Washington Wizards fan favorite James Singleton has hustled his way back into the NBA, signing a 10-day contract with the New York Knicks. Singleton had enjoyed success in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), helping his team, the Guangdong Southern Tigers, to the CBA finals during the 2011-2012 season.
Singleton was traded to the Wizards from the Dallas Mavericks in February 2010 as part of the final dismantling of “The Big Three” era. With Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and Deshawn Stevenson jettisoned, Singleton was shipped in as part of a unit that suddenly found themselves beams in a rebuilding project.
But Singleton was anything but complacent. The formerly undrafted player gave fans a taste of grit and toughness that it hadn’t seen in Washington for years. With morale low because of the end of one era, Singleton gave us all a reason to cheer. He played well within his role on both sides of the ball, rebounding, blocking shots, and knocking down the occasional shot.
In September 2010, Singleton rejected a contract offer from the Wizards to play in China. Many were hoping for a deal, but the assumption was that management could not justify making a large enough offer to Singleton to retain him. It’s the plague of the role player.
In April 2012, Singleton found himself back in Washington after signing a 10-day contract. At that time, the Wizards’ front court was decimated, with Nene, Trevor Booker, Andray Blatche, and Rashard Lewis sidelined with injuries. So Singleton made sense. He knew the coaching staff, players, and helped create team chemistry during his previous stint.
What many weren’t expecting, however, was Singleton’s improved offensive game. During his second stretch in Washington, Singleton averaged 8.2 points per game, shooting over 54% from the floor. His time in China playing more of a scoring role clearly did him well.
While he’s heading to New York (and a great team, to boot), I feel like “Big Game James” will always be an honorary Wizard and a player several fans will root for no matter what jersey he wears. I wish him the best of luck.