J.R. Giddens, Former U of New Mexico Standout, to Play for Thunderbirds
No, Giddens isn't going back to college but rather will be joining the state's professional basketball team.
Giddens, a 6-foot-5 wing and the first-round pick of Boston in the 2008 NBA Draft, signed an NBA Development League contract on Tuesday and was officially claimed by the D-League's New Mexico Thunderbirds on Thursday afternoon. Giddens arrived in New Mexico on Sunday, but was unable to sign with the D-League until the league could get FIBA clearance.
It's unclear what exactly caused the holdup, but Giddens told a fan on Twitter "[E]urope was nice but if [you] don't pay me for my services [I] can't play, still waiting on money from teams over there no bueno," presumably meaning that the issue stemmed from Giddens probably still being under contract -- despite not being paid -- from one of the European teams he's played for in the past.
Since Giddens was unable to make an impact in the NBA, appearing in just 38 games total over the past two seasons between the Celtics and New York Knicks and then failing to make good on a training camp invite from the Sacramento Kings this fall, he decided to take his talents to Europe this season.
His European vacation probably didn't work out quite as planned, however.
Giddens first signed to play with Asseco Prokom Gdynia in Poland where he'd average 9.0 points and 5.2 rebounds in 10 games of Euroleague action while playing alongside former NBA players Mike Wilks and Daniel Ewing. When the team failed to reach the Euroleague Top 16 competition, however, Giddens was released. He wasn't a free agent for long, however, as he was quickly picked up by Power Electronics Valencia in Spain.
With Spain, the Giddens-Europe saga got more interesting. Prior to even playing a game for the ACB league team, Giddens was reprimanded by his coach because the player posted pictures of every meal that he ate. Five days later, the team decided to release the former first-round NBA pick despite the fact that he never actually appeared in a game for Valencia.
Now that Giddens is back in America, hopefully the random issues that caused both of his European stints to end prematurely won't occur again because he's shown to be a very capable player in the D-League. During stints with the Utah Flash and Maine Red Claws while on assignment from Boston -- the NBA team switched affiliates when Maine joined the league -- he averaged 17.3 points while shooting 59 percent from the field. His 6.0 rebounds and solid defense only helped to make him a more interesting NBA prospect.
Giddens will make his debut with the team against the Erie BayHawks Thursday night in Pennsylvania. The Thunderbirds, coached by former NBA player Darvin Ham, don't play again in New Mexico until March 2 against the Bakersfield Jam.