Atlanta Hawks: Draft pick Keith Benson to play in Italy during lockout

Keith Benson, the Hawks’ second-round draft pick in June, has signed to to play for Sassari in the top Italian league.

Benson’s mother, Janice Hale, said Benson’s contract includes an opt-out clause that would allow him to return to Atlanta if/when the NBA lockout ends.

“Keith feels that having an opportunity to play professionally during the lockout will enable him to maintain his conditioning and prepare him for the Atlanta Hawks training camp when the lockout ends,” Hale wrote in an e-mail. “He has received numerous offers to play in Europe and Asia. In fact, there were offers that were close to double the offer he accepted. Many of the teams that offered him wanted to build their teams around him as the starting center and would not provide the opt out clause. He agreed to play for Sassari because they were willing to include the opt out clause in his contract.”

I can’t see any downside to this decision for Benson. Assuming he gets some decent playing time, he will get better competition in what is among Europe’s top-rated leagues than anywhere in the States. If/when the lockout ends, he can return to the Hawks and continue his development.

(Not to mention that Sassari’s home is on the Mediterranean Island of Sardinia.)

Obviously the most important part of Benson’s development is adding muscle. Hale said the Hawks told Benson they want him at 235 pounds for training camp in October or 240 pounds should the lockout drag into January. She said Benson has been working with trainers at his alma mater, Oakland (Mich.) University, and is is currently at 233. Benson plans to hire a nutritionist and trainer once he gets to Italy.

Benson is the first Hawks player to officially confirm their intentions to play elsewhere during the lockout. Zaza was talking to a Turkish team but eventually nixed a deal. Magnum Rolle reportedly will play in South Korea, but no word on if his contract would contain an opt-out (and if he really got $973,000 to play in a 5,500-seat arena, kudos to him).

Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat

91 comments Add your comment

NCHawksfan

August 19th, 2011
4:36 pm

Excited about new owner and look forward to seeing Benson Bulk up and be competitive.

Astro Joe

August 19th, 2011
4:38 pm

Good for Benson. I actually have a good feeling about him… no, not as a savior or future starter, but as a true rotation-type player who will provide quality depth early in his rookie season. Kind of strange to see his mother providing what seems like an agent’s statement… but whatever.

MC, is there a timeline associated with the new owner’s confirmation by the league?

Michael Cunningham

August 19th, 2011
4:42 pm

@AJ: “MC, is there a timeline associated with the new owner’s confirmation by the league?”

league says it will do due diligence on sale then vote but no timeline on when all of that will happen. Meruelo hopes by end of year.

doc

August 19th, 2011
4:48 pm

he’s baaack!

good to hear from you mc and have he blg unlocked for a couple of days.

enjoy the wine and pasta and you can become twin size in italy.

GT Alum

August 19th, 2011
4:53 pm

Only potential negative is if he gets injured, but for a young player like him, the potential benefits far outweigh the risks. This will give him an opportunity to work on his game, and hopefully he’ll come into camp as a better player because of it. Too bad European leagues tend to be less physical than the NBA. Would be nice for him to get more experience banging against big physical centers, since that is a weakness for this team.

Astro Joe

August 19th, 2011
4:59 pm

Ra'mon

August 19th, 2011
4:59 pm

MC, thanks for the updates!

MC, do you think it would be hard for the new owner to be approved with his ownership of casino (gambling)??

I sure hope he’s not trying to make a play on taking the Hawks Las Vegas with a casino and arena in one building (although it would make A LOT of money, lol).

Ra'mon

August 19th, 2011
5:01 pm

By the way, any one seen Josh riding shot gun with D12 in the new Adidas video? I wonder were they talking Magic or Hawks in the car (or possibly both going to LAL).

Mike is back

August 19th, 2011
5:11 pm

MC, what’s up…GOOD STUFF on Benson…I think it’s a great move for him.

I want to get excited about the new owner, but when you start readING some stuff…you kind of have to wait and see. He always comes in after someone has build something up…that’s been his MO…he must feel there is some real value in the Hawks franchise…because he is a screw guy.

After reading some his sound bites…you can under stand why he said…he’s got to earn the respect of the fan…LIKE I said…after you read so some stuff…heck, he Right.lol…heh heh

Dude likes to win…U GOTTA LIKE THAT!!!

Michael Cunningham

August 19th, 2011
5:17 pm

@Ra’mon: “MC, do you think it would be hard for the new owner to be approved with his ownership of casino (gambling)??”

i don’t think that will be a factor. the Maloofs (Kings) own a Vegas casino. Mereulo’s casino is in Reno.

drmaryb .(*_*).

August 19th, 2011
5:17 pm

Good riddance!! He wasn’t BEEFCAKE enough for this team anyway!!!

Ra'mon

August 19th, 2011
5:19 pm

@MC, thanks!

That’s good to know. Don’t know how Gangsta Stern run his business now, lol.

Ra'mon

August 19th, 2011
5:21 pm

Al Pacino, Danny Devito, Robert Deniro, and David Stern are going to get together and make a movie called “32 Cities in 32 Nights”. lol

Michael Cunningham

August 19th, 2011
5:23 pm

@Mike is back: “I want to get excited about the new owner, but when you start readING some stuff…you kind of have to wait and see. He always comes in after someone has build something up…that’s been his MO…he must feel there is some real value in the Hawks franchise…because he is a screw guy.”

well, he did start the La Pizza Loca chain in LA. man, i love that name. i’ve never had their pie but my LA peeps tell me it’s not bad.

i know fans like to hear owners talk passionately about the team but that’s never really impressed me. in Miami, i hardly ever heard Micky Arison talk about how he loves the Heat. instead he just put Pat Riley in charge, gives him the resources (which admittedly are much deeper than Meruelo’s) he needs and makes money. to me, that’s more important than good PR with fans.

that’s not to say Meruelo isn’t smart to recognize he has to repair the team’s relationship with the fan base. i’m just saying that only goes so far.

MannyT

August 19th, 2011
5:26 pm

Good for Benson. He gets to develop his skills and make some money while the owners are putting the squeeze on the players to account for ownership’s loss of fiscal control.

I got an email about the Hawks schedule earlier this week. I doubt is has any use in 2011. More attention toward other things until they return. I just hope it’s not some jacked up 1/2 season where there are few nights off. I don’t want the NBA schedule to look like MLB (6 games/week) for a mad dash that starts in Feb.

MannyT

August 19th, 2011
5:30 pm

I wonder if Meruelo ever got Ricky Martin to make a commercial for him…eatin’ La Pizza Loca ;-)

As low as the prices are, I can live w/this.
http://youtu.be/GzCOSF2G6Tk

Worldwide Clyde

August 19th, 2011
5:57 pm

*yawn* *yawn* yawn*

FIRE SUND

Section 303

August 19th, 2011
6:21 pm

Benson playing in Italy is a good move by him. Gives him a chance to improve his game and get some jack. He might as well get comfortable over there. No NBA season until September of 2012.

The 2011-2012 season is already lost, as far as I’m concerned. No way this lockout ends without costing the season.

Najeh Davenpoop

August 19th, 2011
6:28 pm

Good move for Benson. Hope Meruelo’s purchase goes through with no snags and he’s the next Arthur Blank.

BosnianBaller

August 19th, 2011
6:37 pm

How crappy are the teams in europe if they wanna build their teams around Keith Benson. At least he will hopefully get better over there and learn how to shoot a jumper b/c the game over there is perimeter oriented

Mike is back

August 19th, 2011
6:50 pm

Yeah, you said something key…bring in a capable person and let that individual make the basketball decisions. If Meruelo does that…I think he will succeed.

Mike is back

August 19th, 2011
7:03 pm

Najeh I hope you are right…Cuz We probably should kind of put a disclaimer on this one. lol

Buddy Grizzard

August 19th, 2011
8:37 pm

MC any word on Hawks hiring of Dennis Lindsey as GM to replace Rick Sund?

MOVE TO SEATTLE PLEASE !!!!!!

August 19th, 2011
9:10 pm

Let’s HOPE & PREY this owner, will MOVE this WORTHLESS franchise to SEATTLE, they are craving basketball, WHO CARES ABOUT this CRAP Nothing team ???

I have never gone to a game of this worthless team and never will, a complete WASTE of time & Money, I just hope this owner gets it and MOVES the team, Please MOVE, Atlanta does NOT need this worthless team or league !!!!

Seattle Here They Come !!!!!

Buddy Grizzard

August 19th, 2011
9:26 pm

Move to Seattle, please get up on current events before you post ignorance. Hawks are locked into their arena deal until like 2028. Not going anywhere.

SF,Josh Smith, SF, Malcolm Thomas PF, Donatas Motiejunas PF Jordan HIll, C Hasheem Thabeet, C Zaza Pachulia

August 20th, 2011
1:03 am

@BosnianBaller because the Hawks need more jumpshooting big men.

If his shooting opens up his ability to get FREE THROWS, He can help Joe and Josh control the game.

Maybe I was too harsh on Benson.

What say Hawks Nation of a [b]Theo Ratliff[/b] comparison? Draftexpress says he was drafted at 210.

SF,Josh Smith, SF, Malcolm Thomas PF, Donatas Motiejunas PF Jordan HIll, C Hasheem Thabeet, C Zaza Pachulia

August 20th, 2011
1:16 am

@MC
good interview/research!

How did you get in contact with Benson’s mother. Smith needs to be interviewed about weight probably before TRAINING CAMP.

It’s time to make a decision on him and Horford.

You either go with Horford’s passing and get a shooting forward for Smith and get a center
or you go with a (committed to ~235 lbs ala Carmelo Anthony) and move Al for a shooting forward and get a center.

No more of this ugly 3-guard lineups that wreck rebounding and defense.

If Hawks Nation wants to make that step out of mediocrity they have to play to the size and bully tactics of a Joakim Noah or the size of Dwight Howard and who knows maybe Bogut is in the playoffs, Heat even with Anthony could have beaten us last year.

Front Office
Fixing the roster does not mean gutting the team for a “superstar”

Time to make a decision. Yeah we need shooters but they need to rebound and bolster the frontcourt not overload the backcourt with guards who cant defend.

Al’s passing+ shooting S or Josh’s defense and shooting etc.
Here’s hoping they make the right one.

Phuch Le` Duch

August 20th, 2011
4:07 am

Pronounced – foosh le duke

As a relative newcomer to this blog, I don’t understand why it comes and goes. I usually hang out with the Dawgs and Bravos because their blogs run most every day. Oh well, European ball is more physical than the GT alum indicated above. Benson should learn some fundamentals overseas.
Now about Meruelo being one way or another, I like Cuban’s style, and Ted’s style when he ran this
town. Not to mention, Ted started out with no money and borrowing all the cash to purchase the Braves. At least that’s what my daddy said. Mr. Blank is really hands on too. It takes all kinds though.

How bout them Dawgs – I cannot wait to see the new Nike Pro Combat uniforms later today.

That’s about it as the blog will be gone when I come back. I’ll check back in September when the blog returns. As I mentioned before – I am mostly a blog-voyeur as I like to read the comments but rarely contribute.

giommaria

August 20th, 2011
4:33 am

The Dinamo Sassari (the club italian) reported that he can opt out only if he has a guaranteed NBA contract, not one for the NBA Development League or a camp attempt to earn one. Welcome in Sardinia Keith Benson, and good luck, we you will see in the Sassari.

doc

August 20th, 2011
10:44 am

phuch they are ready for your viewing at nike right now. not bad but traditionalists will hate them.

interest is waning in the nba and the hawks as they self destruct.

anyone tried to turn in their season ticket seats yet to the hawks to find out the reaction from them or considered their “offer”?

ant banks

August 20th, 2011
11:25 am

if i were a EUROLEAGUE owner/coach, i would not sign an nba player with an opt out clause. they are with your team for 2 months, help you get a first place and then leave and you potentially drop, precipitously, to the bottom…WTF?

also, i am not too sure if i were an nba player, that i would sign to play over there and risk losing my guaranteed nba contract. they can’t be that hard up for money…

you are playin’ against guys who are jealous of the nba players and sub standard quality…the potential to get hurt is greater…SEE GEORGETOWN CHINA BRAWL

giommaria

August 20th, 2011
11:46 am

@ant banks,
Benson can opt out only if he has a guaranteed NBA contract, not one for the NBA Development League or a camp attempt to earn one.

giommaria

August 20th, 2011
11:59 am

However, none in Sassari think that Benson is a phenomenon, even us fans are concerned.

Remarkable

August 20th, 2011
12:39 pm

Does anyone really care? If this were a blog about Pro-Football there would be 2000 posts. A day later and I’m number 37. Let the NBA stay locked out and we will all watch European Basketball for a while and then never miss the NBA at all. Stay locked out and see how the Atlanta fan base stays away. Repair it, you’ll have to rebuild it.

Grandad

August 20th, 2011
1:51 pm

Don’t forget … Mr Troll Man;

I know who you are … if you don’t leave;
you will be exposed …

Riddle me this:

” Svelte il II ”

note … need I say more ?

Grandad

August 20th, 2011
1:58 pm

( ~_*) I got my eye on you sonny !

ant banks

August 20th, 2011
2:09 pm

if the nba locks out the entire season, wont the WNBA be affected? i mean the revenue from the nba supports that “brand” of basketball…

A concerned fan..

August 20th, 2011
5:00 pm

MC, is there any progress in Labor Talks? The suspense is killing me!

doc

August 20th, 2011
5:33 pm

remarkable you counted heh heh

Worldwide Clyde

August 20th, 2011
9:49 pm

CBSsportsline ranked Joe Johnson 44 in their player rankings.

FIRE SUND

Slimjr

August 20th, 2011
10:26 pm

Has Mr Blank falcon team won anything yet,besides the conference a couple of times and hasnt won a playoff game in 7 years since MV7 left town in a hurry?

His shine is beginning to wane….He should have hired Lovie over that clown Mora!

Fire SUND and Larry simultaneously!

Slimjr

August 20th, 2011
10:30 pm

“As a relative newcomer to this blog, I don’t understand why it comes and goes. I usually hang out with the Dawgs and Bravos because their blogs run most every day”

@Phuch Le` Duch

Its so obvious! Maybe Jesse needs to come on down here and march again?

nelle

August 20th, 2011
11:03 pm

Yeah! This blog is very ghetto-fied with all the low life troll posters on here. No one wants to come here and dodge all the drive-by bullets.

Kids aren’t safe and can’t even play in their front yards.
Too bad the AJC doesn’t have a real NBA caliber blog, this is the worst pile of comments I ever read, most of it is not even NBA related topics.

Call, Jesse! And I’m Gone.

Slimjr

August 20th, 2011
11:20 pm

poor nelle another delusional Falcon fanatic..seek help immediately…

nelle

August 21st, 2011
12:01 am

Slimjr

not quite delusional, this blog is just hard to read with all that troll stuff here. It just seems creepy and weird to me.

I can’t do that falcon blog either, too intensely fanatical, racist and silly. No Sir, I’m more of a NBA girl myself. LOL, you’re funny though. Ha Ha.

Big Ray

August 21st, 2011
5:23 am

Benson to Italy for a spell, new owner needs more than goodwill, and the troll remains.

Back to Falcons Football….

SF,Josh Smith, SF, Malcolm Thomas PF, Donatas Motiejunas PF Jordan HIll, C Hasheem Thabeet, C Zaza Pachulia

August 21st, 2011
5:48 am

Horford didnt force Smith to the perimeter at SF. At SF he posts up more than ever. Josh forced himself to perimeter with his weight gain draining his slashing ability stamina and first step.

If Smith doesnt drop to 230 this team is through. There was a realgm debate on marketability of Hawks players.

In my mind there is no question who’s most marketable. @MC would it cause a rift to suggest to Smith he needs to become more svelte again.
His offensive awareness as far as situations etc. took a step forward but his conditioning was noticeably poorer than ever.

In the past he could keep up with Lebron,and score in transition. But now he plays the same tempo if not slower as a 250+ Lebron and with no where near the halfcourt skill.
I think its funny that of the very few things Smith does better than Lebron his willingness to go in the post is the one that gets criticized the most.

#MC gotta tell Smith to lose weight, work with somebody, anybody to take that next step

Grandad

August 21st, 2011
10:23 am

I’m still around … how can I post when there is no blog ?
But “troll-clown” you’ve been warned…………………….
I’m keepin’ my eye … (~_*) … on you !
Your Sonny Fluet’s boy, are you not ?

Grandad

August 21st, 2011
10:36 am

Hatter;
If it’s you … I’ll leave you alone ?
I just don’t think it’s you.
Only the real you,
would know how to communicate with me.
For the one & only {capital} ” T ” {+} {capital} ” S ” …
I hope all is well !

Missing Something?

August 21st, 2011
8:45 pm

What’s missing here? Oh yeah, meds. big time.