Where Are They Now, 2010; Part 6
January 6th, 2010

The Jazz signed Sundiata Gaines today. They needed an extra guard, and Sundiata was one of the best the D-League has to offer. For the Idaho Stampede this year, he was averaging 23.9 points, 6.9 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals, and no matter how much those numbers are inflated by the Stampede’s pace – and no matter how unflattering his measurements are to his score-first style – them’s is good numbers.

Also note; 10-day contracts became available today, and today marks the 14th day after the Matt Harpring/Eric Maynor trade, meaning today was the day that the Jazz had to sign someone. The timing of that trade was not a coincidence. By waiting as long as possible, they saved as much money as possible. Because of that, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Sundiata played out his ten days and then went back to the D-League. Good luck to him, though. If Wes Matthews can do a Wes Matthews, then so can Sundiata Gaines.

(Here’s a video of Sundiata’s reaction to being called up. Awww!)


Esteban Batista

Far from being the minimum-salary steal that Celtics fans wanted him to be in the summer of 2007, Batista is out of the NBA and playing in Spain, after signing a three-year contract with Fuenlabrada this summer. On the season, he is being highly productive, averaging 16.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, shooting 54% from the floor and 76% from the line. It’s quite a good comeback year for Batista, who last year had a bit of a shocker. He started out with Maccabi Tel-Aviv, for whom he played in the 2007-08 season, but Maccabi had a regime change, and the new regime didn’t want Batista. They let him go midseason and Batista signed with Triumph in Russia, but he then left there as well, claiming it was too cold. He saw out the season in Argentina, about whose temperature he didn’t seem to complain – now in a decent situation, where the minutes, money and humidity are all adequate, Batista is producing once again.


Mike Batiste

Remember Mike Batiste’s stint in the NBA with the Grizzlies? Nor do I, really. After going undrafted out of Arizona State in 1999, he spent a year injured, a year in Belgium and a year in Italy, signed with the Clippers for 2002 training camp, and was claimed off waivers by the Grizzlies in October. Batiste spent a year with the team and featured quite a bit, playing 1,248 minutes in 75 games, averaging 6.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 0.9 turnovers a game. It was the only season of his NBA career.

At the time, Batiste was a 6’8 225lbs combo forward who played a fair amount of small forward, but who hadn’t quite figured out the position. The turnover numbers were high, as Batiste was not a ball-handler, and he shot only 22% on three-pointers on the season. After leaving the NBA, Batiste signed with Panathinaikos in Greece; impressively, he’s still there seven years later. In that time, he’s re-designed his game again, going from an athletic combo forward to a hugely strong post player. Batiste has beefed up, now known as “The Beast” not only for the rhyme but for his strength, and he’s a post-up option that most of Greece fails to stop. This season, Batiste is averaging 15.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in only 19 minutes per game in the EuroLeague, and 10.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 19 minutes per game in the Greek league. (As for why he plays only half the game; Panathinaikos are twelve-deep. Everyone only plays half the game.)

He is aided in his European career by his Bulgarian passport, which allows him to quality as a European player. Given that he has never played or lived in Bulgaria and seems to have no Bulgarian heritage, this passport seems a touch odd. I guess someone who can pull strings wanted him to stick around.

Another forgotten Grizzlies player in the early part of the decade was Antonis Fotsis. Fotsis was picked by the Grizzlies in the 2001 second round, played one year, and left. He is now Batiste’s teammate at Pana. Billy Knight and Jerry West dug out some under-the-radar talent in those years, but it didn’t really do them any favours.


Edin Bavcic

Edin Bavcic was drafted by the Raptors in 2006 and traded to the Sixers. He signed a two-year contract with Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia this summer, a EuroLeague team. On the season he is averaging 5.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.1 fouls per game in the EuroLeague, alongside 4.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.7 fouls per game in the Adriatic league.

That’s all I’ve got. Oh, and he’s 26 in May.


Lonny Baxter

Baxter’s having a better season than usual, averaging 18.4 points and 6.0 rebounds in 27 minutes per game in the Turkish league while playing for Besiktas. He also averages 12.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in the EuroCup, although that involved scoring 58 points in his first three games and 26 in the last four. Besiktas are third in the Turkish league, partly because of Baxter, but largely because of 6’2 guard Mire Chatman. In 36 minutes per game (out of 40), Chatman is averaging 17.8 points, 6.3 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game. And those are Turkish assists, which are a rarer species than American ones. The 60% foul shooting for a 6’2 guard is poor, but everything else is Kidd-like. (Albeit in Turkey.)


Aron Baynes

Washington State graduate Baynes had an awful summer league with the L.A. Lakers. In 57 minutes of five games, he totalled 10 points, 14 rebounds, 22 fouls and 7 turnovers, while shooting 5-22 from the field and 0-2 from the foul line. Something went well, though, as he went on to join Lithuanian team Lietuvos Rytas. There’s no money in Lithuanian basketball right now, and Lietuvos are no exception even after winning the EuroCup last season, but they’re a EuroLeague team this year, so the exposure is self-evident.

However, the exposure is not helping; Baynes continues to struggle in the higher-level parts of his first professional season. In the Baltic league, he’s averaging a good 11.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 17 mpg; in the Lithuanian league, he’s averaging 10.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 15 mpg; in the EuroLeague, he’s averaging 5.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 13 mpg. Yet he is also averaging 3.1 fouls in 15 Lithuania league minutes per game, 3.3 fouls in 17 Baltic league minutes per game, and a whopping 4.1 fouls in 13 EuroLeague minutes per game. All three of those competitions have 40-minute games and only five fouls before a foul-out, and it’s not a coincidence that the league with the highest standard of play is the one in which he does the least. Baynes has fouled out seven times this year in a total of 28 games; his minutes played in those games were 19, 10, 20, 15, 12, 13 and 6. And he’s not Bubba Wellsing it up out there; he starts many games at centre, and Lietuvos rely on him as a big part of their rotation. But because of all the fouls, he can’t deliver.

That’s a lot of fouls. That’s too many fouls. He needs to foul less. This is my analysis. It’s profound.


Jerome Beasley

The other Beasley drafted by the Heat, Jerome is spending his second season in Holland with the Eiffel Towers Den Bosch. (Yes, I know the Eiffel Tower is in France. Someone explained the logic of this team name to me once, but I forgot what it was. All I remember is that it wasn’t very logical.) On the season, Beasley is averaging 12.9 and 8.8 rebounds in the Dutch league, and 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds in the EuroChallenge. The EuroChallenge is like an entry-level EuroCup, which itself is like an entry level EuroLeague. Full explanation later.

Jerome Beasley fact: Jerome Beasley was drafted with the 33rd pick in the 2003 Draft whilst coming out of NCAA Division II. That’s extremely rare.

Another Jerome Beasley fact: Jerome Beasley was suspended by FIBA for three months last January after testing positive for marijuana. It’s a Beasley thing.


Sani Becirovic

Becirovic is Bavcic’s teammate at Ljubljana. Like Bavcic, Becirovic is also a former NBA draftee, being picked 46th overall by the Nuggets back in 2003. And like Bavcic, Becirovic won’t play in the NBA now. But unlike Bavcic, it’s not because he can’t. Despite a slightly worrisome injury history, Becirovic has been a good player for over a decade, and still is. He is averaging 12.9 points and 3.9 assists per game in the Adriatic league, and almost exactly the same (12.9/3.3) in the EuroLeague. As it happens, though, there’s a player from Ljubljana whose play is blowing both of those two out of the water. We’ll come to him later.


Romel Beck

Beck is in the D-League, down there trying to prove to the NBA that he deserves at least ten days in it. The largely one-dimensional scoring-centric Beck is with the Dakota Wizards, averaging 16.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.7 turnovers and 1.8 assists. The rebounding numbers are unusually high for a man who normally gets about 2 a game, so we’ll see if that continues.


Mirza Begic

Mirza Begic went undrafted in 2007. That’s kind of amazing, because he’s 7’3, and pretty much all 6’11 Eastern European guys who get a few minutes on the benches of Adriatic League teams get picked in the second round somewhere. (It’s true. Ask Edin Bavcic.) Maybe Begic should have been drafted, however, as he’s now a decent EuroLeague centre. Begic’s averages are listed below in a different form to usual.

1) 20.9 minutes, 7.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.6 fouls, 1.1 blocks per game = EuroLeague (the club competition that sees the best teams from across the whole of Europe competing)

2) 16.3 minutes, 5.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 fouls, 0.8 blocks per game = VTB United League (the club competition that sees the best teams from only Eastern Europe competing)

3) 17.3 minutes, 8.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.9 fouls, 1.4 blocks per game = Baltic League (the club competition that sees the best teams from only Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania competing)

4) 14.0 minutes, 5.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 fouls, 1.4 blocks per game = Lithuanian League (the Lithuanian league).

A bit confusing, really. A post explaining stuff like that to non-Europeans was requested a while ago, and is nearly finished.


Troy Bell

Troy Bell is spending his second season with Vanoli in Italy. Last year he helped them get promoted from LegaDue to Serie A, averaging 21 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists on the way. This year he’s not found it as easy, with his numbers dropping to 14.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game. That’s still pretty good, though. Bell plays the shooting guard position in Italy alongside point guard E.J. Rowland, another man with a debatable Bulgarian passport. It’s easier to start a 6’2/6’1 backcourt in Italy than it is in the NBA.


Rod Benson

As ever, Rod Benson is in the D-League, waiting for a call-up. I wonder how much money he’s earned from his non-basketball endeavours over the last three years, because he sure won’t have made much by playing in the D-League three times. This season, Benson is averaging 14.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.8 blocks per game, whilst ranking in the 100th percentile in post defence according to Synergy Sports. It would help his NBA chances if his free throw percentage (.542%) wasn’t so close to his field goal percentage (.528%), but the other numbers in only 32 minutes per game are hard to fault.

This week, he quit blogging for Yahoo Sports, having decided that he had said Too Much.


Lee Benson

Benson was in China last year, and of all the people to put up outrageous statistics there, his might have been the best; 34.1 ppg, 18.8 rpg, 5.6 apg, 2.0 bpg. As 36-year-old athletic shot-heavy former prisoners go, Benson is pretty good. He looked like he was going to re-sign in China this year too, but, as far as my crude Google translations can tell, Shanxi passed up on re-signing him due to his astronomical wage demands. Any man with those statistics can ask for a big payday, but Shanxi didn’t appear to be happy with the way that he got them. You have to dominate the ball pretty much to put up numbers like those, and to shoot seven-three pointers a game at only 30% isn’t the best idea either. Still, it’s great fun for us spectators.

I was very happy about that “Too Much” gag, by the way.



Travis Best

Best signed this season with Martos Napoli, a Serie A team that came into being this summer when former team Solsonica Rieti changed both their city and their sponsor. He joined fellow Americans Kevin Kruger, Damon Jones and Robert Traylor there, increasing the ex-NBA lilt that was designed to make them interesting. It kind of worked. Even Lance Allred was there for a while. But none of it seemed to help on the court, as Napoli trickled out to an 0-10 start. Despite the big-name midseason acquisitions of Best and Jones, they kept on losing. And the players weren’t getting paid either.

At 0-10, things managed to get worse. The club officially ran out of money, and players started to leave, Kruger amongst them. Another loss followed before Christmas, at which point all the first team players went home to their families. They never came back. In their first game after Christmas, on Sunday evening, Napoli could only fielded their youth team players, inexperienced and undertalented 17-year-olds going against one of the better teams in one of the world’s best leagues. They played Angellico Biella in that game, and lost 124-54. That’s not a typo; they lost by 70 points in a Serie A game. A 40-minute Serie A game. Nothing has been resolved in the mean time; no new sponsors have come in, no new money has been found, and no players have come back. If they’re able to do business next Sunday, they’re up against Lottomatica Roma, and things should go much the same way as the 70-point annihilation. Even if they somehow do the impossible, stave off a winding-up order and play out the season, they’re screwed.

(If you wish to become Napoli’s new sponsor, why not use their sponsors email account? Please give two pounds a month, or whatever you can afford.)

For what it’s worth, which is nothing, Best totalled 11 points and 3 assists in 61 minutes.

Posted by at 7:26 AM