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Hakim Warrick makes stop in Las Vegas, eyes return to NBA

Iowa Wolves forward Hakim Warrick has a cousin who works as a lawyer and a friend who works on Wall Street.

They tell him the same thing.

“Whenever I had a thought about retiring, they say, ‘Keep riding until the wheels fall off because it’s a struggle out there in the real world,’ ” Warrick said. “For me to be able to do something that I love and doing it this long, it’s just great.”

Warrick, 36, hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2012-13 season, but he’s attempting a comeback in the G League with the Wolves. He started for Iowa in a 113-106 victory over the Westchester Knicks on Wednesday at the league’s Winter Showcase at Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

“It seemed like the best way to get back. I’ve been contemplating getting back the last couple years, just never did it,” said Warrick, who is averaging 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 18 G League games. “This year I put my name in the pool. It’s been a lot better than I expected it to be.”

Warrick was a consensus first-team All-America forward at Syracuse and helped the Orange win a national championship in 2003. He was selected by the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the 2005 NBA draft and averaged career highs of 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in 2006-07 while carving out a spot in the rotation.

But he left Memphis in free agency to sign with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2009 and bounced around the league in the ensuing four seasons, logging time with the Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Hornets and Charlotte Bobcats.

The Bobcats traded him in February 2013 to the Orlando Magic, who waived him two days later. He’s since played for clubs in China, Turkey, Australia, Greece, Puerto Rico, Lebanon, Greece and Israel. At times, he contemplated retirement.

“It’s hard,” he said. “Especially when you get this old, waking up and everything is just hurting. It’s hard sometimes to find the motivation.”

But Warrick found enough to come back to the United States and drew inspiration from the likes of Emeka Okafor and Dahntay Jones — two veterans who used the G League to extend their NBA careers.

Warrick was drafted No. 9 overall in October’s G League draft by the Delaware Blue Coats and was promptly traded to Iowa, where he has impressed coach Scott Roth with his attitude and professionalism.

“He’s got a very good calming effect on doing the right things, being professional, and I think the guys really enjoy being around him,” Roth said. “They see a guy who’s already put in his time. He’s 36 years old, going through this, and it’s nothing but respect and, ‘Say, hey, if he’s doing it, I’ve got to do it, too.”

Warrick is indeed the elder statesman in a league comprised of mostly 20-somethings, but it’s a role he relishes.

As long as he can play basketball.

“There’s been a lot of adjustments,” Warrick said. “I’ve been a lot of different places, played a lot of different styles. Being able to play different types of basketball, different types of roles and being able to adapt, that’s been one of the biggest things in my career.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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