Kenyon Martin and JR Smith had their time. Wilson Chandler is next.
But when it comes to NBA players who spent their days filling it up in the Chinese Basketball Association only to make a jump back to the league, there is one free agent left out of sight and out of mind: Gani Lawal.
That's right. The former Georgia Tech product who was waived by the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs earlier this season may not hold the same mass appeal Martin, Smith or Chandler does around the NBA, but if you ask anyone around the Polish League they know exactly who Lawal is and what he is capable of.In fact, when it comes to guys who signed overseas while David Stern and Billy Hunter debated over a new collective bargaining agreement, Lawal's impressive play flew under the radar while Nicolas Batum, Andrei Kirilenko and Deron Williams steadily went for theirs in bigger leagues.
During the thick of the NBA lockout, the 6-foot-9 power forward dunked and snagged rebounds for Zastal Zielona Gora in Poland averaging 16.4 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in 8 games and now after a four month stretch in the CBA with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers, Lawal is returning to Poland for seconds.
On Wednesday, Lawal agreed to terms with Zastal for the remainder of the season and will arrive in Poland next week according to the team.
The journey has come full circle for Lawal, who was named the Player of the Year for the 2011-2012 season by one Polish newspaper back in December.
After spending three months with Zastal, Lawal returned to Phoenix (who drafted him 46th overall in 2010), where he was waived in training camp, claimed and waived again by San Antonio and eventually signed in China as a replacement for Kenyon Martin in late-December with Xinjiang. All Lawal did was average 18.4 points and 12.3 rebounds per game in 17 games. He closed out Xinjiang's CBA regular season on February 15 and finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds in 24 minutes against Fujian SBS XunXin.
Zastal has 10 games left in their Polish League season and there's no doubt Lawal's toughness will be a lift to a team that also features former two-time NCAA champion (2006 and 2007) Florida Gator's guard, Walter Hodge.
Before Lawal arrived in Poland last September during the work stoppage, signing overseas became a platform for the undersized big to re-condition and rehab his surgically repaired right knee after tearing his ACL after appearing in only one game his rookie season in Phoenix.
He's come a long way since spending 10 games in the D-League with the Iowa Energy in 2010 (11.2 points and 6 rebounds in 20.2 minutes per game).
A very long way -- from Poland, to Phoenix, to San Antonio, to China and back to Poland.
The worldly experience has done wonders for Lawal personally and professionally -- growing both in his mental and physical approach to the game.
Now back to pick up where he left off with Zastal, it's any wonder what Lawal will do for an encore.