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Sonny Weems, Nando De Colo Starring Overseas

Sonny Weems and Nando De Colo are starring overseas, but haven’t ruled out a return to the NBA.

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Weems Chose CSKA Over NBA Teams

Established overseas swingman Sonny Weems is still getting calls from NBA teams. In fact, he turned down multiple NBA opportunities this past offseason.

Weems, a former NBA draftee who played 140 games for the Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors, is widely accepted as the best and most skilled small forward outside the NBA.

It wasn’t long ago that Weems single-handedly shut down the reigning Euroleague Champions Maccabi Tel Aviv — outscoring the entire Israeli squad 13-12 throughout the first quarter — as Russian power-club CSKA Moscow cruised to an easy 81-64 triumph. Weems finished with a game-high 19 points.

“I was open to going back to the NBA, but the offers weren’t what I was looking for as far as money and contract lengths go,” Weems told Basketball Insiders during a one-on-one chat.

After putting up career-highs for the Raptors during the 2010-2011 season with 9.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game, Weems headed across the pond for the fist time. He signed with Zalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania (home for former Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Will Cherry). It wasn’t a smooth transition, but over time, Weems re-invented himself as an elite all-around player.

“He has the complete package,” said a longtime Euroleague coach.

Weems then spent time under former Los Angeles Lakers adviser and current San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina at CSKA Moscow. He became the go-to player for the Russians, but ultimately missed a game-winning three-pointer that could’ve sent Moscow to the Euroleague Finals. He averaged 12.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.7 dimes over 29 Euroleague appearances last season.

So what’s keeping him out of the NBA?

“I couldn’t really pursue the NBA because some of the teams I spoke to wanted to wait and I didn’t want to wait,” Weems said. “I had a couple offers from a few teams in the league. One of the more serious organizations was the Atlanta Hawks, offering a fully-guaranteed deal. CSKA, however, presented me with a great offer that I couldn’t refuse.”

Curious as to what a “great offer” means? Well, according to sources, Weems inked a long-term $10 million agreement with CSKA, cementing himself as the highest-paid player overseas.

“I’m 28 years old, I’m not getting any younger, and a basketball career is short,” Weems said. “CSKA is pretty much my team. I have a lot of control over here and can basically do whatever I want. I think I made a smart move career-wise.”

Coached by Greek master-mind Dimitris Itoudis, in my opinion the next NBA-bound Euro-coach (even as an assistant), Weems has been golden and elevated his game. He’s averaging a career-high 15 points, shooting 41 percent from the perimeter and 83 percent from the free throw line.

Furthermore, Weems is the highest-ranked non-PG in the Euroleague in assists with 4.8 dimes per game – ahead of ultra-talented passers such as Carlos Arroyo, Sergio Llull, Dontaye Draper, Nikos Zisis, and Marcelinho Huertas.

De Colo Hopes to Return to the NBA Eventually

During the recent off-season, French guard Nando De Colo opted to leave the NBA and return to Europe. His career in the United States — with the San Antonio Spurs and the Toronto Raptors — to his surprise, was short-lived.

After winning the EuroCup championship with Spanish club Valencia then reaching the Euroleague quarter-finals the following season, De Colo made the jump to the NBA in 2012, signing with San Antonio.

De Colo, a proven European-winner and All-Star MVP in France, had high hopes that his pact with the Spurs, an organization with a European identity, could work.

However, the 27-year-old Frenchman never took flight. De Colo registered spotty minutes off the bench, averaging 3.8 points and 1.9 assists over 72 games his first season, and 4.3 points to go along with 1.2 dimes through 26 showings in his second season. In between, he had multiple assignments with the Austin Toros of the NBA D-League.

In February, De Colo was traded to the Raptors, posting 3.8 points and 1.6 assists per game over 21 appearances. Despite his averages dropping in Canada, the former Olympian was open to returning to the Raptors for another run.

“I wanted to stay with the Toronto Raptors,” De Colo told Basketball Insiders. “It wasn’t easy to leave the NBA, but I didn’t get enough opportunities and I felt I was losing my rhythm. I had to return to Europe.

“I had discussions with the Raptors over the summer. The team told me, ‘We want you next season and we’ll try to get you more playing time.’ I was excited because it’s much easier to fit in with a team during training camp as opposed to joining mid-season through a trade.”

De Colo said he had talks with the Raptors, in addition to a couple other NBA teams that expressed interest, but it was too late. De Colo had pulled the trigger, signing a two-year, €3 million contract with CSKA Moscow in Russia.

“I now understand how the NBA works, it’s all a matter of opportunities,” De Colo said. “Although it was a difficult experience for me, I’m not finished with the NBA. I still want to go back.

“For now, I’m focused on winning with CSKA, and did what was best for my career.”

Do you think Weems or De Colo could return to the NBA? Leave your thoughts in a comment!

David Pick has extensively covered European basketball and American players abroad since 2010. His work can be found at Eurobasket.com and ONE.co.il. Follow him on Twitter @iamdpick

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