Ergin Ataman

International Notes: Howard, Bjelica, Ataman, Yabusele

The opportunity to earn guaranteed money was behind Markus Howard‘s decision to sign with Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz in the EuroLeague, he explained on the Role Player Podcast. Howard spent the past two seasons with the Nuggets on a two-way contract, and although he had two-way offers from other NBA teams, he opted for more security in Europe.

“Two years, that’s what I was saying,” Howard explained of his commitment to the NBA. “Because honestly I could have taken a two-way with a lot of teams now and maybe had more chances to play. Maybe. But at the end of the day, I’m not going through what I went through in Denver. I ain’t doing that again. I have a family. It’s not just me. … I want to earn my keep. I want to feel like I earned what I get.”

Howard appeared in 31 games last season and 37 games as a rookie, but he only averaged 5.6 minutes per night. He became frustrated by the inconsistent playing time and the constant uncertainty about his NBA future.

“I don’t look the part,” said Howard, who’s only 5’10”. “So they have no problem throwing you to the side. … Being in college for four years, you don’t get comfortable, but you understand where you are in your position on a team. In the NBA, you never know and you’re walking on tippy toes. For me, just having that mindset every day, like I could be gone.”

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Former Warriors forward Nemanja Bjelica, who signed with Fenerbahce last week, may have to miss the EuroBasket tournament because of a calf injury, according to a Eurohoops report. He was hurt this week on a non-contact play in Serbia’s exhibition game with Montenegro.
  • Ergin Ataman of Turkey’s Anadolu Efes, the reigning Coach of the Year in the EuroLeague, was rumored for NBA assistant jobs this summer but said the prospect doesn’t excite him, writes Bugra Uzar of Eurohoops“My goal to go to the NBA has decreasing chances because I see that the NBA is a different world,” Ataman said. “Their perspective of basketball head coaches in Europe is very different. No European coach has ever gone from Europe to the NBA as a head coach. There is no NBA history, zero.”
  • Guerschon Yabusele, who spent two seasons with the Celtics, talks to Eurohoops about the joy he gets from being a starter with Real Madrid and the French national team.

And-Ones: Bronny, Ataman, Teodosic, Instagram

A lot of high-profile college programs are pursuing Bronny James, the son of LeBron James, according to ESPN national recruiting director Paul Biancardi (Insider link).

There’s a “strong feeling” that Bronny James will go the college route next year, according to Biancardi, with UCLA, USC, Michigan, Oregon and Ohio State among the teams recruiting him. LeBron has said his dream is to finish his NBA career playing with his son, who will be draft-eligible in 2024.

We have more from around the international basketball world:

  • The EuroLeague’s reigning coach of the year Ergin Ataman says it’s unlikely he’ll wind up as an NBA head coach, he indicated an interview with Turkish digital channel VOLE (hat tip to “My goal to go to the NBA has decreasing chances because I see that the NBA is a different world,” he said. “… Their perspective of basketball head coaches in Europe is very different. No European coach has ever gone from Europe to the NBA as a head coach. There is no NBA history, zero.” 
  • Former NBA guard Milos Teodosic had an agreement in place with Serbia’s Crvena Zvevda but it was nixed by Virtus Bologna, according to Sportando. Crvena Zvezda president Nebojsa Covic made that assertion in a Pink TV interview. “I’ve spoken at length with Teodosic and we agreed on pretty much everything about him joining us,” he said. “It was Virtus who said no, because it would have made things difficult for the club and because their supporters are fond of Teodosic.”
  • In the Instagram world, the NBA is much more popular than any other U.S. professional league. The NBA officially surpassed 70 million followers on Instagram, making it a top-10 most-followed brand on the platform, according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball News. The NBA has more followers than all the other major American sports leagues combined — the NFL (25 million), MLB (8.9 million) and NHL (5.5 million).

And-Ones: Gobert, Ibaka, Wembanyama, Ataman, Abogidi

Utah center Rudy Gobert, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, will compete for France in the FIBA EuroBasket tournament this summer, writes Yann Ohnona of French outlet L’Equipe (hat tip to Gobert said he had some concerns about his knee, but his MRI was clear so he’ll be ready to go in a few months (the event runs from September 1-18).

It’s been a few days that it’s been clear in my head,” he said, per L’Equipe. “The process took some time. If I listened to myself, I would still be 200 percent to go, but in recent years I’ve had a few breaks because of knee pain.

Once I had an MRI to ensure there was no problem, I was able to organize my summer. It was important that everything was clear in my head before I committed. The fact that Evan [Fournier] is there is a factor, I love going to war with him.”

Gobert helped guide France to a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Veteran center Serge Ibaka, who’s an unrestricted free agent this summer, hopes to play for Spain at EuroBasket, as reported by Spanish journalist Marc Mundet (hat tip to Ibaka hasn’t played for Spain in international competition since 2014 at the FIBA World Cup. After undergoing back surgery last June, Ibaka struggled to regain his old form this season, averaging just 6.8 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 54 games (16.2 MPG) for the Clippers and Bucks.
  • French phenom Victor Wembanyama is the reason why NBA teams are already eyeing the 2023 draft, according to Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated, who says Wembanyama is the most hyped prospect since LeBron James and “would likely have rated as the top prospect in any draft in the past decade,” including 2022, were he eligible. The 7’3″ big man possesses a 7’9″ wingspan and a tantalizing combination of mobility and skill, Woo notes. Rival teams believe the Thunder will continue their losing ways for at least one more season to keep their hat in the ring for a chance to select the 18-year-old in ’23, Woo writes.
  • Turkish National Team head coach Ergin Ataman, who has led Anadolu Efes to two consecutive EuroLeague titles, has emerged as a candidate for an NBA assistant coaching job, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Ataman joked about joining Gregg Popovich‘s staff in San Antonio earlier this month after the long-time coach came to watch the EuroLeague Final Four, per Donatas Urbonas of “Maybe after three consecutive final appearances, he (Popovich) thinks that let’s take one European coach to the NBA and help me go to the NBA,” Ataman laughed. “He’s a good friend of mine. He helped me a lot four years ago when I went to San Antonio. I stayed ten days with him. He’s an amazing person.”
  • Former Washington State center Efe Abogidi, who withdrew from the ’22 draft earlier today, is expected to sign with G League Ignite, reports Jeff Goodman of Stadium (via Twitter). The big man averaged 8.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 1.8 BPG in 37 games (20.9 MPG) for the Cougars as a sophomore last season.