J.R. Giddens took to the court to warm up at about 6 p.m., 90 minutes before the start of the New Mexico Thunderbirds’ NBA Developmental League game against the Iowa Energy on Friday night at the Santa Ana Star Center.
He proceeded to hit the first six 3-pointers he attempted during warmups, displaying the stroke that earned him co-Mountain West Conference Player of the Year honors and honorable mention All-America during his senior year for the University of New Mexico in 2007-08.
But for the 6-foot-5 Giddens to return to the NBA — he’s played in 38 games (with the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks) in two seasons since the Celtics drafted him in the first round of the 2008 draft — Thunderbirds coach Darvin Ham says Giddens consistently must fill out the rest of the stat sheet.
“I know he can score. My thing with him and with the things I hear from NBA teams is — he’s one of the better athletes in this league — so rebounds, offensive rebounds more specifically, steals, blocks, assists, he needs to get those numbers up.
“His points, they’re going to take care of themselves. It’s him applying his athleticism to the total game. That’s one way for him to write his ticket back to the top. Defend and then rebound.”
Giddens had 21 points, seven rebounds and three assists Friday night, but New Mexico never recovered from a 20-2 deficit to open the game, losing 126-101 to Iowa.
The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement ends June 30, and if the owners and players can’t reach a new agreement, the NBA will shut down.
Without summer-league opportunities, the question that Giddens faces is where he can work on that game after the NBADL season ends tonight.
“Right now, I really don’t know,” Giddens says. “I could go back overseas. I’m still on the list of call-ups (to the NBA this season). Your guess is as good as mine.”
After failing to land a roster spot during the Sacramento Kings’ training camp this season, Giddens took his talents to Poland and Spain but had bad experiences with both.
He told the Journal last month that the Polish team still owes him money. He also said he got into a dispute with his Spanish team coach over food and weight and was released on the eve of his first game.
An AolNews.com report said Giddens’ Spanish team coach reprimanded him for posting pictures of every meal he ate with the team.
“It was over a Twitter comment some fan made,” Giddens told the Journal. “And the coach said I was fat.”
The episodes, apparently, aren’t enough to keep Giddens from considering leaving the country again.
“(Playing overseas is) always going to be a concern,” he said, “but that’s part of life.”
Giddens, 26, is the second oldest player on the T-Birds. When asked whether Giddens’ age is a factor in his chances of getting back to the NBA, Ham looked incredulous.
“That’s crazy, dude. My career didn’t even start until I was 26 years old,” Ham said. “That’s amazing that people say that; it makes 26 seem so old. That’s a baby. … That’s a baby.”
Giddens, who averages 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game with the T-Birds, says he has learned how to deal with the grind of the D-League that he hopes he can apply when he gets back to the NBA and its 82-game schedule.
He did say “when” he gets back; not if.
“I’ve just got to keep improving all aspects of my game,” he said.
“You just really need one team to like you, so I’m relying on finding somebody that likes me.”
Capsule – Season finale: Iowa at New Mexico, 7:30 p.m.