Chase Budinger realized something when he was riding his bike on the strand in Hermosa Beach, CA. This pathway is routine for Budinger, 31, but his ride always put into perspective that he’s not in the NBA anymore.
“It hits me all the time when I’m biking down to practice,” said Budinger recently from his home in Hermosa Beach. “I really just enjoy the lifestyle and I’m really able to enjoy my two jobs.”
Budinger, whose NBA career lasted eight years, spent three years apiece in Houston and Minnesota, with his last two seasons landing him in Indiana and Phoenix. After going under the knife twice – meniscus surgery in 2012 and arthroscopic knee surgery in 2013 – he was waived by the Brooklyn Nets in 2016. Trying to revive his basketball career again, he had a stint in Spain with Baskonia, but basketball seemed to be in the rearview as he focused on another sport he excelled in: volleyball.
Twelve years removed from volleyball, Budinger, who managed to continue to play in his downtime during the offseason, admits the transition back was easy, but experienced rustiness getting back into the flow of things going from air-conditioned arenas to scorching weather conditions in Southern California.
“It came natural, but there was a lot of challenges of getting used to the sand, being out in the sun,” he said. “I’m a very pasty white boy, so getting used to the factor of being outside and being in a new environment took some time getting used to.”
In the last couple of months, the transition has been nothing but a learning experience for Budinger. At times, he gets frustrated with weather conditions and when he comes short for personal tournament goals, but every day is a chance for him to get better and make the most out of his new endeavor. It also helps that his partner on the sand is Sean Rosenthal, a two-time Olympian, who made his AVP debut in 1997.
“It’s been a huge blessing for me having a guy who knows other players and the game so well,” he said of Rosenthal. “Each and every day, he gives me the ropes, I’m learning as much as I can and I’m taking all the knowledge he’s given me … I think it’s progressed my learning ability a lot because he’s my partner.”
The tandem has spent time together throughout different tournaments across the U.S. This past weekend at the San Francisco Open, the duo made it to the finals before being beaten by Ed Ratledge and Rico Rodriguez. But despite the outcome, Budinger is fortunate to have someone like Rosenthal who’s more than a partner but an inspiration to make an Olympic appearance, one of the many milestones Budinger hopes to accomplish during his volleyball career.
“One is to make the Olympics and play one year – or multiple years,” he said. “That’s been a goal of mine since I was in high school to be on an Olympic team and playing for the USA.”
In terms of basketball, Budinger still keeps tabs on the NBA as a fan and raves about Golden State being the team to beat in the Association.
“You have the Warriors and they’re such an amazing team with all the star power that they have with a great role around that star power,” he said prior to the Dubs’ addition of DeMarcus Cousins. “They’re really a tough team to beat and they’re going to be tough to beat for years to come.”
Yet he quickly shuts down any potential basketball comeback questions, reiterating that chapter of his life is closed. Aside from the Olympics, Budinger’s other goal is to win an AVP Open to see his name engraved on the pier.
“That’s something that would be really amazing for me being that I live in the area,” he said. “It’s something I can definitely show my kids one day.”