Anybody remember Isaiah Austin? To be quite honest, I forgot about him, myself. But he was the 7-foot big man for the Baylor Men's Basketball team, and a player destined to be a first round draft selection. It at least seemed that way until Austin went for his pre-draft combine physical, which revealed that he had something wrong. Further tests showed that the versatile 7-footer would likely have to call it a career before it ever really got started.
Austin was already blind in his right eye due to a retinal detachment he suffered in middle school. But the condition that ended the professional basketball dream of Isaiah Austin was Marfan Syndrome, which is a genetic condition that attacks the connective tissue in your cells. It's a very rare condition (less than 200,000 cases per year), and in Austin's case, it was life-threatening because it caused his arteries in his heart to be abnormally large. So on June 22, 2014, just 4 days before Andrew Wiggins was taken 1st overall, Isaiah Austin came out and "retired" from the NBA.
However, on Draft Night, the NBA decided to do something special for the big fella'. In between the fifteenth and sixteenth picks in the first round, Commissioner Silver took to the podium and officially drafted Isaiah Austin into the NBA. Even though he'd never lace them up, he was still able to live out his dream he waited for his whole life: For THAT night, he was an NBA player.
Fast forward 2 years and a few months. On November 30, 2016, Isaiah Austin was officially cleared by doctors to go back to basketball activity. Austin seems to think now is his chance to pursue his dream that had been unfairly ripped from him 2 years ago. He wants to give the NBA a chance... if he is given a chance.
What can Austin provide? Well, he's a versatile big man who has the ability to step back and hit an occasional 3 pointer (31% in college). He seems destined to be a solid backup center at best, more likely a third big due to a presumed minutes restriction. He only averaged 6.8 rebounds per game in college, but the size and touch he has is second-to-none. Also, those numbers might not be 100% parallel to the player Isaiah Austin is due to a shoulder injury he played through his last year with Baylor.
Will he even get a chance?
I think the chances are slim to none that he will get a shot. But who knows? Like I said before, he's got size and versatility, to go on top of only being 23 years old. But he's 2 years removed from his final shot in a basketball game. But like I said, who knows? Teams can start signing players to 10-day contracts starting in January, so Austin has a little bit over a month to get himself back into basketball shape if he wants to play THIS season.
The only team I realistically see signing Austin is the Brooklyn Nets. Why? Because they have nothing to lose. That, and Austin provides much more spark from long distance than Brook Lopez has shown this season. Also, they're basement dwellers in the NBA, therefore they are attracting no sort of fan base to their games. A guy like Isaiah Austin, with THAT story, brings a whole new buzz to Brooklyn. People will want to come out and see what the man has in the tank.
I hope he gets a chance, he deserves it. What a story that would be, especially if he succeeds. Anyway, welcome back Isaiah Austin, the basketball community has nothing but respect and praise for you. Good luck.