Melvin Ely, the 12th overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, has accepted a contract offer to play for the Gunma Crane Thunders for the upcoming season.
Ely must pass a physical exam for the contract to be finalized.
The Crane Thunders, who are entering their third season in the bj-league, made the announcement earlier this week.
The 36-year-old Ely played for the NBA Development League’s Texas Legends during the 2013-14 season. He appeared in 41 games (39 starts) and averaged 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.3 blocks.
Ely appeared in two games for the New Orleans Pelicans to close out the 2013-14 season.
New Gunma head coach Charlie Parker was a Legends assistant last season.
Ely played under college coaching legend Jerry Tarkanian at Fresno State and competed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in both 2000 and 2001.
He played two seasons for the Clippers, the team that drafted him, then with the Charlotte Bobcats (2005-07), San Antonio Spurs (2007, earning a championship ring as a seldom-used backup; didn’t appear in the playoffs), New Orleans Hornets (2007-09), Denver Nuggets (2009-11) and Puerto Rican League team Brujos de Guayama (2012) before spending two full seasons with the Legends.
In his NBA career, the 208-cm Ely played in 375 games, including 55 starts. He was a rookie at age 25 with the Clippers.
In his third NBA season, Ely appeared in a career-high 79 games. Since then, he played in 50 or more games in a season only twice, in 2005-06 and 2007-08.
The Washington Wizards cut Ely in late July. He was acquired from the Pelicans in a three-way deal that also included Trevor Ariza, who was shipped to the Houston Rockets.
Expansion talk: The league on Friday announced it has awarded an expansion team to Nagasaki Town Sports Management Co., Ltd. and it will enter the league with a previously announced new team from Ishikawa Prefecture for the 2015-16 season.
The two new franchises will give the league 24 teams for its 11th season.
Since starting out with six teams for the 2005-06 season, the bj-league has added expansion teams every year since then.
Three franchises have also left the league: the Tokyo Apache (2011), Chiba Jets (2013) and Miyazaki Shining Suns. The Apache and Shining Suns both folded; the Jets defected to the rival NBL.
New additions: Several teams have added import players in recent days. Here’s a brief rundown:
*The Oita HeatDevils have added 200-cm forward Drew Barnham, a Gonzaga University product. He began his college career at Memphis before transferring to the West Coast Conference powerhouse. He played his final college game in the spring, and averaged 6.3 points in 36 games as a senior.
*The Yokohama B-Corsairs have brought back veteran big man Wayne Marshall for a second season. The Temple University alum has previously played for the Shinshu Brave Warriors and Osaka Evessa.
*Shinshu has added 208-cm forward Mohamed Abukar, who attended the University of Florida before transferring to San Diego State. As a pro, the 29-year-old has played in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Belgium, Switzerland and the D-League. Last season, he averaged 17.9 points in 15 games for the Lugano Tigers in the Swiss League.
*The Sendai 89ers have picked up big man Dillion Sneed. Sneed split the 2013-14 season playing for Osaka and Gunma. He competed for the Iwate Big Bulls in 2012-13, and had two stints with the Ryukyu Golden Kings, in 2011 and ’12.
*The Akita Northern Happinets have acquired power forward Ruben Boykin, who played an instrumental role in the team’s championship runnerup finish in May. The Northern Arizona alum began the preseason with German squad MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg.
The Happinets have also secured the services of 211-cm post player Jarrid Famous, a University of South Florida product. From 2011-13, Famous appeared in 62 D-League games (50 starts) and posted averages of 10.7 points and 7.9 rebounds. Last season, playing for Tadamon Zouk in the Lebanese League, he contributed 19.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 20 games.
Preseason action: Ryukyu defeated Akita 91-83 in overtime on Saturday in a rematch of last season’s title game.
Draelon Burns paced the Golden Kings with 27 points, including 10-for-11 at the free-throw line. Anthony McHenry added 23 points and seven assists for Ryukyu, while Anthony Kent had 11 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. Morihisa Yamauchi poured in nine points and Narito Namizato had seven.
Richard Roby led Akita with 25 points and Akitomo Takeno scored 16 points and dished out eight assists in his Happinets debut. Boykin added 12 points and five assists. Newcomer Tyran Walker scored 11 points.
An announced crowd of 3,960 saw the game at Ota City Gymnasium in Tokyo.
The Kings held a 59-41 edge in rebounds.
Makoto Hasegawa made his debut as head coach for Akita.
The score was tied at 34-34 at halftime. Ryukyu outscored Akita 12-4 in the bonus period.