Nigeria's Chima Moneke feels 'wanted again' after sudden Sacramento Kings exit

Nigeria international Chima Moneke told ESPN that he chose to sign for EuroLeague side AS Monaco because their red carpet treatment proved that, despite being harshly cast aside at the Sacramento Kings, he was truly wanted.

Moneke secured his dream move to the NBA's Kings ahead of this season after starring for Spain's Baxi Manresa in the Basketball Champions League. However, he only played two regular season games, spending the majority of his time in the G League with the Stockton Kings.

Two weeks after his 27th birthday, he was disappointed to be waived on January 6. Recalling the moment he learned his fate, the small forward told ESPN: "It was on a phone call.

"I was driving to Stockton from Sacramento and I was probably 15 minutes away from the gym for a game and then they called me and said: 'We're going to waive you before tomorrow.'

"If I was on the team on January 7, I would have got the rest of my year fully guaranteed. They did it to save money, but they still have to pay me money [until April], which is part of the business that I understand, but it would have been nice if they [told] me in person."

Clubs in Europe queued up to sign him as he left the Kings, but according to Moneke, Monaco acted so quickly that no other team stood a chance - not even Partizan Belgrade, his best friend Danté Exum's team.

Moneke explained: "There was plenty of interest from several other EuroLeague teams and Partizan was one of the teams that was the most interested, but I don't think they ever made an official offer, so I couldn't even go there anyway.

"Maybe they would have in the next couple of days, but Monaco was so fast with their first offer that no other team really had a chance, because Monaco really, really, really wanted me, and they showed me that," he said.

When asked what else stood out about Monaco, Moneke referred to the famously relaxed Monegasque tax laws, which exempt individuals from income tax: "Obviously, no taxes; obviously, [the] living situation.

"I just want to be happy. I want to be in one place for a while. I feel that every day I wake up in a place like this, I'll be happy, and if the basketball goes well, I'll be looking to stay here for years. It made sense. Financially, that was also a big reason too."

Moneke's contract will last him the remainder of this season and the whole of the next campaign. At the time of writing, Monaco are sixth in the EuroLeague and on course for the playoffs. They are also currently top of the league in France and look likely to claim their first national championship.

Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic, the three highest-profile European basketball players in the NBA, have all previously said that it is tougher to play in Europe than in the NBA.

More specifically, Doncic made a particular reference on JJ Redick's podcast "The Old Man and the Three" to how difficult it is to score in Europe, although he admitted that NBA players were more talented and "basically impossible to guard".

Moneke will be playing in the EuroLeague for the first time, but is well acquainted with European basketball after stints in France and Spain, and echoed these comments.

He said: "I feel like everyone that's played both knows that it's true [that it's tougher to score in the EuroLeague than the NBA]. It's a different game and that's why you have games that are 60-65 and it's normal. Whenever [a team] scores 100+ in the EuroLeague, it's a big deal, so that tells you everything you need to know.

"Obviously, the game is shorter, but it's different styles of basketball and that makes it very competitive, because in the NBA, [teams] are scoring 130, 140 points, so if you're down 20, you can come back in a quarter. Being down 20 in Europe feels like you're down 40 in the NBA."

Although he has spent his first few days in Monaco battling jet lag, Moneke is preparing for the possibility that he will be thrown into the action from the get-go. Monaco will face Milano on Thursday before taking on defending champions ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne in the French LNB Pro A on Sunday.