Russian club BC Nizhny Novgorod has announced the signing of former Portland Trail Blazers forward Luke Babbitt on its website.
The announcement includes a brief (rare) interview with Babbitt. Here's an excerpt thanks to Google Translator. I've tried to clean it up slightly.
Why did you move from the strongest league in the world (NBA) to Nizhny Novgorod?
"I wanted to play for a team that will give me the opportunity to show what I can do on the court. I will try to prove that I [am] able to [play a] complete game and can do more than just [shoot] a three-pointer. In this sense, the situation in Nizhny Novgorod - a great opportunity for me."
Is this the first time you've played in Europe? Do you think that basketball is different from the U.S.?
"This is the third time I'm going to play in Europe. [I] participated in several tournaments when I was in high school and college. I think the game is a little different in style and there are some other rules to which I will have to adapt."
What do you know about Russia and how did your loved ones react to the news about your move?
"I know that the weather is cold in Russia, but my family and friends were very happy for me when I told them about [my] new team. In the near future I will be very happy to meet with [my] new teammates."
In a separate statement, Sergey Panov, BC Nizhny Novgorod's GM, indicated that the club had spoken with Babbitt earlier this summer and "terminated" negotiations before doubling back to consummate the deal. Panov also said that he was "very pleased" that the deal is now done.
Zoran Lukic, the club's coach, called Babbitt a "very versatile" player and said that he expects Babbitt to play both forward positions. He also noted that it is common for players of Babbitt's age to seek out greater opportunities for playing time in an effort to improve their games.
Word of Babbitt's one-year agreement with BC Nizhny Novgorod broke earlier this week.
Babbitt, 24, was a finalist for the 2013 Sixth Man of the Year Award after averaging 3.9 points and 2.2 rebounds in 62 appearances last season. In three seasons with the Blazers, Babbitt holds career averages of 3.8 points and 2.1 rebounds.
BC Nizhny Novgorod was founded in 2000, according to the club's website, and has undergone a number of name changes over the years. One list of the club's former players includes Americans Kirk Snyder and Dijon Thompson. Snyder attended the University of Nevada, like Babbitt, and spent four years in the NBA from 2004 to 2008. Thompson went to UCLA and played 16 games total with the Phoenix Suns and Atlanta Hawks during an NBA career that spanned from 2005 to 2007.
Nizhny Novgorod has a population of more than 1 million people and is located roughly five hours east of Moscow.
The Blazers did not pick up the option for the fourth year of Babbitt's rookie contract last fall.
During his April exit interview, Babbitt suggested that his time with the Blazers could be coming to an end.
"It's always an open door. It's obviously not the greatest chances in the world that I'll be back but it's not a closed door either. I haven't talked to my agent about it. We really haven't had any conversations about next year. ... There's uncertainty with free agency. Just going to take it as it comes, there's not much for me to do. See what happens. This is my first time as a free agent, just go with the flow and listen to my agent. ... I haven't even talked to my agent since the season started."
One writer noted what a quiet summer it has been for Babbitt, the No. 16 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
The Moda Center will need a new Chalupa King.
Former Blazers guard Nolan Smith will also spend the 2013-14 season overseas, playing for Cedevita Zagreb of Croatia.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter