Matt Rochinski and Sam Perley of hornets.com will be following the Hornets throughout the 2017 NBA offseason and keeping fans up to date through the Buzz Words | Hornets Notebook. Keep checking back to see what the latest is as the season unfolds.
By Sam Perley, hornets.com | Wednesday, August 23, 11:26 a.m.
A challenging few weeks finally culminated under ideal circumstances for guard Julyan Stone after he was officially released by his Italian club Reyer Venezia and cleared by FIBA to sign a contract with the Charlotte Hornets. The reigning Italian League Champions initially refused to let Stone return to the United States after he signed an extension in July, a deal which did not include an active NBA opt-out clause.
“[This] feels amazing. It’s something I’ve been waiting three weeks for. It’s an opportunity for me to come out and play. [Charlotte] is a great team, great city and great organization. I’m just blessed to have this opportunity to play here,” said Stone at a Wednesday morning press conference.
Undrafted in 2011 out of UTEP, Stone played 47 regular season games in his first three NBA seasons with the Denver Nuggets (2011-13) and Toronto Raptors (2013-14), averaging 1.3 points, 1.0 rebound and 1.1 assists in 7.0 minutes per outing. Stone, who also spent time in the G-League with the Idaho Stampede and Iowa Energy during this time frame, signed with Reyer Venezia in Italy’s Lega Basket Serie A in 2014.
Stone followed his first season in Europe with a one-year stint playing for Gaziantep Basketbol in the Turkish Basketball Super League before eventually landing with the G League’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants last October. In 33 appearances with the organization, Stone put up impressive marks of 7.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, a team-high 8.6 assists (ranked second in the G-League amongst players with at least 30 appearances) and 1.3 steals per game.
He returned to Reyer Venezia in February and helped the team claim its first Italian League Championship since 1943. The Venice-based club also finished fourth in the 2016-17 Basketball Champions League.
With the 28-year-old Stone, Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford gets a well-rounded, experienced veteran with great size (6’6” and 200 lbs) and positional versatility. Stone’s height and length combined with his ability to generate assists, steals and blocks could surely make him a challenging matchup on both sides of the ball for any opposing guard.
Stone’s recent contract dilemma was far more encompassing than just returning to the league where he spent the earlier part of his professional career. Unfortunately, his father, David, is currently hospitalized with a number of serious medical issues. Being closer to his dad is undoubtedly another driving force behind Stone’s decision to relocate back to the United States.
“I have yet to tell my dad [that I signed with the Charlotte Hornets]. I’m going to the hospital to see him and that’s going to be amazing. I don’t know what else to say. I’m just excited to go see my dad right now [in Maryland] and tell him I’m going to be here,” said an emotional Stone.
The family dynamic aside, this situation is somewhat common for professional players overseas. Many are locked into contracts without opt-out clauses, although they do generally receive significantly higher salaries than players in the G League. Whether or not to prioritize more money with limited flexibility over lesser pay but with more exposure and potential NBA opportunities usually determines whether a player heads overseas or stays stateside.
After bouncing around several teams and leagues over the last few years and with his father perhaps providing an unparalleled source of inspiration, Julyan Stone certainly has all the motivation he needs to make a name for himself here in Charlotte.