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Someone to emulate

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 13, 2021 - 12:00am

Andrew Nicholson is a pro basketball player with a head on his shoulders. He’s 31, a five-year NBA veteran who set himself up for life by investing wisely the millions that came with playing 285 games for the Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets. The 6-9 power forward was Orlando’s first round pick in the 2012 NBA draft and saved 80 percent of the four-year $6.8 million contract he signed as a rookie. In 2016, Nicholson inked a four-year $26 million deal with Washington. He played only 28 games with the Wizards then was traded to Brooklyn during the 2016-17 season. Nicholson saw action in 10 games with the Nets then was traded to Portland before the start of the 2017-18 campaign. He never suited up for the Trail Blazers and was waived in the summer but within a week, moved to China where he has now played the last four seasons.

Although Nicholson never played for Portland, the Blazers were obligated to pay his salary up to 2019-20. His contract in China was about $1 million so under NBA rules, it didn’t qualify to reduce whatever was still owed by Portland. From the NBA and China, Nicholson probably bankrolled about $36 million.

“From my first NBA contract, I lived off 20 percent of my salary,” said Nicholson during an interview on the EASL Clubhouse platform yesterday.  “I took care of my Mom and Dad, lived modestly. I remember my teammates drove fancy cars but I bought a BMW 5 series that I had difficulty fitting into. Still, it got me where I wanted to go from Point A to Point B and that was all I needed. From my second contract, I invested in real estate, stocks and bonds in the US. When I’m done playing, I can live from the earnings of my investments and do nothing but I’m the type with the drive to always stay active, whether it’s giving back to the community or helping out kids.”

Nicholson said in the tail-end of his NBA career, he could’ve sulked in exasperation. “I was in the NBA but wasn’t playing,” he said. “I was in the best league in the world but it wasn’t right. I could’ve questioned myself, lost my confidence. I could’ve asked how come guys not better than me were playing. Instead, I kept myself ready with a high attitude. I consider myself blessed to be paid to play the game I love. If you put in the effort, give your best, you’ll find an opportunity to prove yourself in whatever league or whatever country. When China came along, I knew it was the best option. I had a chance to play again. I’ll admit when I first arrived, I was prepared for Armageddon. I brought a 70-pound bag with snacks and medicine. As the season got underway, something hit me. I embraced the opportunity to play, opened my mind, appreciated my conditions and began to learn the language. I made the effort to know my teammates by their Mandarin name, I hung out with them, I ate what they ate. I love China and I hope to be back for a fifth season.”

If there’s a chance in the future to play in the PBA, Nicholson said he’ll grab it. “I promised Kuya Matt (Matthew Wright) I’ll play on his team someday when the import restrictions will allow it,” he said. “Matt and I played two years together at St. Bonaventure and we lived in cities next to each other in Canada. We stay in touch. Playing in China gave me the chance to visit the Philippines at least once a year. BGC is my spot and Boracay and El Nido are beautiful. When there was a three or four-day break in China, I’d fly to Manila from Fujian which is less than two hours away by plane. I love calamansi, pansit canton and all the Filipino food.”

Nicholson said now that his China season is over and he’s back home in Toronto, he’s staying in shape. “It’s 80 percent diet,” he said. “My fiancée is a terrific chef and prepares all my food because I can’t cook, I struggle in boiling water. We eat healthy and clean. With Toronto in lockdown, it’s difficult to find a gym but that’s no excuse. All you need is a floor where you can do high intensity cardio workouts even without equipment. In the gym, I lift weights four times a week, I like pumping iron.”

Since Canada is hosting one of four Olympic Qualifying Tournaments on June 29-July 4, Nicholson said he’s definitely considering re-joining the national squad. He’s not ruling out the possibility of reentering the NBA. Nicholson said two players whom he idolized growing up were Al Jefferson and Tim Duncan and two NBA teammates whom he enjoyed chilling with were Tobias Harris and Aaron Gordon. He welcomed the opportunity of playing in the EASL. “I’d love to be part of it, to play different countries, see different places,” said Nicholson. “It’d be exciting, to experience the fans and to compete with the best of the best in East Asia.”

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