Declining a Three-Year NBA Offer, Mirotic Opted to Return to Europe
At one point last season, Nikola Mirotic turned himself into one of the prized chips at the NBA trade deadline.
As a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, Mirotic was a pending free agent averaging 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per games on an inconsistent team, a year removed from a playoff appearance. After arriving to the Milwaukee Bucks, the then 28-year old stretch-four saw a dip in his production.
In the postseason, he was nearly unplayable.
Yet, as the 2019 offseason began, Mirotic received interest from NBA teams. The Utah Jazz, a team in desperate need of shooting depth, offered Mirotic a three-year guaranteed contract – one that he ultimately turned down. No longer happy in the NBA, Mirotic opted to sign with Barcelona in Spain.
“I wanted to spend free agency while on vacation in Greece with my family,” Mirotic said, discussing his free agency. “Utah wanted to have a meeting on June 30 to sign me as the first player in free agency. They offered me three years guaranteed, a great contract. I spoke to my wife and she told me to take what made me happy. I took a ticket for two days, a round trip, and I left.
“I was waiting at the gate of the Thessaloniki airport when I started to think: ‘What do I do at the airport? Why am I not with my family? The NBA?’. I said to myself: ‘Don’t do it Niko. If you go, you will sign.’ I left the airport and went back to the hotel. I told my agent that I wasn’t going to catch the flight and to apologize to Utah for not attending the meeting. “I’m going to take another path, I don’t want to continue in the NBA.”
Prior to coming to the NBA, the Montenegrin-born Mirotic played professional basketball as a teenager and young adult in Spain for Real Madrid. He added that he chose to return to the EuroLeague to rediscover his joy for the game.
“My role was always the same [in the NBA]. I was a player who was open to take the shots, who made a ‘pick-and-pop’ among the big guys… I was expected to score 10 points, take a couple of rebounds and that’s it. I felt that time was passing and I had not played the best basketball of my life, although it was very good. As soon as I didn’t feel that joy and happiness to improve, I said it was time to go back and do something bigger in Europe.”
Splitting five years in the NBA between the Chicago Bulls, Pelicans, and Bucks, Mirotic averaged 12.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 35.9 percent from long range.