While the NBA’s free agency circus has cleared up, a handful of former UConn Huskies from the Jim Calhoun era with years of NBA experience are looking to make their way back into the league.
Possibly the most intriguing player among this group is Ray Allen. At 41 years of age, Allen has been out of the NBA for two seasons now. After putting himself through a professional level workout regimen, it seems Allen is serious about finding a NBA home.
"I worked out the other day in New York with a friend of mine," Allen said Saturday via the Hartford Courant. "I was shooting, I was going through my routine just like I'd always done. Yeah, I was a little winded, but I was able to go through my routine like I'd always gone though my routine and I didn't feel like I'd missed any time in doing what I was doing. For me, it's not 'Can I do it anymore?' It's how I feel after I do it. And yesterday, I felt great.”
Presumed front-runners in landing the services of Ray Allen seem to be the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.
Dom Amore reports that Allen has already spoken with the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. Allen has also told reporters that Spike Lee has actively tried to recruit him to the New York Knicks. ESPN has mentioned the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers as possible teams of interest as well.
Another Husky hero looking for work is Richard Hamilton. About one month ago, Hamilton spoke with CBS Sports about his situation.
"I'm giving myself thirty days where I am really hitting the gym." three-time All-Star Hamilton said. "I'm working on my game. I'm in the weight room. I'm running my two, three miles a day. And I'm trying to see if my body can hold up. If my body can hold up after these thirty days, I will be making a comeback."
No reports have yet surfaced how his preparation is coming along. Regardless, if Hamilton is serious about an NBA comeback, he would likely be brought in by a team looking for bench depth. In his prime, Hamilton was an explosive wing player with a sweet jumper.
More recently, Ben Gordon has spoke about getting back into the NBA. Gordon is currently representing Great Britain’s national team during the 2017 Eurobasket qualifiers. He also participated in the Golden State Warriors training camp. ESPN reporters spoke to him about a NBA return.
“I would definitely love to get back in the league after being out for a year. Just watching the way the game is being played, up and down. Obviously, the 3-point shot is always a big deal but it seems like just now, more than ever, that shot is being used more and more. So I feel like I can still play at a high level and shoot that 3-ball and add that kind of depth to a team that may be looking to fulfill that need.”
Last but not least, Gordon’s teammate on the 2004 NCAA Champion Huskies Emeka Okafor is attempting an NBA comeback.
Okafor was the second overall selection in the 2004 NBA Draft, winning the Rookie of the Year award in his first season. After an up-and-down career Okafor hasn’t appeared in a NBA game since starting over 70 games in the 2012-13 season for the Washington Wizards.
Currently, Okafor is rehabbing from the nagging injuries which cut his career short. His agent told ESPN he is about 6 months away from being ready to compete professionally. The Warriors have publicly stated they will monitor the progress of the big man.
"He's in great shape,'' Jim Calhoun told ESPN. "He had offers last season from teams for $6-7 million to play just a portion of the season, but you have to know Emeka. He's only coming back when he feels the time is right.”
Hopefully these Connecticut legends can find comfortable NBA homes. With the average NBA salary increasing so rapidly, it would be great to see these guys back on the hardwood as they gain long-term security.