In a trade that basically everyone forgot about, Sacramento (who had picked up Cleaves the previous year) tried to trade Mateen to Cleveland in exchange for Jumaine Jones. Cleveland needed a point guard at the time - this was a 16 win team that had Bimbo Coles on the roster - and Cleaves was their target, perhaps on account of his perfect surname. However, the deal was contingent upon both players passing their physicals - teams can waive physicals, and sometimes do - and Cleaves failed his. (Cleveland instead unnecessarily traded a future second round pick for Milt Palacio, wasting a second rounder that was later used, albeit via one more trade, on Goran Dragic. This is how Jim Paxson rolled.)
It was never said why Cleaves failed his physical, only that he did. But there are clues; a mere couple of weeks after the failed physical, Cleaves had pins inserted into his left foot to prevent stress fractures, and missed the first 24 games of the season. Three years previously, Cleaves had had the same surgery in his right foot, and in his first season with the Kings, Cleaves played only 32 games due to plantar fasciitis in the same foot.
Cleaves was with the Sonics for the 2004/05 season, and spent most of the season on the injured list without actually being injured. (God bless that throwback of a system. Great for fantasy basketball, pointless in reality.) The same was largely true in the 2005/06 season, when he spent the majority of the season with Seattle and yet played only 230 minutes. Cleaves then played most of the 2006/07 and 2007/08 seasons with a variety of different teams, and then went to the D-League for the 2008-09 season. He played 37 of 50 games, briefly sidelined by a hamstring injury, but sat out last year, doing TV work and music promotion instead. Whether this was due to injury or full-blown retirement is not clear.
Regardless, whatever Cleveland failed him for, Mateen has certainly been injured. Mainly in the feet.
After spending last year in the D-League, Mateen Cleaves is currently unsigned. This would appear to be by choice, as his Twitter reveals a new career direction. Cleaves has teamed up with some guy named Jon Connor (not the one of Terminator fame) to launch Varsity Records, a record label that appears to have one client (Connor) and one manager (Cleaves). This would appear to be a full time venture for Cleaves now, so he is perhaps done with basketball at the age of 32. I'm speculating about that, of course, but only because of Cleaves's apparent dedication to this new endeavour.
Is Jon Connor any good? You be the judge.
Hard to tell, really. That's just noise on that video. The behind-the-club's-stage angle is never the best one acoustically. But the crowd seem to be enjoying it.
Note: Non-US teams that the player
has played for are, unless stated otherwise, from the top division in
that nation. If a league or division name is expressly stated, it's not
the top division. The only exceptions to this are the rare occasions where
no one league is said to be above the other, such as with the JBL/BJ League
split in Japan.