When I wrote my first blog entry, I had been at home for roughly a month and a half since being released from my former team in Turkey. I was sitting in my apartment, and had just finished packing up my belongings. Earlier in the summer, I had only signed a 6 month lease on my apartment which was to end in the middle of December. Since I was supposed to be in Turkey until May, that should have been a non-issue. Obviously though, things changed.
Prior to this season, I had been sent home from a team I was playing for twice before. The first time was during my third year in China, when my team decided they were bored of me even though I was leading the CBA in rebounding and 2nd in blocked shots. They released me mainly because they discovered they could get a larger name former NBA player.
I had been home for less than a month, when I decided to go to the NBDL(the NBA Developmental League) in hopes that an NBA team would see me playing there and would want to offer me a 10-day contract. At the end of my second game in the D-League, I ended up hurting my knee. At the time I wasn’t sure how bad it was, but as it turned out I had torn cartilage in my knee, and would be out for the better portion of 13 months(the most difficult 13 months of my entire career, which is worth an entire blog entry in itself).
Unfortunately for me as well, timing has never been my strong suit. 12 hours after the injury happened, my team from China called me and tried to get me to come back for almost twice the money I had been making for them earlier in the year. But I knew I was injured, so I had to turn the offer down.
Shit. Well…to be fair, I didn’t totally turn it down. Knowing I was injured(and that they wouldn’t agree to this), I basically just told them they needed to up my pay by 3x the amount I had been making earlier that year. As expected, they said no.
The other time I’d been sent home before this, I had just come back from that 13 month-long injured period, and was playing in the PBA in the Philippines. Two days after I arrived to the Philippines, I had a sub-par PRESEASON game, and the team panicked and decided to buy someone out of their D-League contract to replace me. They then told me that they wanted me to play the first two real games, and that there was the potential they could still keep me.
We won both of these games fairly easily, with me scoring 15 points and getting 15 rebounds the first game – foul trouble kept me out for much of the 2nd half, and scoring 32 points and grabbing 21 rebounds in the final game. Obviously though, the team had no thoughts of keeping me to begin with, because despite the results they still sent me home.
In all honesty, this was absolutely heartbreaking. I had fought for 13 months to come back from an injury that at times I honestly didn’t know I’d ever be able to come back from. I was finally back to playing professional basketball, and then had it taken away from me really for no reason whatsoever.
In that final game, I gave everything I had; absolutely everything. After the game was over, I was on my way off the court, and had to stop as I was overcome with emotion. No matter what the team decided to do with my contract, I knew that everything I had gone through to come back from the injury had paid off. I had proved to myself that once again, I was back to being able to perform at the highest level. A photographer captured this moment, and that is the picture I have above this paragraph.
Being sent home from Turkey this season was tough as well, but not quite along the same lines of these previous two instances. I hadn’t been happy in Turkey, and it was potentially only a matter of time before something happened and either they released me or I asked to be released. It was just a bad fit, which sometimes happens in this business. It really only became difficult for me when teams started promising contracts and then dropping off the face of the earth.
While I was home I had two teams in Israel as well as various teams across the world, contact me and say they were about to offer me a contract. But several times, the offer never came, and my agents and I never heard from them again. After the 4th time this happened within a month, I began to question how long I’d be sitting at home with no income and potentially no place to live.
It wouldn’t make sense to rent another apartment, as I needed to be prepared to leave at any moment, so I ended up moving in with my cousin and his family. Being in that atmosphere was good, as playing with his daughter(my goddaughter)was a good way to take my mind off of the slight depression I was feeling.
While I was there, I developed some interest from a few teams in the Middle East, who looked like they would potentially want me to come play for them towards the middle of January. As such, in mid December I started really working more to get back into game shape. But, as luck would have it, I had far less time than I expected to do this.
A few days before Christmas, as we were all sitting down to dinner, my phone rang. One of my agents was on the other line, and the first thing he said was “are you sitting down?”. He proceeded to explain to me that there was a team in Australia that had two of their big guys get injured, and needed someone right away. A person working for an NBA team who happened to have a good relationship with the CEO of this team, had reached out to my agent with the opportunity. There was just one catch; they wanted me on a plane to Australia in less than 24 hours.
Welcome to my life.
After about a half hour, I decided that I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. I had never been to Australia before despite having always wanted to go. The Australian league is also one of the higher level leagues in the world(though we don’t hear much about it at all). The team booked my flights the next morning, and the day after that I was on my way to Melbourne, Australia.
Well, sort of. Ready to hear about my trip from hell?
So here’s how my trip should’ve went:
-6 hour flight from New York City to Los Angeles
-4 hour layover in Los Angeles
-15 hour flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne
25 hours total…not that bad in all honesty. But of course, things didn’t quite work out that way.
It started off smoothly enough, as the flight to LA departed on time, and we had no delays in flight…that is, until we got to Los Angeles. Once we were within range, we were placed in a holding pattern. We stayed in this holding pattern for over 2 hours, until the pilot came onto the microphone informing us that we were going to have to land at another airport to refuel.
So we flew 25 minutes over to Ontario to refuel there. Between the refueling and then having to wait a ridiculous amount of time for Ontario ground personnel to perform the pre-flight maintenance checks, we were on the ground there for another 2 hours. Eventually, they got everything taken care of, and we flew back to LA. Once we touched down, everyone gave a bit of a cheer. It even looked like I could still potentially make it onto my connecting flight, as that had been delayed as well.
We were on the ground for another 2.5 hours, unable to exit the aircraft because we had not been given a gate to dock at. Once we FINALLY arrived at the gate and I walked off the plane, I checked the time on my cell phone. We were supposed to arrive at LAX at 820pm…it was now after 3am. All of this, because some moron left his backpack in LAX unattended, and they shut the airport down for a few hours earlier in the day.
I walked off the plane, and was directed to a line of 300 people waiting to talk to only 2 airline representatives to rebook on their flights. Since I was exhausted, I called the team, and basically left it on them to get my flight rebooked; I needed a hotel and some sleep. The team was great, and they rebooked me for a flight the next day.
I arrived back to the airport about 2 hours before the flight was supposed to leave, and because apparently LAX still hadn’t fully recovered from the day before, ended up there for almost 7 hours waiting for my flight to be ready to leave.