Lucas Nogueira will return to Madrid next week and rejoin his Spanish League team after spending 10 weeks in the United States for treatment of severe tendinitis in his knees.
The Hawks’ first-round draft pick suspended his contract with Asefa Estudiantes Madrid in the ACB League in December. He spent time in Atlanta and Los Angeles. In Atlanta, he worked with Peachtree Orthopaedics Clinic, the same facility used by the Hawks.
Hawks general manager Danny Ferry told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in December that the team would continue to monitor the situation with Nogueira. The decision to return to Spain was made by Nogueira and not the Hawks. The Hawks hold only his NBA contract rights. He is expected to return to practice next week in Spain.
It is unclear when he will return to the court, but the Hawks expect him to play again this season.
Estudiantes, currently 4-14, plays next Feb. 22 against Herbalife Gran Canaria.
The diagnosis for Nogueira following the suspension of his contract called for two months of rest and physical therapy.
Nogueira, 20, has appeared in six games this season for Estudiantes. He averaged 5.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in 17.5 minutes. He most recently played Dec. 7 and had seven points and three rebounds in 15 minutes.
The 7-foot center, taken with the 16th overall selection in June’s NBA draft, was caught in a crowded Hawks frontcourt after a number of offseason moves that included the additions of Paul Millsap, Elton Brand, Pero Antic and Gustavo Ayon. The team’s frontcourt also included Al Horford and Mike Scott.
Nogueira returned for another season in the Spanish League to continue his development and add muscle to his 225-pound frame. The native of Brazil appeared in five summer-league games for the Hawks and averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 rebounds. Second-round pick Mike Muscala currently plays for Blusens Monbus Obradoiro of the ACB League.
There is no guarantee the Hawks will bring Nogueira to training camp next season. It is common practice for players to remain overseas for a year or more to continue their development. There are other variables in a team’s decision to bring a player to the NBA, including an available roster spot and whether a contract buyout can be negotiated.
Manu Ginobili was a second-round draft pick of the Spurs in 1999. He played in Italy for three years before coming to the NBA in 2002. Nikola Mirotic, a first-round pick of the Rockets in 2011 and now the property of the Bulls, continues to play for Real Madrid of the Spanish ACB League. There have been reports he could join the Bulls this summer.