Luigi Datome knows that making it in the NBA isn't going to be easy, and he isn't ready to give up on it just yet. That decision might seem obvious, but the sharpshooting forward from Italy recently confirmed he received interest from Spanish club FC Barcelona. Barcelona is trying to replace star forward Kostas Papanikolaou who signed a deal with the Houston Rockets.
"I want to play at least one more year in the NBA. This is the reason why I have signed for two seasons with the Pistons because several players have difficulties during their rookie seasons" said Datome. "It is great to know that one of the most important basketball teams in Europe is interested in me. They did not offer me and we did not have any negotiation but I talked with my agent and we decided together to remain in NBA" added the captain of Italian NT.
It seems Datome had much more reasonable expectations for himself than many Pistons fans did. Starved for any sort of long-range marksman, Datome was given a guaranteed two-year deal to become an off-the-bench shooter. Datome started the year getting off the bench, and he got up his shots, but they sure weren't going in.
In his final year in Europe he was a member of the rare 50-40-90 club and averaged more than 16 points a game. In the NBA his line plummeted to 47-18-80 and he averaged just 2.4 points per game, eventually falling out of the rotation.
But struggling with the NBA 3-point shot and everything else that comes with the cultural and competitive transition is a common issue for international players. Just last year Brooklyn's Mirza Teletovic became a key rotation player on a playoff team hitting 39 percent from 3 in year two. But during his rookie year he struggled to earn minutes and hit just 34 percent from deep.
And former Piston Jose Calderon also struggled in his first year. As a 24-year-old rookie in 2005-06, Calderon hit 16 percent from 3 on limited attempts, hit 33 percent in year two and has averaged 42 percent for the remainder of his career.
This is pure speculation, but I would be surprised if Datome's agent didn't check in with Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons or get a temperature of Datome's interest from other NBA clubs when making this decision. The Pistons roster stands at 16 players assuming Greg Monroe returns and that means one player has to be released or traded.
The bottom of the roster is probably a fight between little-used Tony Mitchell, Datome and Will Bynum. a veteran on an expiring contract who might stick around as point guard depth and or as a guy with a close to $3 million expiring contract that could help facilitate a future deal.
You have to think Van Gundy thinks Datome can be part of the plan in Detroit (he certainly fits the stereotypical profile of a Van Gundy player), and if he is not sticking in Detroit he could be traded to a club and not just left on the unemployment line stuck looking to latch on to a lesser opportunity overseas than what Barcelona would have represented.