The Curious Case of Jonah Bolden

The Sixers waived second-year forward Jonah Bolden following this week’s trade deadline. His waiving was executed in order to make room for the signing of two-way center Norvel Pelle to a regular NBA deal. Pelle’s signing had been in the works for quite some time, sources conveyed to The Painted Lines.

It is always painful to fire employees, but some make it easier to do, whether it be evident to the public or very private, than do others.

It wasn’t that difficult to let Jonah Bolden go.

His numbers in limited opportunities with the Sixers were unimpressive. But, his athleticism, size, and skill conveyed a ceiling that was worth developing. There were obvious short-comings. Bolden lacked defensive discipline, was unable to defend without fouling, and was prone to committing turnovers. But the idea of Jonah Bolden was worth the time and money to keep around. Until it wasn’t. 

The Proof Is In The Pudding

When a man fails to make it past the first date with five different women, one begins to wonder if the man is the issue. When an athlete departs three programs in four years, it begs the question of whether the athlete has an ego problem. 

Such has evidently been the case with Jonah Bolden.

UCLA 

Bolden surprisingly left Los Angeles after one season of play. He had been declared academically ineligible for the 2014-15 season, and played one collegiate season in 2015-16. He averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Pac-12 school before his abrupt departure. 

Bolden’s departure from UCLA never quite made any sense. He opted to go pro at a time when his NBA draft stock declined and could’ve declared for the NBA draft the previous season. Bolden was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school–ranked 32nd in the country by rivals.com. He reasonably could’ve declared for the draft following his ineligible season at UCLA. If money, development, or other external factors took priority, wouldn’t he have left after that true freshman season? 

Bolden opting to go pro at a time when his value had taken a massive hit, when he could’ve easily made the decision before losing value, reflects a man whose reality had not played out the way he thought it would.

Prior to joining the Australian national team, Bolden dabbled in the professional ranks of Serbia and Israel. He spent one season with Kosarkaski klub FMP, signed a two-year deal with Crvena Zvezda but left before ever playing a game, and spent one season with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Australian Boomers

Following a breakout performance against Canada, Bolden mysteriously withdrew from the team and returned to the United States. Having had few opportunities off the bench, his citing ‘personal reasons’ for the decision to leave the Boomers was questionable at best.

It is well-documented that Bolden desires his minutes to come at the power forward position. He was slotted at center, behind both Jock Landale and Nick Kay in the depth chart. He was effectively being used as a last resort big. 

Andrew Gaze, a revered Boomer alum, surmised that Bolden quit the team after realizing that his preferences would not be met by head coach Andrej Lemanis. Gaze even implied that Bolden was more concerned with his personal brand than anything else.

Confirming the evidence was Matt Logue, a writer for The Daily Telegraph. He reported that Bolden’s departure resulted from frustration with his role on the team. 

Philadelphia 76ers

In Bolden’s mind, leaving the Boomers would afford him some extra time to work with the Sixers’ staff. He was going to put him in excellent position to build off of the role he established in a satisfying rookie season in 2018-19. 

Once again, things did not go as expected. His opportunities were reduced dramatically with the emergences of Matisse Thybulle and Furkan Korkmaz. He wouldn’t allow himself to develop down in Delaware and earn opportunities with the big league squad when presented. Rather, Jonah Bolden preferred to sit on the Sixers’ bench in street clothes. Perhaps most telling of Bolden’s ego is the fact that he never warranted any minutes as a depth piece in a rotation that features Mike Scott. Scott has been mired in a horribly inconsistent season that has left him virtually unplayable at times. When it became clear that he would not be the beneficiary of the role he had envisioned for himself, Bolden “quit on their [the Sixers’] guidance”. 

Whether his waiving was mutual is not yet known. Regardless, Bolden’s history is an indictment on his ego, maturity, and character.

 

UPDATE (as of 8 PM on February 10, 2020): I reached out to Jonah Bolden’s agent, Daniel Moldovan, and offered him an opportunity to make on-the-record comment on some of the events that have transpired in Jonah’s career. Mr. Moldovan declined to comment.