There is not one Golden State Warriors fan I know that disliked Kelenna Azubuike while he was here. He was a nice guy, good teammate and, by coming up from the Development league, everyone was rooting him on. He was a good story.
He played well for the Warriors, especially after they traded away Jason Richardson. Azubuike came in, and losing Richardson suddenly wasn’t so bad anymore.
In his first full season with the Warriors, he played well enough for the Los Angeles Clippers to sign him to an offer sheet. The Warriors, after Maurice Evans (really Warriors) backed out a deal with them, wisely decided to match the Clippers' offer and retain Azubuike for three more years.
The following year, he was averaging 14 points and five rebounds a game while shooting 45 percent from the 3-point line. All was good.
He was a tremendous athlete who fit in like glove with Nellie Ball while starting 51 games that year. He could get into the lane and finish, plus Nellie liked him, which was half the battle in playing for Golden State.
Then, nine games into the 2009-2010 season, one horrific spill made the Shawn Livingston injury seem like a sprain. Okay, maybe not that bad—but it was pretty ugly. Any time a grown man screams out like that in public, it's serious.
While still recovering from that injury, Azubuike was then traded along with Anthony Randolph and Ronny Turiaf in the deal that brought David Lee to the Bay Area. It wasn't a big loss, since at the time he only had one knee and an expiring deal.
I thought it was a sneaky thrown-in for the New York Knicks, since they play a similar style as the Warriors—a system in which he thrived. However, the Knicks have since deemed him not healthy enough to make a contribution this year, and he was waived on Feb. 28 to make room for...Jared Jeffries. Ouch. It must really be a gruesome injury.
Now it's been over two weeks, and Kelenna Azubuike is still without a team. The Warriors could use a shot of energy for the rest of the year, especially with five more games coming on back-to-back nights.
However, if Azubuike has gone this long without being signed, then something must be really wrong. Especially for a player that relies on his athleticism, having that bum knee is kind of a problem.
If the knee has taken away his explosiveness (which it sounds like it has), then there is no reason for a team to take a chance on him for the rest of the season at least. Let him continue his rehab and maybe he can come back to form. However, we don't know if he was a product of the Warriors system or not.
While I wish the best for Kelenna Azubuike, we've moved on and he should too. If a player of his talent level is without a team for over two weeks, then that knee could have been a career ender.
For those of you who would like Azubuike back in a Warrior uniform, do you really want a guy that the Knicks deemed not good enough to contribute after they depleted their entire depth?
Some guys have come back from a similar injury: Antonio McDyess re-invented himself as a great defender and low post presence. Go look on YouTube at Mcdyess' highlights pre-injury—you can't even tell that's him. He's flying all over the place. Azubuike might have to do the same, but it's quite tougher being a perimeter player with no burst.
Like others such as Damon Stoudamire, a guy who needed speed and quickness, this same injury essentially ended his career. While I hope this isn't the end of Kelenna Azubuike's career, I just wouldn't advise the Warriors to sign him.
Especially if it means that it takes Al Thornton off the court. This guy wasn't good enough to be on the Wizards? Finally, something positive coming from Washington!