After he was released by the NBA’s Phoenix Suns on October 15, 2018, Darrell Arthur decided to “take a break.”
The 6-foot-9, 240-pound former University of Kansas forward elected to put his pro basketball career on hold at the age of 30 rather than seek a job overseas after 10 seasons in the NBA.
“Mentally and physically. I just needed some time. Coming back injury after injury after injury … I wanted my body to heal the best way it could and I needed to think about mentally what I wanted to do — if I wanted to do overseas, try to get back in the league or anything like that,” Arthur, a member of KU’s 2008 NCAA title team, said during a recent interview with The Star from KU’s practice facility adjacent to Allen Fieldhouse.
He had just completed a workout with the “Self Made” KU alumni team that lost in the first round of the single-elimination TBT in late July in Wichita.
“I’m still trying to work on that right now. I really don’t know what direction I’m going in,” Arthur added.
Now 31, the former first-round pick of the New Orleans Hornets (27th overall in 2008 NBA Draft) is planning his next move in basketball — one that likely does not involve the NBA, where he averaged 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 503 games.
“Probably not. It’s a long season, man” said Arthur, noting the grind has taken a toll on his body. He suffered a torn Achilles eight years ago and has had “two or three scopes on my left knee that have had my knee starting to give out with arthritis.”
“Me and Mario (Chalmers, former 2008 KU teammate) have been talking about some overseas stuff. We’ll figure it out in a little bit. We’ll talk about what we want to do.
“I might not retire right now,” Arthur added. “I’m definitely looking forward to playing in the BIG3 (Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 halfcourt summer league) next year, have fun playing basketball. My focus is on staying in shape and being ready for any opportunities that are available.”
Arthur showed a bit of rust, scoring six points on 3-of-11 shooting with four rebounds in Self Made’s 87-63 first-round TBT loss to Sideline Cancer on July 25 in Wichita. He played 24 minutes while serving as unofficial team captain because of his penchant to offer advice and encouragement during practice sessions.
“It comes natural I guess,” Arthur said of leadership. “My experience in the NBA (for Memphis and Denver) … you just want to be clear so we can have communication. I don’t want to get to games and we don’t know what we are doing, trying to figure stuff out on the fly.”
Arthur earned approximately $44 million during his NBA career. A smart player, he re-invented himself a bit after tearing his Achilles. He wound up hitting 34.8% of his threes in his NBA career, canning a career best 45.3% in 2016-17 with the Nuggets.
He was 0-for-3 from three for Self Made in Wichita.
“I am very confident in my shot,” Arthur said. “I worked on it a whole lot, especially after my Achilles injury and my athleticism kind of took a hit. I had to kind of find a way to stay in the game so corner threes, spacing the floor the best way I can. Being a ‘3 and D guy’ and leader on and off the court, I’ve been trying to work myself back into shape. I haven’t played ball in a while especially like this up and down, 5-on-5. I try to be as vocal as I can, be a leader by example as well.”
KU coach Bill Self, who watched some of the Self Made practices prior to the team’s loss in Wichita, said he was impressed with Arthur.
“He’s great,” Self said during a halftime interview with ESPN during KU’s July 25 setback in the single-elimination tournament. “I said to him the other day, ‘Shady (nickname of Arthur), you know the Nuggets (Arthur’s team for five seasons) loved you, don’t you?’
“He said, ‘I know,’’’ Self added with a smile. “The last situation (Phoenix) probably wasn’t the best for him individually. He was beat up. He called it quits but I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to make a comeback.
“He’s so good with young kids. One thing I noticed more than anything (at TBT practices witnessed by Self) is how much these guys talk. Communication is the worst thing all teams do. Coaches will complain about that more than anything from the start of practice until the end of the year, getting them to talk on defense and help each other. These guys actually understand now that they’ve been gone how that makes the game easier for everyone else.”
Arthur, who prior to last month had last been back in Lawrence “a couple years ago for the West Virginia game and before that the year of the Legends game that Paul Pierce played in (2011),” said he loves returning to his college home.
“We all have kind of a connection,” he said of the 10 players on the Self Made alumni roster which consisted of Arthur, Perry Ellis, Travis Releford, Mario Little, Tyshawn Taylor, Jeremy Case, Kevin Young, Naadir Tharpe, Elijah Johnson and Landen Lucas.
“The younger guys watched us when we played. We watched them after we left when they played. Everybody was going along with the flow.
“Catching up with guys was cool. I’d not seen my guys in a minute. It was good to catch up with Sherron (Collins) and Mario (at practice in Lawrence). I was looking forward to seeing D-Block (Darnell Jackson who also played on 2008 title team). I hate that he couldn’t make it. He’s a guy I haven’t seen in a long time. It was fun seeing older and younger guys jell.”
Arthur, who lives in Denver, said he’d love to return to Lawrence on a frequent basis.
“It’s the best place. I’ve not seen a gym where it gets more hyped, where the crowd is more into the game than the fieldhouse,” Arthur said. “Nowhere in the NBA did I see a gym like this, atmosphere like this. I love coming back.”
He said he tried to represent KU well in the NBA.
“You know I did, man,” he said, asked if he spoke about KU to NBA teammates. “Especially my rookie year (2008-09 in Memphis). Champions,” he added of turning pro right after beating the University of Memphis in the 2008 NCAA title game.
He made a lot of money, yet is not totally satisfied with his pro career to date.
“It was decent. I wanted it to be a lot better,” Arthur said. “When you come in the NBA, I believe everybody has a goal to be an all-star, be a great basketball player. At the end of the day, I’m proud of my career and everything I went through to get it. Injuries happen here and there. You have to deal with it and keep moving.”