Dajuan Wagner, chosen No.6 in the 2002 draft, last played in the NBA during the 2006-07 season.
And that was just a single game with the Warriors.
Wagner, who was drafted by and spent his first three seasons with the Cavaliers, hasn’t played in the world’s top league since. That’s seven years out of the NBA.
But Wagner, 31, wants to return.
Even though NBA training camps have opened, Wagner is not in a hurry. He said he wants to push himself hard for the next month and then gauge his strength and conditioning.
“I want to see how I feel,” Wagner said.
Wagner could play in Europe this winter or perhaps in China or Puerto Rico. He could test-drive his game in the NBA Development League.
Wagner said his comeback is “not life or death.” He’s fine financially after signing a $10.7 million rookie contract with Cleveland.
But he can’t help but wonder if he still can excel in the game he believes he was born to play.
This story comes up every few years, and each time, it becomes more unlikely Wagner succeeds.
Best I can tell just, just 10 players have gone at least six years between NBA stints:
- Freddie Lewis: 9 (1966-67 to 1976-77)
- Larry Jones: 8 (1964-65 to 1973-74)
- Gary Plummer: 7 (1984-85 to 1992-93)
- Alex Stivrins: 6 (1985-86 to 1992-93)
- Andre Emmett: 6 (2004-05 to 2011-12)
- Shane Heal: 6 (1996-97 to 2003-04)
- Will Solomon: 6 (2001-02 to 2008-09)
- Anthony Parker: 6 (1999-00 to 2006-07)
- Victor Alexander: 6 (1994-95 to 2001-02)
- Bob Cousy: 6 (1962-63 to 1969-70)
The first two players on that list, Lewis and Jones, played in the ABA in those middle years.
There’s just very little precedent for the path Wagner is trying to forge.
Undoubtedly, health issues diminished his chances of NBA success. The Inquirer article covers those in depth.
However, Wagner was still a 6-foot-2 shoot-first guard whose complementary skills were severely lacking. Not many players of that mold stick in the NBA.
I hope Wagner enjoys the path he’s going down. Maybe he gets paid for paying basketball – a wonderful thing – in a lower league. But I just see no reasonable scenario where he returns to the NBA.