Acquired in a draft day trade in 2007 by the Knicks, it appeared as though a promising NBA career would begin for Syracuse alum Demetris Nichols as he remained in familiar Big Apple surroundings.
But a release from the Knicks right before the 2007-08 season actually began forced the forward to explore other options. He played sparingly in two separate stints with the Bulls and Cavaliers. Having been drafted in the second round, perhaps it was difficult for Nichols to truly get himself noticed. Nevertheless, the following season, both the Bulls and Knicks brought him back for respective shorter stints during a year where Nichols was otherwise logging minutes in the D-League.
Of course, when players can't seem to break into the NBA for whatever reason, a decision needs to be made. Do they keep fighting stateside for that coveted opportunity, or do they flock overseas for arguably more appreciation and recognition from international franchises. What's more, one can put his talents to better use as he cashes in on a more lucrative contract overseas.
Alas, it's not all about the money. Sometimes spending time overseas comes down to better preparing yourself and focusing on development as one looks ahead to an NBA stint in the future.
And that's exactly what Nichols seemed to have in mind. After spending some time across the pond in France and Chile, the forward has returned stateside and has The Association in his sights.
Perhaps overshadowed a bit this season by fellow NBA prospects that have donned Skyforce uniforms this season, such as Jarvis Varnado, Andrew Goudelock, and Donald Sloan, Nichols has still managed to hold his own, and what's more, has emerged as quite the leader the last couple of months.
The forward credited his organization with allowing him to play in a good atmosphere, telling RidiculousUpside.com, "The coaching staff has done a great job of keeping us together. We have good guys around that know how to play the game. It makes you better because it feels good to win. We've been playing well."
Though he's consistently played well all season long, Nichols undoubtedly opened some eyes and turned more heads with quite the dominant effort earlier this week. The forward displayed a bit of everything he can do in an impressive 117-112 Skyforce win over the Iowa Energy. He scored an NBADL season-high 42 points, and also went on to net a near triple-double too, with 8 assists and 7 rebounds. He shot well and sank all eight of his free-throws in the victory.
After spending time overseas, Nichols has garnered experience and has become a more polished player over the years. He can score the basketball in a number of different ways, able to drive or pull back for a jumper anywhere on the court, whether it be inside or beyond the arc. His 18.7 points per game (on 47% from the field and 40% from deep) only further prove he can play with others, having achieved such numbers, all the while playing alongside other talented players.
As he impresses in the D-League, having returned after multiple seasons internationally, Nichols believes he's ready to return to the NBA. What's more, his most recent success (paired with the latest success of NBA role players who have emerged to earn time despite not breaking into the league fresh out of college) suggests that age is nothing more than a number.
Nichols alluded to the fact that the success of a player like Knicks' rookie forward Chris Copeland means there's still hope for himself as well. He added, "For sure. It's so crazy these days because now if you're 28, it's like you're considered old. I'm working hard because I can only control what I can control. I'm hoping for the best."
The Syracuse product continued to say that the felt as though returning to the NBADL was his best shot at getting noticed again, asserting, "I got hurt last year in France. I had other options, but I felt like my chances of getting called up were pretty good. So I figured, why not?"
Nichols latest efforts (He's been dominating all month long. The forward has averaged 25.6 points on 59% from the field and 57% from downtown, in addition to 6.3 rebounds through February. He subsequently earned himself a "Performer of the Week" honor earlier on.) suggest he's ready for another NBA shot. But just in case executives haven't been taking note of his recent success, Nichols already had ideas as to how he could help a big league squad. He said, "I want to win. I can shoot the ball and go to the basket pretty well, and I like to defend. I think I do a little bit of everything."
As NBA teams look towards the playoffs, they may be forced to overcome injuries to key players. At this point, it may prove more valuable to sub in experienced seasoned veterans, rather than taking a chance on a young stud. Nichols may be the type of guy who can step in seamlessly and fill a void if necessary.