 regular season NBA games, spent last season with Memphis and Charlotte.
  • Another former NBA point guard, Mario Chalmers, has had his contract with AEK Athens extended through the end of the 2019/20 season, according to Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. Chalmers signed with the Greek club in November.
  • For a long time, the head of basketball operations for an NBA team was given the title of general manager, or perhaps president of basketball operations. In recent years though, those titles have become more varied, with minor distinctions helping to establish a hierarchy in front offices. Jake Fischer of The Washington Post takes a deep dive into NBA management titles and explores how Silicon Valley’s influence has changed things.

LaMelo Ball Shut Down For Rest Of NBL Season

Despite initial optimism that he’d return before the end of the season from the foot injury that sidelined him last month, top prospect LaMelo Ball won’t play any more games for the Illawara Hawks, manager and trainer Jermaine Jackson told Olgun Uluc of Fox Sports Australia.

According to Jackson, Ball is now healthy after dealing with a bone bruise in his foot, but would require several weeks of training and rehab before he’s cleared to return to game action. Australia’s National Basketball League concludes its regular season on February 14 and the 5-17 Hawks won’t make the playoffs, so the team isn’t pushing Ball to return.

Many NBA decision-makers didn’t have a chance to evaluate Ball in person during his time in Australia, but weren’t surprised by the decision to shut him down to avoid the risk of further injury, says Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

Ball averaged 17.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 6.8 APG in the 12 games he did play in the NBL, boosting his stock and making himself a contender for the No. 1 overall pick in 2020. However, he struggled with his shot (.377 FG%, .250 3PT%) and there are still concerns related to his “reportedly erratic work ethic,” according to Givony, who did note that some scouts believe the 18-year-old is the most talented prospect in the 2020 draft class.

One NBA scouting executive who spoke to Sean Deveney of gave a mixed review on Ball’s time with the Hawks, suggesting that he prefers James Wiseman as a potential top pick.

“(Ball’s) got everything you’d like to see in a point guard because he is so big,” the exec said. “He is probably going to be 6’8″ and that kind of size, that sets you apart. … [But] there are times if you watch him where it looks like he is collecting his own numbers and not helping the team win. For a point guard, you don’t want to see that.”

Ball is currently the top prospect on ESPN’s big board, followed by Georgia’s Anthony Edwards and Wiseman.

Team Serbia In Talks To Hire Michael Malone As Aide, Consultant

JANUARY 16: Asked on Wednesday night about his status with Serbia, Malone denied that the two sides had finalized an agreement, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link). They’ve talked, but nothing is official yet, Singer adds.

JANUARY 15: Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has been hired by the Serbian national program to be a consultant and a top aide for Igor Kokoskov during this summer’s Olympic qualifying efforts, as Nick Kosmider of The Athletic tweets. Marc Stein of The New York Times first reported (via Twitter) that the two sides were in advanced discussions.

Although Kokoskov – the former Suns head coach and current Kings assistant – will run the show for Serbia this summer, Malone’s experience with Nuggets star Nikola Jokic makes him a natural fit to be involved with the team as well. Mike Singer of The Denver Post notes (via Twitter) that Malone’s involvement is likely contingent on Jokic participating.

With his contract locked in through 2023, there’s no reason to think Jokic won’t play for Serbia in the summer, barring an injury. After a disappointing showing at the 2019 World Cup, the Serbians will be vying for one of the four remaining spots for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, with Denver’s big man leading the way.

One of those four Olympic qualifying tournaments in June will be held in Belgrade — Serbia will need to win that tournament to advance to Tokyo.

Malone becomes the latest in a line of NBA head coaches who are involved in international programs. Gregg Popovich, of course, will coach Team USA in the 2020 Olympics and may be joined by assistants like Steve Kerr and Lloyd Pierce, who were on Popovich’s World Cup staff. Brett Brown and Nick Nurse coach Australia and Canada, respectively.

And-Ones: 2020 Draft, Giannis, Curry, Silver

The 2019 NBA draft, like many in recent years, had an obvious hierarchy at the top, with No. 1 prospect Zion Williamson followed by clear top-tier options like Ja Morant and RJ Barrett. However, things don’t project to be quite so simple in 2020, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link), who suggests that the this year’s draft might be the weirdest one in years.

As Givony explains, James Wiseman‘s departure from the University of Memphis, Anthony Edwards‘ inconsistency at Georgia, and a handful of unknowns surrounding LaMelo Ball have ensured there’s no clear-cut favorite to be the No. 1 pick in June. Wiseman’s absence, along with injuries to Ball, Cole Anthony, and R.J. Hampton, have also resulted in a dearth of opportunities for evaluators to scout many of this year’s top prospects.

With so much uncertainty about the top of the 2020 class, a chaotic draft night is possible, according to Givony, who thinks teams might have big boards that look very different.

Despite Givony’s assertions, there seems to be at least a rough consensus among experts on the top of the draft order for now. In their latest mock drafts, Givony and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic each have Edwards, Wiseman, and Ball going 1-2-3, in that order. The two mock drafts do diverge significantly from there, however.

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

  • After his postgame conversation with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo on Wednesday went viral, Warriors Stephen Curry claimed to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (video link) that he wasn’t talking to Giannis about teaming up in Golden State in the future — he was giving him his gamer tag for the online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. “Don’t shoot the messenger,” Haynes said, perhaps recognizing that some fans will find Curry’s explanation dubious.
  • Former NBA first-round pick Jared Cunningham, who had been playing for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League, has opted to return to China and sign with the Shanghai Sharks, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Cunningham, who has appeared in 84 regular season NBA games, played in the Chinese Basketball Association for Jiangsu in 2016/17.
  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic identifies five issues facing commissioner Adam Silver in the coming years, including the NBA’s next TV rights deal and the league’s delicate relationship with China.
  • The National Basketball Players Association is creating an accelerator program to help current and former players invest in and create startup companies. Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg has the story and the details.

John Jenkins To Play In China

Veteran NBA guard John Jenkins will continue his professional career in China, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando, who hears from a source that Jenkins has reached an agreement with the Jiangsu Dragons.

Jenkins, who will turn 29 in March, was the 23rd overall pick in the 2012 draft and has played for five NBA teams since then, logging a total of 171 regular season games. Most recently, he appeared in 22 games for the Knicks last season, averaging 5.2 PPG with a .357 3PT%. However, New York declined its team option on Jenkins for 2019/20.

While Jenkins’ strong G League play last season ultimately earned him an NBA contract, he opted not to return to the NBAGL this season, instead waiting for an international opportunity. He’ll join a Jiangsu roster that also includes former NBA guards Antonio Blakeney and Jonathan Gibson.

This will be Jenkins’ first stint in the Chinese Basketball Association, but he does have some overseas experience. The former Vanderbilt standout played for San Pablo Burgos in Spain during the 2017/18 season.

James Nunnally Signs With Fenerbahce

Former Timberwolves and Rockets forward James Nunnally has officially completed a deal with Turkish team Fenerbahce, the club announced today in a press release.

Nunnally had previously been playing for the Shanghai Sharks, but the Chinese club released him from his contract. In 12 games in the Chinese Basketball Association this season, the 29-year-old averaged 22.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG while making 50.0% of his three-point attempts.

A former UC Santa Barbara standout, Nunnally has spent most of his professional career overseas, but has logged a total of 28 NBA games in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Houston. He started the 2018/19 season with the Wolves before being waived at the salary guarantee deadline; he later signed a 10-day contract with the Rockets, but hasn’t played in the NBA since then.

The move to Turkey represents a reunion for Nunnally, who played for Fenerbahce from 2016-18 and and won a EuroLeague title with the organization in 2017.

And-Ones: I. Taylor, Wiseman, Draft, World Peace

Free agent guard Isaiah Taylor was one of the Raptors’ final cuts this fall, having been waived just two days before the regular season began in order to create room on the roster for the team to retain Malcolm Miller. Now, Taylor is headed to the G League, where he has joined the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets‘ NBAGL affiliate, a source tells JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors (Twitter link).

Taylor, who received a $50K guarantee from Toronto on his training camp deal, has logged 71 regular season NBA games. Most of those came in 2017/18, when he appeared in 67 contests with the Hawks, but the other four occurred in 2016/17 with the Rockets. Taylor has previously signed multiple NBA contracts with Houston and has spent time with the Vipers, so he’ll be re-entering a familiar environment as he looks to play his way back to the NBA.

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

  • James Wiseman, a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, has officially left the University of Memphis and signed with Excel Sports for representation, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links). Woj notes that the seven-footer met with several agents before deciding on Excel.
  • Speaking of the 2020 draft, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic recently shared some of the draft-related tidbits he heard of this month’s G League Showcase. According to Vecenie, draft evaluators are split over who should be the top pick — Anthony Edwards was mentioned most, but Wiseman and LaMelo Ball also have backers.
  • According to a report out of Puerto Rico relayed by Alessandro Maggi of Sportando, Puerto Rico’s new Mets de Guaynabo expansion team was interested in Metta World Peace as its head coach, but the former NBA forward declined an offer.

Stanton Kidd Signs With Australian Team

Former Jazz forward Stanton Kidd has signed with Melbourne United, the team announced on Friday (Twitter link). The club is part of Australia’s National Basketball League.

Kidd, who finished his college career at Colorado State in 2015, has mostly played international ball since then, spending time with teams in Belgium, Germany, and Turkey. The 27-year-old made his NBA debut this fall after signing a partially guaranteed contract with the Jazz in the offseason, appearing in a total of 15 minutes across four games for Utah.

When Utah signed Juwan Morgan last month, Kidd was the odd man out and was placed on waivers to open up a roster spot. He had been a free agent since then, but is now on track to finish the 2019/20 season in Melbourne.

Malachi Richardson Leaves Israel, Will Play In Italy

DECEMBER 16: Italian club Vanoli Cremona has officially signed Richardson (Twitter link).

DECEMBER 14: Former Raptors and Kings guard Malachi Richardson has left his Israeli team and is close to signing with Vanoli Cremona in the Italian league, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reports.

Richardson was averaging 11.2 PPG with Hapoel Holon before he departed the Middle East. Vanoli Cremona is part of the LBA, Italy’s top league. He’s expected to replace an injured player on the Italian club’s roster.

Richardson signed with Hapoel Holon in August. The former Syracuse standout appeared in 22 games with Toronto last season before he was traded to the Sixers in February, who subsequently waived him. He signed a G League contract with the Canton Charge, the Cavs’ affiliate, in March.

In 70 career NBA games, Richardson has averaged 2.8 PPG in 8.9 MPG.