By: Tom Ballato
Diamond Stone’s NBA comeback starts with The Basketball Tournament (TBT). After not playing this season, he has a lot to prove and wants to showcase his talents.
Diamond Stone was a five-star prospect and ranked the No.6 recruit in the nation coming out of high school, according to ESPN 100. He committed to Maryland to play for head coach Mark Turgeon. Stone put up 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 22.6 minutes per game at Maryland.
After one year at Maryland, Stone declared for the NBA Draft. The 6-foot-10 center could run the court and use his 250-pound body to attack the rim. The New Orleans Pelicans drafted him with the 40th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. He was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in a deal that sent Cheick Diallo to New Orleans.
In his rookie season, he bounced back and forth between the G-League and the Clippers. Stone found himself in a log-jam for minutes behind DeAndre Jordan, Marreese Speights, Brandon Bass, and Blake Griffin.
When asked about his biggest takeaway from his rookie season, Stone responded, “Just having patience. You had all these talented veterans with all this experience, and you want to soak up all the information that they give. I was in the shadows in a way. I was there practicing and working out because there wasn’t an opportunity for me with all the veterans we had. It was a learning year for me.”
Stone would appear in seven games for the Clippers in 2016-2017. It was the first time in his career that he had to take a backseat and learn. Stone described it as hard, but it’s part of being a team player.
He spent time between the Santa Cruz Warriors and Salt Lake City Stars, of the G-League, because the Clippers didn’t own an affiliate at that time. In 13 G-League games, Stone averaged 16.2 points and 7 rebounds per game.
In July of 2017, Stone was included in a three-team trade that sent him to the Atlanta Hawks. He had a strong showing in summer league for the Hawks, but they waived him a few weeks after acquiring him. In September, the Chicago Bulls signed him but waived him a month later.
Stone has played the last few years in the G-League and had success, including winning the 2019 G-League Championship with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. In 77 career games, Stone’s averaged 13.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and .7 blocks per game on 49.6% shooting.
When Stone spoke about the G-League, he said, “The G-League has grown tremendously, almost every team has an affiliate. There is a ton of talent, but at the end of the day, I believe that I’m an NBA player. I don’t worry about the NBA, I have to keep playing my game, and it will happen.”
The Vipers waived Stone before the 2019-2020 season. He explored his options to play overseas in China or Korea, but due to COVID-19, playing abroad never materialized.
Stone is prepared to play in this year’s The Basketball Tournament for Sideline Cancer. After watching and having friends play in the tournament, Stone decided he wanted in after last year’s TBT. The tournament will be his first time playing since last season. He is eager to get on the court and show the world what he can do. “I’m grateful for this TBT opportunity because there are questions on how I’m playing, what I look like, but I feel like all those questions will be answered.”
Stone stated he’s worked on improving his defensive footwork, mid-range game, and an improved three-point shot. Traditionally he’s been a back to the basket big man, but he wants to show teams he can shoot a three-pointer when needed. He’s expanded his game because the NBA is growing.
Three years removed from the NBA, Stone is still just 23 years old. He’s had opportunities to play overseas in the past, but his goal remains to play in the NBA again.
Stone is prepared to work his way back to the NBA, starting with The Basketball Tournament. A strong showing in The Basketball Tournament could land him a summer league invite, which would be a step in the right direction for Stone’s comeback bid.