Akognon signs NBA contract

Casa Grande's Josh Akognon is expected to sign a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks and join the team Thursday night. Credit: Crista Jeremiason / Press Democrat

Casa Grande’s Josh Akognon is expected to sign a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks and join the team Thursday night.
Credit: Crista Jeremiason / Press Democrat


Josh Akognon’s agent had been telling him ever since the guard’s season ended in the Chinese Basketball Association: Stay in shape and don’t stray far from the phone.

But Akognon, who has jumped through these hoops a few times before, didn’t get too excited. “My wife is having our second baby in a week or two,” Akognon said Tuesday. “I told my agent the only way I’d do anything to leave her is if I got an NBA contract – not D-League or overseas, but an NBA official contract. I didn’t expect to hear back.”

He heard back. Akognon was grocery shopping with his wife when he got the news from his agent. As first reported by ESPN, the Dallas Mavericks have offered Akognon a 10-day contract. The Casa Grande graduate is expected to meet the team after their game in Denver on Thursday, and will return to Northern California for the Mavericks’ game at Sacramento on Friday.

According to data compiled for basketball-reference.com, Akognon will be the first NBA player ever who was born or attended high school in Sonoma County.

“I’ve achieved my dream, coming from Petaluma to a league where the best guys on earth play,” Akognon said. “It’s still surreal now. Maybe when the season over it will all make sense. But right now I’m on Cloud 9.”

Akognon had another spectacular season in the CBA, averaging nearly 30 points per game for Liaoning and helping the Jiebao Hunters to their first playoff spot in four years. As opposed to Dongguan the year before, Liaoning did not ask Akognon to play much point guard. The Hunters told him to shoot, and he did so with flair.

The Mavericks are desperately fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, though that aspiration took a hit when they lost to the Lakers on Tuesday. Eight teams from the West will make the postseason, and Dallas is currently 10th, 2½ games behind the Jazz and Lakers with eight games remaining.

The Mavs have been auditioning guards during the stretch run, with Chris Wright and Justin Dentmon previously signing 10-day contracts. Dentmon’s expires tonight, and Dallas is expected to replace him with Akognon.

A lot of familiar faces await Akognon. He was with the Mavericks last preseason before asking for his release. The only two current members of the Mavericks who weren’t around during the summer were Anthony Morrow, whom Akognon knows from a workout in Oakland, and Mike James, whom he knows from China.

Akognon’s 10-day contract will expire before the end of the regular season, and it isn’t clear whether Dallas will keep him around for its final couple games or look at another guard.

Signing with an NBA team is a major accomplishment, one that Akognon has worked toward tirelessly since he left Cal State Fullerton after the 2008-09 season. But he’s hoping there is more to the story.

“My first part of my dream, which I’d say is 40 to 50 percent, was to make the NBA,” Akognon said. “The other 50 to 60 percent was to play and do well. Right now, I’m happy I’ve made it. It’s surreal to know I’m there. But I know that after two or three games, that feeling will leave. I’m a competitor, and a lot times when I’m out there, I feel I’m better than most of the people I’m playing.

“I understand it will be tough to sit at the end of the bench, but I know it can happen, because that’s the way it was in preseason. It was tough then. I felt I belonged out there, and I tried not to think, ‘This is garbage time. I’m playing in the last five minutes.’ I would go out and try do something amazing. I understand the negatives and the positives of the NBA.”

Back home, things are mostly positive. Akognon’s wife, Ariana, will remain in Petaluma as she awaits the birth of their daughter.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.

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