Archive for August 7th, 2008

The Oklahoman (Mike Baldwin) reports: The NBA’s Web site all but confirmed Thunder would be the nickname of Oklahoma City’s NBA team on Wednesday morning — but by Wednesday afternoon, the evidence was gone. By Wednesday afternoon, the word Thunder was nowhere to be found on the Oklahoma City schedule page, and all of the links pointed to www.nba.com/oklahomacity. Oklahoma City NBA team spokesman Dan Mahoney’s comment Wednesday was similar to previous comments. “We’re not going to comment on the name until we’re ready to announce something,” Mahoney said.

The Houston Chronicle (Fran Blinebury) reports: As China prepares to stand tall by hosting its first Olympic Games, it is only fitting that 7-6 Yao Ming will carry his nation’s flag into the Bird’s Nest stadium at Friday’s Opening Ceremonies. A person with knowledge of the decision, who is not permitted to speak officially, confirmed the Rockets’ center, after carrying the Olympic torch through the main gate of the Forbidden City on Wednesday, will be the Chinese flag bearer for his second straight Olympics. Yao would not say that he has been chosen for the honor. The Chinese delegation is expected to make its announcement on Thursday morning, Houston time. “Of course, I want to be the flag bearer again,” Yao said. “I have experience. It feels good.”

The Jerusalem Post reports: Legendary basketball coach Ralph Klein died Thursday morning at Tel Hashomer’s Sheba Medical Center. The 77-year-old, widely regarded as Israel’s greatest basketball coach, had been battling with cancer in recent years. Klein was born to a Hungarian family in Berlin. Before the outbreak of the Second World War, he fled with his family to Budapest. Klein’s father was killed in Auschwitz, but the rest of the family was saved from the Nazis by Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish humanitarian sent to Budapest under diplomatic cover to rescue Jews from the Holocaust.

The Oklahoman (Darnell Mayberry) reports: Oklahoma City will be one of only four NBA teams without any Saturday home games. The defending NBA champion Boston Celtics, the runner-up Los Angeles Lakers and the Toronto Raptors are the only other NBA teams without any Saturday home games. “I don’t like it at all,” Hill said. “It’s hard to make it down to Oklahoma City to go to a game during the week.” The NBA compiled Oklahoma City’s schedule from a list of available Ford Center dates submitted to the league by arena management as agreed to by the team. Teams play 41 regular-season home games, but out of the 75 possible home dates submitted to the NBA, only one was a Saturday, according to schedule maker Matt Winick, NBA vice president of operations.

Deadline extended in Sonics accord

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Greg Johns) reports: Attorneys for the city of Seattle and Clay Bennett’s Professional Basketball Club agreed Wednesday to extend the deadline for completing the settlement agreement that allowed the Sonics to end their KeyArena lease and move to Oklahoma City. The PBC and city initially set an Aug. 1 date to wrap up their July 3 settlement, but now have asked Judge Marsha Pechman to extend that to Aug. 18. Additionally, Pechman’s original Order of Dismissal listed Aug. 6 as the deadline to reopen the case. That date now would be Aug. 25. The additional time is needed in part because of the possibility of a voters’ referendum on the City Council’s approval of the settlement.

The Salt Lake Tribune (Ross Siler) reports: Twenty years after he took over for Frank Layden, Jerry Sloan will mark his anniversary as Jazz coach not with a celebration at EnergySolutions Arena, but with a road game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The location of the Dec. 9 anniversary game for the longest-tenured coach in American pro sports was the biggest surprise Wednesday as the NBA released its schedule for the 2008-09 season… NBA spokesman Mark Broussard didn’t know whether the Jazz had requested to play at home that date. “It really wasn’t anything that was on our radar screen as an anniversary date or anything,” Broussard said.

Sixers to play one last Spectrum game

The Philadelphia Daily News reports: To commemorate 28 seasons that included an NBA championship, the Sixers will bid a fond farewell to the Wachovia Spectrum with one last game. Yesterday, the team released its schedule for the upcoming 2008-09 campaign with plans to face the Chicago Bulls in the hallowed arena on March 13. “In this, the last year of the Spectrum, we’re thrilled to bring the Sixers back home to play one more time in the Spectrum,” said Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider. “This night is designed for our fans to relive the great Sixers memories there and for those fans who were never able to see them play at the Spectrum.”

Pistons sign Walter Sharpe

Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that the team has signed second round draft choice Walter Sharpe.

“We are pleased to add Walter Sharpe to our roster,” said Dumars.  “Walter is a young athletic small forward with good size and intriguing skills.  We look forward to seeing him grow and mature as a player in our system.”

Sharpe was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the No. 32 pick in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft.  The 6-9, 245-pound forward from the University of Alabama Birmingham, played 12 games last season averaging 14.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.  He shot 52% from the field and had a career game against University of Rhode Island when he recorded career-highs in points (26) and rebounds (17). Sharpe averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds during the 2005-06 season for Mississippi State and sat out the 2006-07 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

I look forward to seeing how the Knicks, who are the same team as last year plus an Italian forward I haven’t seen enough of to have a firm grasp of how well he’ll do, under new coach Mike D’Antoni. Can he take the same roster Isiah Thomas had, twist around what the players do, and make these guys a winner? We’ll see. Anyway, today they added some coaching staff help. Here’s the news:

The New York Knickerbockers President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh announced today that Kenny Atkinson has been hired as an assistant coach. As per club policy, terms of the contract will not be disclosed.

Atkinson joins the Knicks after spending the 2007-08 season as the Director of Player Development with the Houston Rockets where he was responsible for improving player performance through on-court, one-on-one skill development and the use of video analysis.

Atkinson joined the Rockets after three years serving as the Director of Player Development/Assistant Coach with the Paris Basket Racing Club in France from 2004-06. While in Europe, Atkinson also was a Reebok EuroCamp Coach in Treviso, Italy during the summers of 2005 and 2007. He spent the 2006 summer as the Director of Player Development for the national team of the Republic of Georgia.

Following a standout collegiate career at the University of Richmond where he led the Spiders to a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the Northport, NY-native and St. Anthony’s HS (South Huntington) graduate played professionally in Italy, France, Holland, Germany and Spain from 1991-2004.

Rockets trade Steve Novak to Clippers

Steve Novak is a tall guy who shoots really well from outside. I’m not too sure what else he’s good at yet, but the kid is a real gunner. Also, he’s tall, if I didn’t mention that yet. A tall guy. Who shoots. That’s my in-depth scouting report on him. Anyway, Tracy McGrady seemed to like him, as did the Rockets, but the Clippers wanted his services, and now their dreams have come true. Here’s the Steve Novak trade news:

The Los Angeles Clippers today acquired forward Steve Novak from the Houston Rockets, Vice President of Basketball Operations Elgin Baylor announced.  In return, Houston will have the option to exchange second round picks with the Clippers in 2011.

The two-year NBA sharpshooter averaged 3.9 points while connecting on 34-71 three-pointers (.479) and 49-102 FG (.480) in 35 games played for the Rockets last season.  Over the final five games of the 2007-08 campaign, Novak connected on 15-25 (.600) three-pointers en route to averaging 9.8 points per game during that stretch.

“Steve is a terrific perimeter shooter who will definitely help open the floor and create more opportunities for our post players,” stated Baylor.  “We are happy to bring him to Los Angeles.”

Over his career, Novak has averaged 2.7 points and 6.5 minutes per game, while connecting on 67-152 FG (.441) and 47-110 3FG (.427).  Novak also spent nine games last season with the Rio Grande Vipers, the Rockets’ NBA D-League affiliate, where he tallied 18.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

“We are pleased to add Steve to our roster,” said head coach Mike Dunleavy.  “He is an excellent shooter who will help us space the floor and keep defenses honest.”

Originally drafted in the second round (32nd overall) of the 2006 NBA Draft, Novak enjoyed a record-setting four-year collegiate career at Marquette.  Novak established new school records for career three-pointers made (354) and career free throw percentage (.931) while finishing 10th on the all-time Marquette list for career points (1,567).  He also became the sixth player in school history to reach career marks of 1,500 points and 500 rebounds (524).

The Clippers new-look roster now stands at 13 players as Los Angeles has revamped its roster by adding a total of nine new faces for the 2008-09 season.

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