In recent years, more than one talented European has been revealed in the NBA. Here are Nikola Jokic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Luka Doncic… But in addition to them, there are other promising people from the European basketball school in the league. Among them is the Swiss Clint Capela, a star center with a very difficult background.

Clint Capela

Clint Capela

Photo: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Capela was born in Switzerland but is of African descent. His mother was a citizen of the Congo, and his father was a native of Angola. They separated a few months after Clint was born, and the boy, along with his two brothers, stayed with his mother. She worked seven days a week, but she still couldn’t provide for her family alone. So, when Clint was six years old, he and his brothers ended up in an orphanage.

There the boy became seriously interested in sports. True, Capela’s first passion was not basketball, but another ball game – football. He did not miss a single Champions League match, adored Arsenal and Thierry Henry and played as a striker. But by the age of 13, the boy grew up to 190 cm, and his older brother invited him to try himself on the basketball court.

“At first I was doubtful. But as soon as I got on the court with my brother, the game became natural for me. I decided to devote myself fully to basketball and have never stopped since. Although I got some footwork skills while still in football. So football helped me even in basketball,” Clint said.

Clint Capela

Clint Capela

Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The guy preferred the ring to the gate, the parquet to the lawn, and Thierry Henry replaced Thabo Sefolosha, Clint’s star compatriot, who at that time played for the Chicago Bulls. Before leaving for the US, he played for the French “Elan Chalon”, which, like a coincidence, became Capela’s first professional club. He joined their youth team at the age of 15 after being singled out by the head coach for the Switzerland U16 squad.

In the main team of Switzerland, Clint will debut four years later, and a year later he will be in the NBA. After a successful performance for Elan Chalon in the 2013/2014 season, he decided to put himself forward for the draft, where Houston selected him with the 25th number.

Shortly before finally leaving for the NBA, Capela went to play for the Swiss national team in the EuroBasket 2015 qualifier. In that round, the 20-year-old center played a single match – with the Russian team. The Swiss national team scored a surprise victory over the Russians, and Clint became one of the best in his team with 11 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. But most importantly, the center defended well against Timofey Mozgov. The Swiss bigman was forced to miss the remaining games due to injury. Capela left the location of the national team and went to Houston.

Adapting to the NBA was not easy, but Clint enlisted the support of a true Rockets legend, Hakeem Olajuwon. He saw great potential in the Houston rookie. As a result, a warm relationship developed between them, and in the course of Clint’s career, he will be compared more than once with his star mentor.

Clint Capela

Clint Capela

Photo: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Even so, in his debut season for the Rockets, the “raw” Capela took part in only 12 games. He was either sent to the Development League, or they were preparing to exchange him. But the young center was still given a chance – the management decided to activate the option to extend the contract for a third year. In the 2015/2016 season, he began to increasingly start instead of Dwight Howard, and a year later he became the main center of the team. As a result, Capela, who added with each draw, was extended for another year, and in the 2017/2018 season he really revealed himself.

Then Houston reached the finals of the West, where they lost to Golden State in seven games. Clint averaged 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, led the league in field goal shooting percentage (65.2%), and was even nominated for the Most Improved Player award, which ended up went to Victor Oladipo.

During that season, he earned a ridiculous $ 2.3 million by the standards of the NBA, and at the end of it, negotiations began on a possible extension of the contract. But the agreement was not so easy. At some point, Capela was ready to agree to a qualifying offer in order to get the maximum speed in another team in the summer of 2019 – almost half of the league was in contact with his agent. But in the end, the Rockets went to meet the player and rolled out an offer for five years and $ 90 million.

Clint Capela

Clint Capela

Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In the 2018/2019 season, he became not only the main center, but also the second offensive option for Houston after James Harden, averaging 16.6 points per game. This is despite the fact that in his entire NBA career, he not only did not throw a single three-pointer, but also did not make a single attempt (yes, seriously).

However, a year later, Capela became part of the only nascent restructuring of Houston – in the winter of 2020, he was traded to Atlanta. True, at that time Clint earned a serious heel injury, due to which he missed the rest of the season, so the debut for the new team had to be postponed.

But the first season for the Hawks was one of the best in his career. Capela started all 63 games and led the league in rebounds, averaging 14.3 rebounds, 15.2 points and 2 blocks per game. Together with the team, he made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, where the Hawks lost to the Milwaukee in six games. Last fall, Atlanta extended the contract with the player, giving him a two-year deal and $46 million.

Last season, Capela slowed down a bit in terms of statistics, but still made 73 appearances in the starting five. Only Trey Young had more starters with 76. All in all, Clint’s importance to the Hawks cannot be underestimated. True, whether he will remain in the team is not yet clear. According to rumors, Minnesota showed interest in the player. But the Timberwolves have already bolstered their center position by signing Utah’s Rudy Gobert. Atlanta also showed interest in the Frenchman and was ready to give up several players for him, including Capela.

Be that as it may, now Clint can rightfully be included in the top 10 best centers in the NBA. He has a great future ahead of him – if not in Atlanta with Young, then in any other team. There’s always room in the league for a big man who’s agile and efficient at both ends of the court, even if he doesn’t shoot from a distance.

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