It's gone from the walking wounded to an apparent contract extension for Joel Freeland over the last month, but the Portland Trail Blazers aren't giving up hope just yet on luring "the best big man in Europe" to Rip City.
In fact, they're not even sure there is a lot of validity to recent reports stating Freeland is set to sign a contract extension with Spanish club Unicaja Malaga.
"Joel is aware of how we feel about him and his future with us and we are aware of Joel and his interest in becoming a Trail Blazer," Blazers acting General Manager Chad Buchanan told Ridiculous Upside.
"When the season is over and we can begin to engage in more serious contract talks with Joel we will do so."
Word spread rapidly Tuesday that would leave Freeland's long-awaited debut in the NBA with the Blazers in jeopardy six years after Portland drafted him 30th overall in 2006. According to multiple reports, Freeland - who missed three weeks of action after suffering a sprained right ankle - and his agreement with Malaga would start this season and include a 2.4 million (Euros) buyout clause for any NBA or overseas team.
At 25 years old, Freeland remains on Portland's radar even if a new contract extension comes into play. And while health issues should raise a red flag in any negotiations between the two sides, the Blazers front office is still a little cautious about what is fact and fiction coming out of Spain with Freeland while shoving any health woes to the side.
"We have been in contact with Joel's Spanish and U.S. agents all season long and are very aware of where things are at with his contract extension talks with Unicaja. These talks have no impact on our desire to try and bring Joel over to our team next season. When the season is over and we can begin to engage in more serious contract talks with Joel we will do so."
Freeland returned for Malaga on Feb. 5 and went for 12 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes in a 69-54 loss to Blusens Monbus, and then followed up the performance with 14 points and six rebounds, beating Blancos 83-76 last Saturday.
"He is back playing and showing no effects from his injury. It is not a major concern for us at this point," added Buchanan.
May Makes The Move From Croatia To Italy
Sean May guaranteed that he will be back in the NBA before long, but he didn't mention anything about Italy.
On Tuesday, May officially signed to play in the Lega Basket Serie A with Sutor Montegranaro after putting up some solid numbers this season for KK Zagreb in Croatia as the teams' third leading scorer including 11.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in Turkish Airlines Euroleague competition.
The jump from Croatia to Italy gives May more recognition league-wise in comparison, particularly as he plans ahead to a summer of free agency and aspirations to return to the Association where he last appeared with the New Jersey Nets in 2010 before suffering a stress fracture in his left foot.
If he shows well the rest of this season in Italy and the NBA comeback falls short, then May at least sets himself up for a possible return to Lega Basket Serie A. It will all come down to his production and of course, the ability to stay healthy which May has done.
The other good news: May joins Colby Karl and Jerel McNeal on the roster.
The bad news: Montegranaro sits 7-12 on the season and is ranked 14th in the 17-team league.
Howard Gets Chance For Fresh Start In Germany
The signing of former Buter Bulldog Matt Howard to EnBW Ludwigsburg comes at an interesting time as teams around Germany's Beko BBL begin to fine-tune their rosters for the postseason push.
Howard started the season in Greece with Olympiacos before being released (and replaced by Joey Dorsey) and didn't get the playing time in a tight rotation and only managed to play 10 minutes per game, averaging 4 points and 1.5 rebounds per game in the six games he appeared in. And while Ludwigsburg's head coach Steven Kay commends Howard for his gritty style and "experience for his young age," don't believe the hype the addition of Howard is about Ludwigsburg gearing up for a monster playoff run.
If anything, bringing in Howard may help Ludwigsburg grab a few more wins at 6-15 on the season as they fend off possibly being relegated to Germany's Pro-A 2nd division (the two bottom teams in the Beko BBL fall into the lower division based on their record at the end of the season, while the two top teams from the Pro-A 2nd division advance to the Beko BBL).
Maybe a new start in Germany will do the 6-foot-8 forward some good. Many American import players take time not only to adjust to a new basketball system overseas, but also coping with a new culture off the court often takes time to settle into those foreign surroundings. That comfort level can carry over to the court and either have positive or negative effects. It was the later in Howard's case.
We will find out on Wednesday in his debut for EnBW. Howard arrived in Ludwigsburg on Sunday and will be available for Wednesday's home game against BG Goettingen, who oddly enough occupy the cellar at 2-19 in the Beko BBL.