Spanish power-club Laboral Kutxa Vitoria – Baskonia in short – have kicked off its season on the wrong foot.
Led by head coach Marco Crespi, an Italian tactician and former scout for the Boston Celtics, Baskonia put together a promising squad. However, over the weekend, wind has shifted in Espana as multiple players have either left or are leaning toward a split.
Small forward Ryan Gomes, a 32-year-old former NBA veteran who once suited up for the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder, recently cut ties with the club.
“He was forced to leave,” a source familiar with the player’s thinking told Basketball Insiders. “Gomes loved the team and his coach, but someone upstairs was holding him back.”
Gomes and Crespi have strong ties and at one point last season both parties were in discussions of a possible pact with Siena, but talks didn’t materialize once Oklahoma City stepped in with a contract.
In Spain, Gomes was on a roll during the preseason, but somehow took a backseat once the season began. He appeared in one Euroleague showcase where he put up eight points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field and seven rebounds in the team’s only Euro-competition victory thus far this season.
According to sources with knowledge of the person calling the shots in Baskonia, Gomes, who registered three DNPs in the Spanish ACB League, was ordered to sit out in favor of president’s Josean Querejeta underachieving signing Kim Tillie, who agreed to join Vitoria months before Crespi was hired. Baskonia, in case you wondered, are seed No. 15 with a poor 1-3 record.
Whispers around Baskonia indicate that Querejeta pulls the strings, urging his coaching staff to provide extensive game-time for “his guys on multi-year contracts,” said the source — after his previous grossly overpaid signings Devon Van Oostrum, Walter Hodge and Adam Hanga were given significant checks to play for other squads this summer.
Former Indiana Pacers shooting guard Orlando Johnson, sources say, is also on his way toward terminating his Spanish agreement. The former 2012 NBA draftee, averages six points on 16.7 percent shooting from the perimeter, and 1.8 rebounds in 19 minutes per game.
Slovenian shooter Sasha Vujacic, a two-time NBA ring holder as a L.A. Laker, is negotiating a deal with the Spaniards.
The one-month contract for big man D.J. White expires next week, after the club failed to buyout another underachieving previous signing, Lamont Hamilton, as expected, due to his exorbitant contract. Over the weekend, White went scoreless in three minutes of action in a loss to Greek club Olympiacos, and then was not registered in the ACB due to Hamilton’s presence.
A buyout for Thomas Huertel in Turkey never got off the ground once Querejeta asked Fenerbahce and Efes to pay two million dollars, despite the French point guard’s contract expiring this summer. The team’s chemistry hasn’t been the same since.
Despite positive showings in a narrow loss at Olympiacos this past weekend and in a double-digit home derby victory against Bilbao, management is again looking to make significant changes in axing most of the American players on the squad.
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