Yuta Watanabe quits the NBA to play in Japan

Yuta Watanabe quits the NBA to play in JapanYuta Watanabe quits the NBA to play in Japan
via @yutawatanabe12
Ryan General
25 days ago
Memphis Grizzlies forward Yuta Watanabe has announced that he is quitting the NBA to play in the Japanese B.League next season.
Key points:
  • Watanabe spent six seasons in the NBA, playing for five different teams.
  • On April 19, he went on Instagram Live to announce his decision, citing mental health and a desire for consistent playing time. 
  • As a key player for Japan’s national team, he is expected to be a major draw for the B.League.
The details:
  • Watanabe is the second Japanese player to play in the NBA, behind Yuta Tabuse, who played a short stint for the Phoenix Suns in 2004. Watanabe joined the league in 2018 and played a total of 213 games across stints with the Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, Brooklyn Nets and Suns. 
  • He averaged 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 43% from the field, 37% from three-point range and 68% from the free-throw line.
  • In his six-year stint with the NBA, he made $6.4 million. He turned down a $2.7 million player option in his contract for the 2024-25 season with the Grizzlies.
  • In his announcement, Watanabe said he wants to play more consistently, something that did not happen in his last NBA season.
  • “I just want to play basketball. I want to step into the game and do what I do in practice,” he said in Japanese. “I grinded through my 20s but now I hope to play basketball the way I like.”
  • Despite being a solid role player known for his shooting and defense, finding a consistent spot on an NBA roster has proved challenging for Watanabe.
What’s next:
  • Watanabe is expected to represent Japan at the 2024 Paris Olympics before joining the B.League. Pundits believe that he will likely be a major star in the B.League and help raise the level of Japanese basketball.
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