Sixers' Lawal plans to be here a while

Sixers forward Gani Lawal battling for the ball against Bilbao in Sunday's game. The 6-foot-9, 234-pounder had been playing in Europe.
Sixers forward Gani Lawal battling for the ball against Bilbao in Sunday's game. The 6-foot-9, 234-pounder had been playing in Europe. (ALVARO BARRIENTOS / Associated Press)
Posted: October 09, 2013

MANCHESTER, England - Gani Lawal spent the last two years believing he would still be an NBA starter without his injury.

"I said that plenty of times," said the post player, who signed a partially guaranteed, one-year deal with the Sixers on Friday. "I would be lying to you if I said I didn't.

"You play those little mental games with yourself, like, 'Man, if I would not have gotten hurt . . .' "

The Georgia Tech product was a Phoenix Suns second-round pick in 2010. The 6-foot-9, 234-pounder was slated to start against the New York Knicks on Jan. 7, 2011, even though he had played only two minutes for the team.

But the Nigerian-American native of Georgia suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tear the day before that game. After being waived, he spent the next two seasons playing overseas.

"I'm just thankful to be here," said Lawal, whose team faces Oklahoma City in Tuesday's preseason game at Manchester Arena in England. "And I'm going to make the best of it. Mark my word. Know that."

While starting is his ultimate goal, he knows the Sixers (1-0) need him to provide energy. The noted rebounder and shot-blocker says he relishes that role.

He averaged 13.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks last season for Virtus Roma of the Italian League.

"Man, keep it simple, stupid. That's all I'm going to do," said Lawal, who was thought to be headed overseas this season had the Sixers not signed him. "I'm going to be a rebounder because that's what I do."

Lawal received interest from the Sixers, the Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, and the Orlando Magic this summer. However, most of those teams wanted him to sign a nonguaranteed deal.

So Lawal opted to sign a lucrative contract in August to play for VEF Riga in the Latvian League.

His relationship with the European team was shaky from the start. It was reported that he chose not to travel to a Euroleague qualifier and that the team didn't like his attitude. Lawal and VEF Riga parted ways Thursday.

Lawal denied that he refused to play in the qualifier.

"That's a slight at my character," he said. "People want to say things and have reports out. Obviously, in the past nothing has ever come out like that [about me]. So I don't ever worry about it."

Lawal said he flew to Philadelphia from Latvia on Wednesday. He took a physical and flew to Spain to join his new teammates on Friday.

Now that he's found an NBA home, he intends to remain a Sixer beyond the one year his deal would suggest.

"It will be," he said. "I'm going to speak it into existence. It will be."


kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

www.inquirer.com/deepsixer

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