Xavier Cooks

International Notes: Fournier, Lithuania, Canada, Nunn, Hayes-Davis

With the Pistons considered extremely unlikely to exercise their $19MM team option on Evan Fournier for the 2024/25 season, the French swingman is on track to become a free agent this summer. There has been some speculation that Fournier could return to Europe, where he began his professional career and where he could play a far more significant role than he has the past couple seasons.

It doesn’t sound like that’s Fournier’s Plan A, however. According to Dimitri Kucharczyk of BasketUSA (hat tip to RealGM), while Fournier’s representatives didn’t specifically address rumors linking him to French team ASVEL and Greek club Olympiacos, they indicated that the 31-year-old wants to continue playing in the NBA.

Before being traded to Detroit in February, Fournier had barely seen the court for over a year in New York, having been removed from the team’s rotation during the first half of the 2022/23 season. He saw regular playing time off the bench with the Pistons – 18.7 minutes per night across 29 appearances – but shot just 37.3% from the field and 27.0% from beyond the arc, well below his NBA career averages of 44.1% and 37.4%. That will hurt his stock as he seeks his next contract.

Here are a few more notes from around the international basketball world:

  • As Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops details, Lithuania’s preliminary roster for this summer’s Olympic qualifying tournament is headlined by a pair of NBA big men in Domantas Sabonis and Jonas Valanciunas. However, there are some notable absences too, according to Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews.com, who points out (via Twitter) that former NBA forward Ignas Brazdeikis and projected NBA lottery pick Matas Buzelis aren’t in the mix this summer.
  • It has been a good spring for Canadian guards, with Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker among those who won playoff series. The latest gift for the Canadians’ Olympic medal aspirations, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca, is guard Andrew Nembhard, who played some of the best basketball of his career to keep the Pacers competitive vs. Boston following Tyrese Haliburton‘s hamstring injury. Nembhard is a near-lock to be on Canada’s Olympic roster this summer, says Grange.
  • Greek team Panathinaikos won this year’s EuroLeague title, with former NBA guard Kendrick Nunn scoring 21 points in 24 minutes in the championship game. Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops takes a closer look at Nunn’s memorable year and considers whether the guard is more likely to continue on with Panathinaikos or exercise the NBA out in his contract to return stateside.
  • Former NBA forward Xavier Cooks, who spent the 2023/24 season in Japan after being waived by the Wizards in October, is returning to his home country of Australia, having signed a three-year contract with the Sydney Kings, per a press release.
  • Could a return to the NBA be in the cards for forward Nigel Hayes-Davis? The former Wisconsin standout, who appeared in nine NBA games back in 2017/18, is rumored to be seeking a return, with the Cavaliers among the teams who may have interest, tweets Soritis Vetakis of LiveSports and SDNA. Hayes-Davis has spent the last two seasons with Fenerbahce in Turkey and earned a spot on the All-EuroLeague First Team this spring.

And-Ones: Cousins, Cooks, Eubanks, Valentine

DeMarcus Cousins‘ contract with the Taiwan Beer Leopards, slated to begin in mid-April, will cover a month-and-a-half, sources inform Marc Stein (Twitter link).

The 6’10” big man was a four-time All-Star and a two-time All-NBA honoree while with the Kings and Pelicans. Major lower leg injuries cut his career short at an all-too-brief 11 years.

Following his All-Star prime, he played for the Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, Bucks and Nuggets in brief stints as a reserve. Across 654 total NBA regular season contests, he boasts averages of 19.6 PPG (on .460/.331/.737 shooting), 10.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.3 SPG and 1.1 BPG.

Cousins hasn’t been able to find an NBA home since the end of the 2021/22. He has since played for clubs in Puerto Rico and Taiwan.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Suns reserve big man Drew Eubanks wants to play for the Italian team in a future Olympics, according to Simone Sandri of La Gazzetta (hat tip to Kevin Martorano of Sportando for the translation). “I would certainly like to be able to play in an Olympics,” Eubanks said. “…I like to play competitive games even in the offseason. In fact, the idea of playing different basketball during the summer is intriguing to me and can only be beneficial to my NBA career. The prospect of joining a new team intrigues me, but let’s see what happens with the paperwork and then we’ll decide.”
  • Former Wizards guard Xavier Cooks has inked the biggest deal in the history of Australia’s National Basketball League to return to the Sydney Kings, per Olgun Uluc of ESPN. Cooks, a league MVP, helped propel Sydney to consecutive titles in 2022 and ’23. He has agreed to a three-year contract with the Kings.
  • One-time NBA lottery pick Denzel Valentine, hot off his own stint with the Sydney Kings, has signed a contract for the rest of the 2023/24 season with Italian club Olimpia Milano, per Alessandro Maggic of RealOlimpiaMilano.com. Valentine was selected with the No. 14 pick in 2016 out of Michigan State by the Bulls. He also suited up for the Cavaliers and Jazz.

And-Ones: F. Jackson, G. Davis, W. Bynum, Cooks, More

French team ASVEL confirmed that it has parted ways with former NBA guard Frank Jackson, terminating his contract with the club (Twitter link).

The expectation is that Jackson will move from France to China, according to Dario Skerletic of Sportando, who hears that the 25-year-old will sign a lucrative contract with a team in the Chinese Basketball Association. Jackson appeared in 214 total NBA games for New Orleans, Detroit, and Utah from 2018-23.

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

  • Former NBA players Glen Davis and Will Bynum are the latest to be convicted in relation to a scheme to defraud the league’s health insurance plan, according to a report from The Associated Press. While their sentences likely won’t be as lengthy as that of Terrence Williams, who was deemed the ringleader of the plot and given 10 years in prison, Davis and Bynum will “probably” face some jail time, says Michael McCann of Sportico (subscription required).
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic takes a look at which NBA draft prospects were most impressive at this year’s NCAA Champions Classic, identifying three Kentucky players – freshmen Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham and sophomore Adou Thiero – as a few of the youngsters who have improved their stock at the start of the college season.
  • Former Wizards forward Xavier Cooks received multiple two-way contract offers before deciding to sign with a Japanese team, sources tell Olgun Uluc of ESPN.com. According to Uluc, the belief is that Cooks prioritized “significant” guaranteed money overseas rather than trying to work his way up the NBA ladder.
  • Within the same ESPN story, Uluc says that the Cavaliers, Pistons, Jazz, Kings, Clippers, and Wizards are among the teams who have had representatives in Australia this fall to scout the draft prospects in the country’s National Basketball League.

Xavier Cooks Reportedly Joining Japanese Team

After being waived last month by the Wizards, forward Xavier Cooks has agreed to join the Chiba Jets in Japan’s top basketball league (B.League), reports Olgun Uluc of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Cooks, who was born in Australia, has spent most of his professional career playing for the Sydney Kings after going undrafted out of Winthrop in 2018. After helping lead the Kings to a National Basketball League title earlier this year, the 28-year-old signed a four-year contract with the Wizards in March that included two guaranteed seasons — 2022/23 and ’23/24.

Cooks appeared in 10 games down the stretch last season with Washington, averaging 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 12.6 minutes per night. However, the team overhauled its front office in the offseason, replacing the decision-makers who initially brought him aboard.

When the Wizards faced a roster crunch this fall, with 17 players on guaranteed contracts battling for 15 standard roster spots, Cooks was one of the odd men out despite his guaranteed $1,719,864 salary, which he’ll still receive from Washington.

Cooks is set to join a Chiba Jets team that plays its home games in Funabashi, just east of Tokyo. The club – which features one other former NBA player, D.J. Stephens – is off to an 8-6 start this season in B.League play and has won all three of its games in the East Asia Super League.

Wizards Cut Taj Gibson, Xavier Cooks

The Wizards have reduced their roster from 17 players on standard contracts to 15 by waiving big man Taj Gibson and forward Xavier Cooks, reports Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Washington faced a roster crunch this fall, with all 17 of their players on standard contracts owed fully guaranteed salaries in 2023/24. Neither Gibson nor Cooks projected to have a significant rotation role in D.C. and neither one was owed any guaranteed money beyond this season, making them logical candidates to be the odd men out.

Gibson, who has 14 years of NBA experience under his belt, spent last season with the Wizards, averaging 3.4 points and 1.9 rebounds in a career-low 9.8 minutes per game across 49 appearances. After reaching unrestricted free agency, the 38-year-old earned a new one-year, minimum-salary contract from Washington, but was unable to claim a regular season spot.

Assuming Gibson goes unclaimed on waivers, the Wizards will remain on the hook for his $2,019,706 cap charge and the forward/center will earn his full $3,196,448 salary.

As for Cooks, the Australian-born forward had spent most of his professional career playing for the Sydney Kings after going undrafted out of Winthrop in 2018. After helping lead the Kings to a National Basketball League title earlier this year, Cooks signed a four-year contract with the Wizards in March that included two guaranteed seasons — last year and this year.

Cooks’ $1,719,864 salary will remain on the Wizards’ books for 2023/24, but the team won’t have to pay his $2,019,699 salary for 2024/25 or his $2,187,451 team option for ’25/26.

Having signed center John Butler to a two-way contract earlier today, Washington now has a full 18-man roster entering the regular season — 15 players on standard deals and three on two-ways.

International Notes: Egypt, Rana, Japan, Cooks, Mamukelashvili

Egyptian national team coach Roy Rana has his team on the precipice of clinching an Olympic berth for the first time since 1988. The African Olympic spot appears to be down to Egypt and South Sudan, with Egypt playing New Zealand next and South Sudan squaring off against Angola in its next matchup.

Rana already led his team to its first win in 29 years thanks to a win over Mexico, according to Sportsnet’s Michael Grange. The 30-year coaching veteran has been all over the basketball world, coaching everywhere from Toronto Metropolitan University to the NBA’s Kings.

“Yeah, I probably don’t [reflect on my path] as much as I maybe used to,” Rana said in an interview with Grange. “But, you know, I do have a real sense of inner satisfaction that I was willing to go for it because a lot of people they’re just not willing to take those risks. Like at 50 I decided to leave [TMU] where I probably could have had a job for life. And I took the plunge and said, I’m gonna go for it. And I feel really good that I was willing to take that risk, and it’s allowed me to live the last four years of my life in a way that I never would have dreamed, and it’s been nothing but positive. It’s been really good.”

While several teams have already qualified for the second group stage of the World Cup, teams 17-32 are still to be determined. Further, Egypt is one of five African teams in competition for a spot in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. The match between Egypt and Rana has been a strong one, with Rana first getting the team’s attention for his work during the 2019 U19 World Cup in Cairo while coaching Canada.

“I think everybody knows my history in international basketball,” Rana said. “I got some feedback that Egypt was looking for a coach and started that conversation and pretty quickly started to realize that there was some talent there. I didn’t really know what was going on with basketball in North Africa … other than being there in 2017 — but as I explored it started to really get pretty interesting pretty quickly. You know, it just made sense at the time so I said, hey, why not? I just took the plunge. It’s been an incredible opportunity.”

Egypt’s roster doesn’t feature any active NBA players. However, Patrick Gardner is on the team and is reportedly going to join the Nets for training camp.

We have more notes from around the World Cup:

  • Japan defeated Venezuela 86-77 in the 2023 FIBA World Cup and is now just one win away from qualifying for the 2024 Olympics, according to a piece from ESPN. Japan was led in scoring by Makoto Hiejima with 23 points and current Suns wing Yuta Watanabe, who scored 21 points in a 15-point comeback. A win on Saturday against Cape Verde would clinch a spot in the Olympics for the second straight year for Japan. Watanabe is the only active NBA player on Japan’s roster.
  • The Wizards turned heads last spring when they signed Xavier Cooks, a longtime star for the NBL’s Sydney Kings to a deal. Cooks is now dominating during his time with Australia and is aiming to help the Boomers win the World Cup with his play during the event, ESPN’s Olgun Uluc writes. Cooks is averaging 14.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for Australia and is impressing with his ability to switch, defend and hustle. “I’m just trying to leave everything on the floor,” Cooks said. The 6’8″ forward is winning over his teammates and coaches with his play, which is evident through their trust in him to run the floor. I recommend reading Uluc’s piece in full, as Cooks gives an insightful look into his play.
  • Another player who found a new home last year, Spurs forward/center Sandro Mamukelashvili is standing out with his World Cup play for Georgia’s national team. In a subscriber-only link, Nick Moyle of San Antonio Express-News takes a look at Mamukelashvili’s performance. The 24-year-old big man put up 21 points and seven rebounds in a loss against Slovenia. The Spurs re-signed the Seton Hall product this summer after claiming him off his two-way contract from the Bucks and then converting him to a standard deal.

World Cup Notes: Edwards, RHJ, Hart, Ingram, Thanasis, Canada

Even though Team USA’s 48-point win over Jordan on Wednesday wasn’t exactly a tightly contested affair, former Timberwolves teammates Anthony Edwards and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson enjoyed going back and forth at each other in the third and final first-round game at the World Cup, writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

Edwards had a game-high 22 points, edging out Hollis-Jefferson, who scored 20. The two were on Minnesota’s roster together for a brief period during the 2020 preseason, when RHJ served as a veteran mentor ahead of Edwards’ rookie year. Hollis-Jefferson didn’t end up making the Wolves’ regular season roster.

“We haven’t seen each other since then, so it was fun,” Edwards said. “And yeah, we was talking with smack out there for sure.”

U.S. head coach Steve Kerr made one lineup change ahead of the game vs. Jordan, replacing Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram in the starting five with Knicks forward Josh Hart. As Windhorst observes, Ingram had struggled as spot-up shooter with the first unit and was able to have the ball in his hands more as a reserve. It sounds like the change could stick.

“We just felt like it was important to take a look at Josh with the starting group and Brandon with the next group to see if the combinations fit,” Kerr said after the victory. “I liked what I saw. The game wasn’t competitive, but there was good flow with both groups.”

“They thought it was a better fit for me playing with Tyrese [Haliburton] and playing with some guys that are a little less ball dominant than Jalen [Brunson] and Ant,” Ingram told Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. “They just talked about it being a better fit, and I agreed with them.”

Here are a few more World Cup notes:

  • Hollis-Jefferson is one of nine non-U.S. players identified by Alberto De Roa of HoopsHype as breakout performers through three World Cup games. Bulls guard Carlik Jones (South Sudan), Wizards forward Xavier Cooks (Australia), and Heat forward Nikola Jovic (Serbia) are among the NBAers who have impressed, as De Roa details.
  • Bucks forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who injured his left adductor in Monday’s loss to the U.S., returned to action for Greece on Wednesday. However, Antetokounmpo played a limited role in the win over New Zealand that clinched the Greeks a spot in the second round, recording more fouls (4) than points (2) in his 14 minutes.
  • The Canadian national team – which had the best point differential (+111) of any club in the first round – is finally realizing its potential on the international stage, says Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. Canada has had no shortage of players in the NBA over the last decade, but those players haven’t always participated in international competitions and have struggled to quickly establish chemistry in the events they’ve played.

And-Ones: Boomers, Awards, Thibodeau, Butler, Gilbert

All but one of the 11 Australian players in the NBA have been named to the extended Australian Boomers squad for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Olgun Uluc of ESPN reports. The exception is a notable one — the Nets’ Ben Simmons, though there’s a possibility he’ll be added ahead of the selection camp.

Simmons recently expressed interest in playing for Australia in this year’s World Cup.

Some of the NBA current or past players who made the 18-man list include Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Josh Green, Jock Landale, Matisse ThybulleJosh Giddey, Dyson Daniels, Xavier Cooks and Thon Maker. The team will eventually be pared to 12 players.

We have from around the basketball world:

  • It’s going to be a busy week in terms of NBA awards announcements, the league’s communications department tweets. The All-Rookie team will be revealed on Monday, the All-Defensive Team will be unveiled on Tuesday and the All-NBA team will be announced on Wednesday. The Teammate of the Year award will be announced on Thursday.
  • Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is looking for ways to slow down red-hot Jimmy Butler and the Heat. ESPN’s Nick Friedell takes an in-depth look at the relationship between Thibodeau and his former player.
  • Nick Gilbert, son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, has died at the age of 26, according to ESPN’s News Services. Nick Gilbert had a lifelong battle with neurofibromatosis (NF1), which causes noncancerous tumors to grow on the brain, spinal cord and skin. He became well-known to NBA fans for being Cleveland’s good luck charm at the draft lottery, as the Cavs twice got the top pick when he was the team’s lottery representative.

Southeast Notes: Martin, Ball, Cooks, Murray

Cody Martin is doing his best to help the Hornets as a leader from the sidelines, but it’s not a role he enjoys, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. A troublesome left knee has limited Martin to seven games in his first season since signing a four-year, $31MM contract.

Martin’s injury problems began in training camp, Boone notes, and he was only able to suit up for one of the team’s five preseason games. Martin played just 56 seconds in the regular season opener and underwent arthroscopic surgery on November 11. He returned in early January after missing 37 games, but could only play six more times before being sidelined again.

“You never go into a season thinking something like this is going to happen,” Martin said. “You are not really ever prepared for it. It’s very, very frustrating. This is the first time I’ve ever had to sit out for an extended period of time. So I’m just trying to do my best to be positive mentally and just continue to do whatever I can rehab-wise and do what the training staff is saying. Unfortunately, it’s taken this long. I’m just trying to be smart with it, I’m just trying to be consistent with it, just do whatever I can.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • After undergoing ankle surgery three weeks ago, Hornets guard LaMelo Ball said he’s dedicated to rehab and plans to be 100% by the start of training camp, Boone tweets. Ball added that he still enjoys being in Charlotte, saying, “Yeah, I love it here.”
  • Fresh off winning an NBL title with the Sydney Kings, Xavier Cooks hopes to help the Wizards with their playoff push, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Australian forward signed with the team on Friday and made his NBA debut Saturday night. “It’s been a lifelong dream to get here,” Cooks said. “It’s taken me 27 years to get here. I’m, what, five years out of college? My dream is a little bit different than everybody else’s.”
  • Hawks guard Dejounte Murray feels like he got “closure” when Spurs fans gave him a warm reception in his return to San Antonio for Sunday’s game, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I felt like it was what it should be,” Murray said. “We showed nothing but love, both sides, from myself, the fans, the organization.”

Wizards Sign Xavier Cooks To Multiyear Deal

MARCH 17: After leading the Sydney Kings to an NBL title, Cooks has officially signed his multiyear contract with the Wizards, the team announced today in a press release.

“We welcome Xavier to the Wizards organization as a very intelligent, high-energy player that will add athleticism to our squad while being a great teammate,” Wizards president/GM Tommy Sheppard said in a statement. “He left a lasting legacy in the NBL to pursue his dream to play in the NBA and we feel he will be an excellent addition now and in the future.”

According to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link), the Wizards used a portion of their mid-level exception to give Cooks a four-year, $6.1MM contract that is fully guaranteed through 2023/24. Cooks’ 2024/25 salary will be non-guaranteed and the Wizards will hold a team option for ’25/26.

MARCH 5: The Wizards have reached an agreement with forward Xavier Cooks that could keep him rostered through the 2023/24 season, his agent Daniel Moldovan informs Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Exact terms of the deal have yet to be divulged.

Woj notes that Cooks, currently playing for the Sydney Kings of Australia’s National Basketball League, is the reigning NBL MVP. Cooks is in the midst of an NBL Finals series with Sydney. Woj adds that the 27-year-old will complete a contract buyout with the Kings and hop stateside once the Finals conclude, either this week or next.

The 6’8″ forward is averaging 16.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, 0.6 BPG and 0.5 SPG for Sydney this season. He boasts shooting splits of .596/.333/.538.

The Australian-born Cooks played college stateside at Winthrop. He went undrafted in 2018, and had his first post-NCAA basketball experience with German club s.Oliver Würzburg in 2018/19 before joining the Kings the following year. He led the Kings to a title in 2022 and was named the NBL Grand Final MVP for his efforts. He has also been named to one All-NBL First Team honoree and one All-NBL Second Team.

As Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link) notes, current 10-day contract signee Jamaree Bouyea will come off the Wizards’ books by the time the NBL Finals end, opening up a spot on the 15-man roster for Cooks.