Former Suns Player Reportedly Returning to Japan

Former Suns player Yuta Watanabe is heading back to Japan to continue his career, per reports.
Jan 11, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Yuta Watanabe (18) reacts during the second half at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 11, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Yuta Watanabe (18) reacts during the second half at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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PHOENIX -- Former Phoenix Suns shooter Yuta Watanabe appears to be heading back to his native country of Japan to continue his basketball career.

From BasketNews:

"Japanese basketball superstar Yuta Watanabe is close to joining the Chiba Jets, sources tell BasketNews. Per BasketNews sources, there is a high expectation within the league that the 6-year NBA veteran, who appeared in 213 NBA games, will play for the Jets next year. The 29-year-old, 2.06 m forward is set to make his B.League debut next season."

Watanabe was a free agent addition by Phoenix last offseason, and arrived to the Valley with excitement thanks to a good working relationship with Kevin Durant (the two spent time together on the Brooklyn Nets) while also adding another three-point shooter to the mix.

However, Watanabe failed to impress coach Frank Vogel thanks to some poor shooting performances, and Watanabe eventually became a regular seat on the bench as others shined brighter in their opportunities.

Eventually, Watanabe was dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies at the trade deadline in a three-team deal.

The Japanese star opened up about his mental health struggles towards the end of the regular season, going on Instagram Live to announce he would decline his $2.65 million player option for the 2024-25 season to return to Japan.

"I just want to play basketball. I want to step into the game and do what I do in practice," he said (h/t Kyodo News). "I grinded through my 20's but now I hope to play basketball the way I like."

Now, he'll get the opportunity he's wanted. Best of luck to Watanabe.


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Donnie Druin

DONNIE DRUIN

Donnie Druin is the Publisher for All Cardinals and Inside The Suns. Donnie moved to Arizona in 2012 and has been with Fan Nation since 2018. In college he won "Best Sports Column" in the state of Arizona for his section and has previously provided coverage for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona State Sun Devils. Follow Donnie on Twitter @DonnieDruin for more news, updates, analysis and more!