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NBA PM: Former NBA Players Making Overseas Debuts

A look at some of the notable NBA players who will make their overseas debut next season.

Cody Taylor

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As NBA teams continue to fill out their rosters, many players are beginning to head overseas. A number of fringe players are opting to sign for the significant guaranteed money that is available from international clubs.

For these players, catching on with an NBA team can sometimes be challenging. They have to grind through the Summer League, followed by training camp and the preseason to even have a chance at earning a contract. With so much risk involved, it makes more sense for some of these players to take the guaranteed pay day. They feel that having a great season internationally can help them earn a guaranteed contract in the NBA.

Some of the players who are heading overseas include some very popular NBA guys. We’ve seen quite a few players over the past few weeks opt to leave the confines of the NBA for international basketball. Some of these players are on the tail end of their career, while some just haven’t been able to fully catch on with an NBA team.

Here are some of the most notable players who will be leaving the United States and making their international debut next season (all of these players have previously played in the NBA and have yet to play overseas):

Amar’e Stoudemire, Hapoel Jerusalem (Israel):

Stoudemire’s decision to sign a two-year deal to play in Israel next season shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Prior to joining the Miami HEAT last season, Stoudemire hinted that he could play in Israel after his NBA career was over. He’s talked in-depth about his Jewish roots in the past. Amar’e had been a minority owner of Hapoel Jerusalem since 2013, providing another hint that this move has been on his mind for quite some time.

Stoudemire appeared in 52 games last season with the Miami HEAT and averaged 5.8 points per game. He earned starts in 37 of the last 40 games for the HEAT in an attempt to bring a smaller lineup to the court. Stoudemire said that he felt great after last season and can still perform at a high level.

Jimmer Fredette, Shanghai Sharks (China):

Fredette decided to head to China after bouncing around the NBA over the past several seasons. He spent last season in the D-League in an attempt to return to the NBA and was able to earn a 10-day contract with the New York Knicks. He averaged 21 points on 41 percent shooting from three-point range in the D-League.

After last season ended, Fredette joined the Denver Nuggets’ Summer League team in Las Vegas. He averaged 15.2 points in five games for the Nuggets before opting to sign in China. For Fredette, it was likely the size of the contract that persuaded him to leave the United States, as ESPN reported that his deal in China is “north of $1 million.”

Russ Smith, Galatasaray Odeabank (Turkey):

After a couple of seasons bouncing between the NBA and D-League, Smith will head to Turkey next season. In two seasons in the NBA, Smith appeared in 27 games between the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies.

Smith spent the majority of last season in the D-League. He averaged 27.9 points, 7.9 assists, five rebounds and 2.1 steals per game for the Delaware 87ers. He set the D-League scoring record for a single game after dropping 65 points in March against the Canton Charge. Smith worked out for a number of NBA teams this offseason, but decided to take his talents to Turkey on what is likely a nice contract.

Carlos Boozer, Guangdong Southern Tigers (China):

Boozer has reportedly agreed to play next season in China. He spent all of last season out of the NBA, but managed to stay in shape in order to attempt a comeback. He still wants to return to the NBA and could use next season in China as a chance to show that he can still play.

His season figures to end by March and he could join a team around that time to add depth for the postseason. Boozer last played for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2014-15 season, when he averaged 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in 71 games. The two-time All-Star has played 13 seasons in the NBA.

Cameron Bairstow, Brisbane Bullets (Australia):

Bairstow isn’t nearly as popular as some of the other players on this list, but he did spend the past two seasons with the Chicago Bulls. He played in 18 games in each of those seasons, drawing three total starts during that time frame.

For Bairstow, it was the playing time in Australia that became his biggest reason for leaving the NBA. He averaged less than five minutes per game when he did see the court for the Bulls. His deal is reportedly for two seasons, with a player option for the second year, which will give him the chance to return to the NBA if an opportunity presents itself.

*****

While there have been plenty of players with NBA experience who opt to play abroad, these players above are the most notable who are making their international debuts next season. Most of these players will be using their time overseas in an attempt to make a return to the NBA and will be able to make more money than they’d be able to earn in the D-League or on a minimum contract.

Did we leave anyone out? Hit the comments and let us know if we forgot a player!

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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