Memphis Grizzlies swingman Yuta Watanabe said Friday he will play in his native Japan next season.

The 29-year-old revealed the plan on Instagram Live after the Grizzlies missed the playoffs in his sixth NBA season, the longest stint for a Japanese player in the world's top league.

The men's national team star, who is set to appear at the Paris Olympics this summer, indicated the move to an as-yet-unnamed franchise in Japan's B-League sprang from a desire for more playing time and greater enjoyment of the game.

"I just want to play basketball. I want to step into the game and do what I do in practice," he said. "I grinded through my 20s but now I hope to play basketball the way I like."

Memphis Grizzlies forward Yuta Watanabe (12) controls the ball against Phoenix Suns guard Troy Daniels (30) in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Oct. 27, 2018, in Memphis, Tennessee. (AP/Kyodo)

Watanabe played just five games in his second stint with the Grizzlies after a mid-season trade in February from the Phoenix Suns. While injuries contributed to his time on the sideline, he also revealed he missed a string of games for mental health reasons.

"I was finding things tough," he said.

The 2.06-meter wing averaged 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds in 13.3 minutes per game for his NBA career, which also included stints with the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets.

After starring at George Washington University, he made his NBA debut in October 2018 with the Grizzlies on a two-way contract, becoming the second Japanese to appear in the NBA after Yuta Tabuse played a short stint for the Suns in 2004.

Yuta Watanabe #18 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots a three-point basket against the Portland Trail Blazers in November 2022 in Portland, Oregon. (Getty/Kyodo)

While he had to battle for playing time at each stop, Watanabe carved out a career as an NBA role player thanks to his sharp shooting and dedication to defense.

"My goal through my 20s was to keep working in America, regardless of the situation. Never give up, no matter what," Watanabe said. "It was fun at times but also a lot of hard work."

Watanabe is set to be the B-League's biggest draw in light of both his NBA exploits and lead role for the men's national team, which secured Olympic qualification as co-host of last year's FIBA Basketball World Cup.

"The level in Japan is getting higher," he said. "I want to play in some high-intensity games."

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