Former Knick Cleanthony Early—Phil Jackson’s first ever draft pick!—has been dismissed from AEK B.C., the Greek team he inked a contract with quite recently. Early was last seen working out with Carmelo Anthony, Tim Hardaway Jr., and other assorted Knicks this summer. Early’s termination comes as a surprise, as his new deal was announced just last week. Per David Pick, Early has been dismissed due to disciplinary reasons.
Source: AEK Athens has stripped former Knicks forward Cleanthony Early of his $150,000 deal over discipline reasons.— David Pick (@IAmDPick) September 9, 2017
Cleanthony took to social media to address the reason for his dismissal, and he does not seem pleased with the coverage of his termination.
The devil alive boy and here to lie b— Cleanthony Early (@Clearly_BallLyf) September 10, 2017
Cle followed this up with since-deleted screenshots of what appear to be messages between him and an AEK team executive. The earliest messages posted are of Early notifying the unnamed executive that he planned on heading out to get food before practice for a tournament being held in Belgium. Cle is a vegan, and apparently the only vegan restaurants in that part of Belgium are extremely far away.
After pushback from the exec, Cle voiced dissatisfaction with the team’s focus on practice and disregard for his personal health.
“Your (sic) saying practice and this and that but I haven't ate anything filling I have no energy and it seems like u don’t care,” Early said. As communication broke down he requested to be released and was informed by the executive that missing practice was a disciplinary offense. Once news broke that was being terminated due to that offense, Early posted the conversation online to set the record straight before deleting everything.
This post remains on his Twitter feed, however:
Stand up for ur mental & physical health, urs & others & watch ppl literally turn ur passion to do the right thing into How they feel abt it— Cleanthony Early (@Clearly_BallLyf) September 9, 2017
It’s easy to feel for Cle here. While we don’t have the full story, the parts he has already shared paint a picture of a team putting pressure on him to meet their strict practice guidelines despite his struggles adapting to the rigors of playing for a team in a different country. The coverage of his dismissal is of real importance here. If word spreads that Early was released due to his unwillingness to meet the team’s practice schedule his reputation may be irrevocably affected. That would be a difficult obstacle to overcome for a 26-year-old coming off multiple injury-plagued seasons. It is understandable, then, that he is eager to share the circumstances that led to his departure.
Life overseas can be tough for pro athletes, and Cle has experienced some of the challenges of adapting to a new culture in a new country. He was polite despite his concern in the messages shared to Twitter, and with luck he can find another playing opportunity soon after returning from Greece. It doesn’t seem likely that he’ll find a role in the NBA, but he may have more success returning to a G League roster. For his part, Early seems ready to move on.
CORRECTION: This article previously stated that Cle was in Athens when the texts were sent. He was in Belgium. So why is he being given so many salads with feta cheese? Belgians don't use that much feta, do they? The plot thickens.