New Charlotte Hornets guard Julyan Stone had been back in the United States from Italy just hours when a text message turned his life inside-out.
“It said my father was dead,” Stone recalled in an interview with the Observer.
That was true, and then it wasn’t. It took about 90 minutes for doctors in Washington, D.C. to resuscitate David Stone. He survived this health crisis a couple of months ago, but suffered severe damage to multiple major organs.
Doctors told Julyan his father suffered a lung collapse. David Stone’s heart was pumping at 5 percent of capacity. His kidneys were not functioning.
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David Stone, 62, had suffered from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) for years, but had generally been in good health. He hadn’t smoked in more than a decade. He got daily exercise and took good care of himself.
Then David Stone was in a coronary care unit, plugged into multiple monitors, hoses and needles. Julyan had to figure out how to stay in the U.S. – preferably somewhere on the East Coast – to be nearby through his father’s recovery.
That’s what brought Stone, 28, to the Hornets Wednesday. He signed a free-agent contract to be the third point guard, behind starter Kemba Walker and backup Michael Carter-Williams. What happened in the weeks between David Stone’s hospitalization and Julyan Stone signing with the Hornets is quite a tale.
Stone played last season for Venice-based Umana Reyer, the team that won the Italian basketball championship. Stone re-signed with that team this summer, and the contract included no-out clause to leave for the NBA.
Venice became home
Stone, a 6-foot-6 guard who played in college at Texas-El Paso, was happy in Italy. What’s not to like?
“Venice had become home to me, and I love the organization,” Stone said. “I’m a very loyal guy.”
Then his world changed suddenly and profoundly. Stone and his dad are close; David Stone would fly with Julyan’s 3-year-old son, Jayden, to Europe so Julyan and Jayden could spend time together in the winter. (Stone is a single parent; Jayden’s mother lives in Denver.)
Stone says his father and his son are best friends, that there is a bond between the three that is special. Now, it was time for Julyan to take charge during his father’s crisis, to be nearby and to pay for insurance to provide David with optimum medical care.
“Not knowing how much time he has (left), it’s imperative for me to be there,” Stone said. “Basketball, I take very seriously, but my family always has been first for me.”
Even in a best-case scenario, David Stone is in for more difficulty. He was breathing well enough, following a tracheotomy, to be moved out of coronary care to a regular hospital room, only to have to return 1½ weeks later to CCU. He is on a waiting list for heart, lung and kidney transplants.
“Basically,” Julyan Stone said of his father, “he’s going to need a new body.”
This wasn’t the only scare lately in the Stone family. Jayden suffered a seizure this week, another reminder how fragile health can be.
Stone asked the team in Venice to release him from his contract so he could find work near his father. Based on media reports in Europe and Stone’s previous Instagram postings, Stone and his agent, Giovanni Funiciello, proposed various ways to compensate Venice for losing him.
Stone is barred from discussing in any detail the settlement with Umana Reyer. He thanked the Hornets for showing such patience while Stone and Funiciello worked the process to make him available.
Signing Stone (he was reportedly offered a two-year contract) probably completes the Hornets’ roster going into training camp in late September. Stone hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2013-14 season with the Toronto Raptors.
He has the size to defend point guards and shooting guards. He says he finds it more fun passing for an assist than scoring a basket. And he’ll gratefully accept whatever coach Steve Clifford needs from him.
“You want me to guard somebody the last 20 seconds of a game, I’ll do that well,” Stone said. “I’m able to adjust.”
The past two months seem emphatic evidence of that.