NBA star Joel Freeland plans to make himself available to Great Britain from next summer
NBA star Joel Freeland has confirmed he plans to make himself available to Great Britain again from next summer.
Last Updated: 19/11/13 7:21pm
The 26-year-old forward sat out this summer's EuroBasket in Slovenia in order to focus on his career with the Portland Trail Blazers following his rookie season in the NBA, but has told Britain coach Joe Prunty he will be back next year.
"I'm always willing to help the national squad," Freeland said. "The only reason I took the summer off last year was for personal reasons.
"I really felt like I had to try and further my career in any way I could and if I played for the national team, I might have been taking steps backwards because the style of play in Europe is completely different to the NBA.
"But from here on out I'm fully committed to the national team. I hope I can continue to improve as I'm doing at the moment and come back and play for the national team."
Freeland spoke to Prunty, an assistant coach with Brooklyn, on Monday night as the Blazers enjoyed a 108-98 win over the Nets to extend their winning streak to seven.
"I had a long conversation with him," he said. "He's a great guy, he's very down to earth. We had a good conversation. I congratulated them on how well they did in EuroBasket, it was great to get those two wins.
"He was telling me to do keep doing what I'm doing, everybody is noticing the hard work that I'm putting in and my energy on the floor. I'll stay in contact with him during the season."
Without Freeland, Britain won two group games in Slovenia, but failed to advance to the second round and fell short of targets set by UK Sport when conditional funding was handed to British Basketball last year.
Freeland was far from alone in missing the tournament, with a long list of Britain's star names - Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu among them - also sitting out for a variety of reasons.
While many NBA players come under pressure from their teams to skip international duty, Freeland said he made the decision to skip EuroBasket alone.
"I didn't speak to anybody about it," he said. "I had numerous conversations with my agent, but it was purely my decision. Portland had no influence - they've always been supportive of me if I want to play for my national team.
"I made a personal decision knowing I need to improve and the only way to do that is to focus on my NBA play and my NBA career."
Freeland's decision to stay in the United States this summer and work on his game has certainly paid off, as he has gone from a fringe member of the Blazers squad to a regular in the rotation, averaging a little under 15 minutes per game off the bench.
It is in the rebounding column - where he is averaging 3.6 per game - that Freeland has been making his mark, a direct result of the targets he set himself.
"I had to find my identity in this league," said Freeland, who moved to Portland last summer after eight seasons playing in Spain.
"Last year I struggled because I felt like I had to play the same way in Europe and score on post-ups, but this league is completely different. I had to find my identity on the defensive end and everyone seems to be really happy with what I'm doing."
Freeland's improved play is just part of a radically different Portland team. The Blazers went 33-49 last season, second last in the Northwest Division, but their current hot streak has them at 9-2 and top of the divisional standings.
"I just think we have a team now where everybody complements each other," Freeland said of what had changed over the summer. "We have a great starting line-up but also people coming off the bench making a difference."