After being cut from the Miami Heat's roster during training camp in October, former Golden State Warriors center Mickell Gladness decided that it was time to return to the D-League.
And Gladness had one destination in mind.
"You know, he told me, 'I'll come back to the D-League, but I really want it to be with you guys. There's very few teams I'd go to, but I'm comfortable with you guys, with the coaching staff. I like that it's near the Golden State club because I've been there'," Santa Cruz Warriors GM Kirk Lacob told GSoM in a phone interview this afternoon. "So he was a guy who we think is a really good D-League player - we think he's a NBA caliber player. Of course we'd like to have him back."
Of course, having played for the Dakota Wizards last season the now-Santa Cruz Warriors had first dibs on the 6-foot-11 center out of Alabama A&M - under the D-League rules, the Warriors had the right to sign him first in a manner that might sound somewhat similar to restricted free agency to NBA fans.
"He's still free for [any NBA team] that wants him - he's not our guy - but the Santa Cruz team had his rights. So when he signed his contract with the league, they email us and they say, 'You have 24 hours to claim him or he goes in the player pool.'"
They probably didn't even need that much time to make a decision.
While this does give the Warriors the opportunity to monitor his progress in the D-League and call him up to the NBA if a need arises, returning players don't come with the type of exclusive rights that affiliate players (i.e. the guys who were sent to the D-League after Warriors training camp) do - it was simply an opportunity to work with a guy the Warriors have liked in the past and keep him in the pipeline.
The whole situation is an example of the benefit of the Warriors owning their own D-League team in that they're able to keep talent they like close and develop those prospects in their system.
"When he got released from the Heat, he's a guy I've obviously liked because he was in the D-League and then the [Golden State Warriors] called him up and gave him the rest of the season last year," Lacob said. "So we don't have a need right now, but he's a guy we liked and he knows our system - he was comfortable with us."
However, signing Gladness meant that Santa Cruz had to make room for him and Rick Jackson was the odd man out - with Gladness and 7'0" center Chris Daniels already on the roster, it wasn't clear that the minutes were going to be there for Jackson. To make that space, Lacob elected to send Jackson to the Austin Toros as part of a three team trade also involving the Rio Grande Valley Vipers - the Toros, who are the San Antonio Spurs' affiliate, had a need and they worked out the details of a trade.
As part of the deal, Santa Cruz received a third round pick from Rio Grande Valley.
"Luckily, Austin was just recently in need of a big man - they had actually called about him and found out that we were competing with them for him over the summer," said Lacob. "So it turned out to be a really good situation and I hoping he gets a good crack at it there and gets some playing time."
Gladness averaged 7.8 points on 70% shooting, 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game for Dakota last season and averaged 3 points and 2.6 rebounds in 18 games for the Warriors.
For more on Gladness, check out Ridiculous Upside's account of him at the time he signed with the Heat.