Tony Snell needs one more year of NBA experience under his belt in order to become eligible for the NBA’s lifetime family health insurance plan. Given that he has two young boys with autism – Karter, 2, and Kenzo, 3 – he’s not giving up on that pursuit.
Snell, who is currently in his second season with the Maine Celtics, told Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer last month that he is working to get back in the NBA in order to ensure that his sons can receive good medical care.
Under the collective bargaining agreement, players with tenyears experience can unlock lifetime health insurance for their families. In order to become eligible for that plan this season, Snell would have needed to be signed by a team by February 2nd.
“It’s something I truly need,” Snell told Yahoo Sports ahead of the deadline. “Not only for myself, but for my wife and my kids.”
But February 2nd came and went, with teams reportedly wary of signing Snell to a roster spot prior to the midseason trade deadline. For many second-apron, the luxury tax means that they’d have to spend many times the salary he’d get in order to add him to payroll. Despite that, the NBA veteran is eyeing a return to the league next season.
“Imma keep going until I get it,” he told me.
And then once more, for emphasis: “Imma keep going until I get it.”
Tony Snell says it meant a lot to see media and players pushing for him to get a spot in the NBA.
“It means people care. That’s all I can ask for.”
He didn’t get signed by the Feb 2 deadline he needed for insurance, but he’s not giving up:
“Imma keep going until I get it.” pic.twitter.com/A8DLPwS9lz
— Noa Dalzell (@NoaDalzellNBA) February 10, 2024
Tony Snell first signed with the Maine Celtics in January 2023. Last season, he averaged 10.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.2 assists for the club, but this year, with Jordan Walsh and Drew Peterson getting most of the minutes at forward, his offensive role has diminished – he’s only averaging 5.6 points per game.
But, Snell has continued to prioritize defense, while playing a critical mentorship role to the younger guys on the roster. In particular, he’s taken rookie Jordan Walsh and second-year player JD Davison under his wing.
“JD’s grown a lot,” Snell said. “I was with him last year. He’s being more of a leader, more vocal. His game has grown a lot, but mainly off the court, I’ve seen a lot of growth from him, which is great.”
As for Walsh, Snell says he thinks that the 19-year-old defensive specialist has the potential to ultimately become the best defender in the NBA.
I caught up with one of Jordan Walsh’s G-league teammates — NBA vet Tony Snell. He thinks Walsh could eventually be one of the best defenders in the NBA.
— Noa Dalzell (@NoaDalzellNBA) January 15, 2024
“I’m still working on Walsh,” Snell said. “I’m always in his ear, telling him what I see, him going out there, executing. He’s still young, he still does minor mistakes. I tell him, ‘don’t worry about it, you’re going to make mistakes, it’s part of the game. Learn from the mistakes.’”
Throughout his nine-year NBA career, Snell had stints playing for the Bulls, Bucks, Pistons, Hawks, Blazers, and Pelicans. He’s always been a 3-and-D specialist, averaging 21.8 minutes in 601 NBA games, and for his career, Snell is a 39.4 three-point shooter.
Snell was diagnosed with autism himself after learning his kids had autism, and his pursuit to return to the league in order has drawn national attention. Most recently, Charles Barkley made the plea on “NBA on TNT.”
“I’m hoping — you know, the NBA’s been great to all of us sitting up here — I hope one of you guys signs Tony so his two autistic kids can get great medical care,” Barkley said.
Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon turned to Twitter to urge a team to sign Snell.
Snell told me the outpouring of support has meant a lot to him.
“It means people care, and that’s all I can ask for,” he said.
Given that Snell is a three-year veteran, he is still eligible for individual lifetime health insurance. But he still needs to make it back to the league for at least one more season to unlock the family plan he seeks, and he’s going to do everything he can to get back there, he said.
At 32 years old, Snell is certain he still has a lot left in the tank to contribute to an NBA team as a floor spacer and versatile defender.
“I can guard 1 through 4, 1 through 5 – no matter who’s out there, I can guard them,” Snell said. “[I can] space the floor, make plays, and be a dog on defense.”
For now, he’s focused on continuing to positively impact the game and the locker room.
At Maine Celtics games, he is often the first to his feet, loudly cheering on teammates. And when a player seems frustrated, he’s usually the first to go over and uplift them.
JD Davison was seemingly frustrated on the bench after losing the ball, and Tony Snell immediately went over to him.
That tends to be his role on this team. I asked him about it before the game:
“It’s just who I am. If I see a brother go down, I’m going to keep them up.” pic.twitter.com/stB7zEHoWx
— Noa Dalzell (@NoaDalzellNBA) February 10, 2024
Snell said he’s not trying to fulfill any particular veteran role, rather, he’s just being himself.
“It’s just who I am. If I see a brother go down, I’m going to pick them up,” Snell said. “Hopefully, they’ll do the same for me, but I’m always there for my brothers, they know I’ve got their back. Just being a teammate.”
In the meantime, he is focused on what he can control: “Just play the game I love, play the best way I can, show my skills – and try to get that call back.”