Richard Solomon has managed to land in training camp with the Oklahoma City Thunder on two separate occasions, but he’s never been able to make it to the NBA regular season. That all changed this past year when the Thunder signed him to a 10-day contract out of the G League.
He had been playing with the Thunder’s G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue when the Thunder gave him the call. They had just released shooting guard Alex Abrines and had a few roster spots open.
To finally be signed by a team during the NBA regular season meant the world to Solomon. It was an experience that he knows will help him tremendously when developing his game.
”It was like a dream come true,” Solomon told Ridiculous Upside. “It was amazing being able to play around those guys, Russell [Westbrook], Paul George, learn from them, pick their brains a little bit, and just pick up anything I can to help me with my game, add to what I can do. It was a great experience.”
Solomon had a solid four years at Cal, but he went wasn’t selected in the 2014 NBA draft. The Thunder had signed him to a training camp contract that offseason, but he was cut during preseason. He eventually signed with the Blue who were in their first season in Oklahoma City. He had a solid rookie year in the G League with 8.5 points per game and 6.9 rebounds and was invited to participate in summer league with the Thunder.
The following offseason, he played with both the Thunder and the Phoenix Suns in summer league and ended up in training camp with the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks also ended up cutting him before the 2016-17 NBA regular season began.
Although the Thunder did not offer him a second 10-day contract after his first one expired, after having been through several training camps and not making it to the season, Solomon was still temporarily satisfied. It gave him some of the confidence he needed to believe that he could play at the NBA level.
“I put in a lot of work, a lot of hours, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. To see it pay off, it was kind of a relaxing feeling, kind of like a deep breath,” Solomon said. “It just showed me where I was at and what I was capable of doing. My next goal is to get a full contract, not a 10-day. I just got to keep working, I know what it takes to get there now, I just got to do that.”
During his professional basketball career, Solomon hasn’t always played in the G League. He spent the 2015-2016 season with Alvark Tokyo in the Japanese National Basketball League. He ended up playing 59 games in Japan that season and put up 11.3 points per game and 8.8 rebounds.
The following season, after being cut by the Hawks in training camp, he signed with BCM Gravelines-Dunkerque in one of the top professional leagues in France. During the 2017-18 season, he played with Usak Sportif of the Turkish Basketball Super League, and this summer he opted for a return to France, signing with JDA Dijon Basket.
But having spent a good portion of his pro basketball career in the G League, he’s come to respect the increasingly high level of competition there.
“It’s good competition. Everybody’s going for the same thing, everybody’s trying to get a call-up, everybody’s trying to get a contract, it’s like a dogfight every night,” Solomon said. “There’s really good guys in the G League, a lot of guys in the G League could be playing in the NBA. You just got to wait your time, keep putting in the time, the effort, and wait till your name is called, be ready when your name is called.”
Solomon was a featured player for the Blue this season, which is what led to him getting a call-up from the Thunder. Although the Thunder were already familiar with him after having brought him to training camp twice before, Solomon’s play in the G League helped them offer him the 10-day contract.
This past season, he put up 13.8 points per game on 58.6 percent shooting, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.3 steals. He’s in the mold of an athletic forward who is strong on the glass and can defend multiple positions. His shooting may be a work in progress, but it’s something that can get better with time. He’s confident that his talent can translate to regular NBA success.
”I can bring anything. I’m a great defender, I rebound well, I’m athletic, I can guard any position, I can shoot the ball, I can bring a lot,” Solomon said. “Whatever a team needs me to do, I can bring it.”
While he did make the decision to head back overseas for this upcoming season, he’s encouraged by the growth and development of the G League. He can see it becoming a real stepping stone for players who are ultimately hoping to one day make it to the NBA.
”It’s definitely come a long way. I just think the only thing about the G League is they just need to raise the pay. If they did that, then a lot more guys would be in the G League, the level would be a lot higher. It would be higher than what it is now and more competitive,” Solomon said. “Overall, the G League is good experience, it’s getting better, and they’re doing a great job with it.”