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Former Lobo Kirk signs pro contract with Italian team

Next stop, Italy.

Former UNM Lobo and Los Alamos High graduate Alex Kirk, who spent the past year playing for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA D-League’s Canton Charge and a pair of NBA Summer League teams, has signed a one-year contract with Giorgio Tesi Group Pistoia, a professional team in Italy’s top league.

He says the trip abroad is just the next step in his ultimate goal of becoming a regular on an NBA roster.

“I think going over there my shot is only going to get better (to play in the NBA),” said Kirk, who signed the contract Friday on the court at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M., surrounded by kids participating in one of his three youth skills camps he’s conducted in smaller northern New Mexico towns.

“I’m going to play against a lot of former and future NBA players. I think it’s the right step for me. The Italian League is going to be a great fit for me. I’m really happy about that.”

Kirk fared well last month playing first for the Memphis Grizzlies in the abbreviated NBA Summer League in Orlando, Fla., before really playing well in Las Vegas, Nev., for the New York Knicks in the main NBA Summer League session, a sting that included a pair of 10-point games.

His summer experiences led Kirk to believe he would likely be remaining in the United States again this season, but then contract talks didn’t materialize as he and his agent anticipated.

“I thought I had a real good summer league,” Kirk said. “But the negotiations didn’t go as well as I would have liked, so I went this route. … We had NBA options. That wasn’t the issue. We had a few, actually. The interest was really good, but some of the situations didn’t really have openings at center or the correct money situation that worked best. It’s part of the business.”

Kirk did not disclose how much money he will make with his new team, only that he is satisfied with the deal.

The former All-Mountain West center earned guaranteed money with the Cavaliers last season before a midseason trade to, and subsequent release from, the Knicks. Instead of pursuing the second half of last season overseas where a possible six-figure payday awaited, Kirk opted to remain in the United States to play in the D-League, where a max salary is under $30,000 per season.

“I probably got sold a little bit on that chance of there being a chance at a 10-day contract (with an NBA team late in the season), which never came through,” Kirk admitted. “It wasn’t like I didn’t get paid last year. I got paid well. The Cavs paid me well. That wasn’t the issue. …

“Now, I think I made the most out of my D-League experience, I think this is the right next step for me all around.”

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