Mickael Gelabale has been waiting for this for nearly five years, ever since his first stint in the NBA was ended with a torn ACL in his right knee. Saturday the Wolves formally announced what had been expected for a few days, that Gelabale – the native of France who has played all over the world – had signed a 10-day contract with the Wolves.
Gelabale is finally back in the NBA, at least for a while, after thinking about it for a long time.
“I always (was) thinking like that, when I was in France, I was thinking to come back,” Gelabale said after the team’s morning shootaround. “I was in Russia thinking about it. I was in Spain thinking about it. Now I’m here, and I want to enjoy it.”
Gelabale was one of two players signed to 10-day contracts Saturday, the other being center Chris Johnson, who was in training camp with the Wolves. Both are needed and both could play some minutes tonight against Houston, with Nikola Pekovic (quad contusion) and Alexey Shved (ankle) both out and Dante Cunningham sick; Cunningham will be a game-time decision.
Gelabale was signed with the roster spot created when Lazar Hayward’s 10-day contract expired. Johnson was signed after the team got an injury exception from the NBA.
Of the two, Gelabale figures to play more.
The 29-year-old is 6-7 and is capable of defending on the perimeter against both shooting guards and small forwards.
Gelabale was with the Seattle Supersonics for two seasons, averaging 4.5 points and 2.1 rebounds in 15.6 minutes per game. That stint ended on March 21, 2008 when he hurt his knee.
He returned a year later and played briefly in the Development League. He was in training camp with the Los Angeles Lakers in the fall of 2009 but was cut before the season started.
Then he returned to Europe, where he played in Belgium, Russia, Croatia and Spain. He began this season playing for Cedevida Zagreb in Croatia, where he averaged 12.8 points on 60.5 percent shooting. He then signed with Valencia BC in Spain in December and played five games there. Gelabale also was a starter on the French Olympic team over the summer, averaging 7.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in six games.
Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn did a good bit of research on Gelabale, whose agent started sending out emails to NBA teams in December indicating a desire to return to the NBA. Kahn spoke directly with Tony Parker – Gelabale’s French Olympic teammate – when the team was in San Antonio. The team also consulted Nicolas Batum. Both gave glowing reviews. Wolves guard Luke Ridnour, who played with Gelabale in Seattle, remembers an athletic defender who could slash to the basket. “He’s just an all-around basketball player,” Ridnour said.
And Kahn thinks Gelabale has matured into a more well-rounded player than he was his first time in the league. “He can do a little of everything,” Kahn said. “Defense, he can make shots, he’s a decent offensive rebounder. High basketball IQ.’’
Johnson, meanwhile, brings some familiarity with the Wolves system, having spent training camp here. He’s a long, athletic player, but he doesn’t bring a lot of bulk to the center position. Still, his energy will help a team dealing with injuries.
“He’s just a play-hard guy,” Kahn said.