Cole (coach's decision) didn't see the floor in a 122-104 win over the Nets on Tuesday.
After he was signed for the rest of the season earlier in March, Cole was expected to buoy the second unit when Russell Westbrook was resting on the bench, but those hopes haven't materialized. Cole shot just 30 percent from the floor over his first four games with the team, prompting coach Billy Donovan to turn the backup point guard duties over to Semaj Christon. With Cole now being held out of the rotation for three straight games, it appears that Christon has solidified himself as the No. 2 point guard for the time being.
Cole registered seven points (2-5 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 2-2 FT), two assists, one rebound and one steal over 11 minutes in Thursday's 114-109 loss to the Trail Blazers.
Just signed on Tuesday for the rest of the season, Cole made his presence felt over his relatively brief time on the court. The 28-year-old guard could serve as a viable source of offensive production on the second unit and give Russell Westbrook some down time in the season's stretch run. Cole averaged a career-best 10.6 points, 3.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds across a high-water mark of 26.6 minutes in 45 games with the Pelicans last season.
After failing to attract interest in free agency this summer, Cole headed to the Chinese Basketball Association in October, but returned from overseas in December after sustaining an injury. Cole is now back to full health, but with the CBA season winding down, the veteran point guard received clearance to pursue NBA opportunities, and found a home with the Thunder. After Cameron Payne was dealt away to the Bulls at the trade deadline, rookie Semaj Christon had been serving as the team's backup point guard behind MVP candidate Russell Westbrook the last two contests, but with a 33.5 percent mark from the field on the season, Christon hasn't proven himself as a viable option for those duties. Cole, a two-time NBA champion with the Heat who has averaged 7.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 rebounds over five NBA seasons, probably amounts to a significant upgrade over Christon, despite his extended time away from the league. While Cole is expected to sit out Tuesday's game against the Jazz in a coach's decision while he gets acclimated with his new team, the 24-year-old could join the Thunder rotation as soon as Thursday against the Trail Blazers. Assuming he quickly settles in as the main backup to Westbrook, Cole would likely be in store for a 10-to-15-minute role in most games, which wouldn't give him much value in deeper leagues.
Cole signed a one-year contract Wednesday with the Shandong Golden Stars of the Chinese Basketball Association, international basketball writer David Pick reports.
After posting career-high averages in a number of categories last season with the Pelicans, including points per game (10.6), assists per game (3.7) and minutes per game (26.6), Cole was unable to attract much interest from NBA teams in free agency. It probably didn't help matters that the 27-year-old had dealt with back problems for a good chunk of the second half of last season, as he ended up suiting up in 45 total games. He'll look to rehabilitate his value in China, but reportedly has an out clause in his contract with Shandong that will allow him to head back to the NBA if an opportunity arises.
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