At the time, it made plenty of sense. There was no guarantee the NBA would have a season, and the money was good.
But Daye ran into a difficulty he never anticipated.
“Things just tasted kind of weird,” Daye said. “… Even fast food tasted different.”
His teammates helped when they could, and Daye found some Chinese-like dishes with chicken and rice that he could handle. But the process wasn’t easy.
“I was on my own,” Daye said. “I was definitely on my own.”
Then, when he caught a “flu bug” that caused an upset stomach for two to three weeks shortly after returning.
In all, he lost about 10 pounds and dropped to 200 pounds. It wasn’t until between 1.5 and 2 months ago that Daye returned to where he started.
“I don’t think it’s an excuse,” Daye said. “It’s not hindering my whole game. It’s just hindering parts of it.”
Daye specifically cited finishing inside and post defense as the area that gave him the most trouble while his weight was down.
“I’m always able to hold my own in the post,” Daye said. “Not too many guys post me up, because I’m pretty crafty down there.”
The numbers back him up. Daye allowed .76 points per post up last season, according to MySynergySports, easily his best defensive play. That’s up to .78 this year, but with just nine plays, that’s hardly a reliable sample.
Daye’s field-goal percentage at the rim (58) ranks between his first two seasons, but he’s taking just 16 percent of his shots at the rim – well below his rookie (26) and sophomore (21) years.
And that gets to the big letdown: Daye’s mental game. For most of the season, he didn’t feel strong, and it showed.
I don’t know whether Daye has a future as an NBA rotation player. Although e showed positive signs during his first two seasons, he never proved himself as capable, and he’s completely regressed this year.
But here’s the good news: Daye will never play in Russia before an NBA season again. This situation was unique, and although it basically sabotaged his season, it won’t be repeated.
It’s disappointing Daye wasted so much time just getting back to square one physically when he could have been progressing, but what can you do?
I’m willing to call Daye’s season a wash and see what he can do next year.