Sasha Vezenkov

Report: Vezenkov informed Kings he doesn't plan to return next season

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Sasha Vezenkov's NBA career might be short-lived.

The Kings forward, who tested the NBA last season with Sacramento, has informed the Kings that he doesn't intend to return for the second year of his contract, Eurohoops Greek journalist Mihalis Stefanou reported Saturday.

Currently, the decision is "open" on whether Vezenkov will continue his basketball career in the NBA or return to Europe, Stefanou added.

After shining in the EuroLeague, Vezenkov signed a two-year, $20 million contract with Sacramento and tested the waters in the NBA. But his first taste of the best basketball league in the world was no walk in the park.

Vezenkov was in and out of Kings coach Mike Brown's rotation, recording nearly a dozen DNPs (Did Not Play).

He also dealt with back-to-back ankle injuries that sidelined him for close to 30 games.

In 42 games last season, Vezenkov averaged 5.4 points on 44-percent shooting from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point range, adding 2.3 rebounds in 12.2 minutes.

Over the course of the season, Vezenkov was honest with the self-assessment of his NBA progress.

"I'm trying," Vezenkov told reporters back in November. "I'm trying to study the game, study the players. I'll never be a lockdown defender, let's be honest -- but I want to be solid. I want to try to help the team and don't get exposed. And I think I'm improving every game.

"But I don't want to talk about myself when they scored 131 points, there's so much you can say. We didn't play good defense today, everybody. So we have to see where we can become better."

The progress definitely was there, and like any NBA rookie, so were the struggles.

Brown also recognized it was going to take time for the sharpshooter to adjust to the league.

"It's still a work in progress. I continue to see glimpses of him playing at a high level and seeing how he can impact the game on both ends of the floor," Brown said in November. "It's going to take time. It's going to take time for him to adjust to the league and it's going to take time for us to adjust to him and vice versa. He's going to have good games and he may have a bad game here or there. But he is a guy that knows how to play. He wants it really bad. He works his behind off when he's out there.

"And obviously he has to be guarded on the offensive end of the floor. He does a lot of little things like rebounding and boxing guys out and trying to be in the right position to help that doesn't really show up all the time on the stat sheet. That's what can get him over the hump and get him more playing time if he continues to do that at a high level."

The standout EuroLeague forward averaged 17.2 points per game while shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from 3-point range in 38 games played for the Olympiacos. He ranked second in the league in both rebounds (6.8) and 2-point shots made (4.4). 

He was named the EuroLeague Most Valuable Player for the 2022-23 season.

Despite his reported desire to exit the NBA for now, the decision ultimately isn't up to Vezenkov. The Kings would have to waive him since he has a guaranteed year at $6.6 million for the 2024-25 season. Sacramento holds a team option for 2025-26 for $6.9 million.

And while his EuroLeague success didn't directly transfer to the NBA, Vezenkov never lacked heart and effort when his number was called. And just like Kings general manager Monte McNair and Co., it appears Vezenkov has a difficult decision to make this offseason.

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