Mickael Gelabale (201 cm, 1983) has come to terms on a 10-day contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA) and will exercise his NBA out clause in his contract with Valencia Basket (Spain-ACB). He’ll wear the number 15 when he suits up for the T-Wolves and will get a prorated veteran minimum for a 3rd year player. Gelabale arrived in Minneapolis late on Wednesday night and took the physical early Thursday morning, after which he officially signed his contract. After that, shootaround started at noon. However, the letter of clearance didn’t arrive until Friday while it was expected much earlier. Somebody at Valencia “had forgotten about the paper work” and this caused the delay.
Gelabale has 109 games of NBA experience under his belt having been chosen in the 2nd round (48 pick overall) of the 2005 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics (who moved to Oklahoma City and became known as the Thunder in 2008). He played in Seattle until midway through the 2007-08 season when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). When the Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City, they brought Gelabale into training camp, but released him prior to the season starting.
After his time in the NBA and following his rehab for the torn ACL, Gelabale returned back to France where he played for Cholet and ASVEL Villeurbanne. Last season he played for BC Khimki from Russia and this season he started with Cedevita Zagreb from Croatia. In December he moved to Spanish ACB club Valencia Basket.
While in Europe, there had been increasing interest in bringing Gelabale back to the NBA. Agents Fabrice Sene and Bill McCandless, Jr. of Three Eye Sports/Court Side have had ongoing discussions with clubs over the last two years including Atlanta, New Orleans, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets, and the Timberwolves. They felt that they could come to terms with Atlanta due to a great workout he had the summer of 2011 and the fact that the Atlanta GM knew Gelabale from when he was GM in Seattle. The NBA lockout put things on hold and after the lockout was over, a call from Atlanta never materialized.
Showing the most interest throughout has been Minnesota, who put the time in to find out as much as they could about Gelabale to make sure he would fit into their system.
The contract that Gelabale had signed with Cedevita Zagreb at the beginning of this season would end in December. This was convenient for both parties as Gelabale could keep the NBA option open and Cedevita could wait to see if the club would be able to qualify for the Euroleague Top 16. Cedevita did not qualify, but wanted to extend the contract with Gelabale through the end of the season.
Sene, McCandless and local rep Pavle Kukic worked out a deal that would allow for an out clause in case one of the interested NBA teams wanted to bring Gelabale on.
Just as all parties had verbally agreed on a contract extension, Spanish team Valencia showed up with a better offer. Eventually, Gelabale signed with Valencia and the Spanish team too agreed to the NBA escape clause.
With 10-day contracts in the NBA starting in January, Sene and McCandless contacted all NBA teams and let them know that Gelabale had an NBA escape and was available.
They’ve had numerous conversations over the last month and last Friday, the T-Wolves GM, David Kahn, made the call and interviewed Gelabale. Both parties liked what they heard and he officially left Valencia on Sunday and via New Jersey traveled to Ottawa, Canada where French citizens get their US work visa the quickest (his appointment was Tuesday).
The Timberwolves are looking for help as they’ve had numerous injuries at this point in the NBA season. The T-Wolves are also known as having a preference for foreign players, having one of the highest number on their roster in the NBA.
Currently the club is dealing with limited minutes with Spanish import Ricky Rubio (recovering from ACL Surgery); Kevin Love is out for eight weeks with a broken hand; Malcom Lee has been scheduled to have hip and knee surgery and is out for the season; Brandon Roy is battling knee issues and has only seen the court in five games and has been rumored to be looking at retirement as well as alternative treatment methods; Chase Budinger is rehabbing following surgery to repair a torn meniscus on Nov. 11, 2012; and J.J. Barea has been dealing with a back problem, but was back in the lineup on Sunday. It all adds up to a need at the wing, and Minnesota thinks that Gelabale can fill that need better than Lazar Hayward can, who is currently on a 10-day deal with the club, after being waived on Jan. 6th. Hayward’s short-term deal is up on Thursday and remarkably, he’s also been dealing with an illness and was out for two games during his contract, returning on Sunday. Technically his deal has to end before Gelabale can sign his. That’s one of the reasons why there was some delay in the official signing between Gelabale and the T-Wolves.
Gelebale is determined to prove that he belongs in the NBA. He obviously didn’t walk away from, lucrative contracts in Europe for just a 10-day contract in the NBA. He has much bigger ambitions than that, and plans to earn a much longer stay in the NBA.
Bill McCandless says:
“The Wolves had lots of injuries, and Mickael felt this was the perfect opportunity to play—not just sign and sit.”
Gelabale, a French native (born on the Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe), is a member of the French National Team. He played at the 2012 London Olympic Games, averaging 7.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Upon signing, Gelabale will be the second “Mickael” in the NBA, the other being Mickael Pietrus of the Toronto Raptors. Both Frenchmen are from the Caribbean Island Guadeloupe. The third player in the NBA from Guadeloupe is Rodrigue Beaubois, currently with the Dallas Mavericks.