Archive for September 22nd, 2008

Wizards add 3 to training camp

Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld announced today that the team has signed free agent forwards DerMarr Johnson, Linton Johnson and Taj McCullough.  Per team policy, terms of the contracts were not released. But it’s quite likely that all three signings are just “training camp additions” with nonguaranteed deals. Chances are, all three will be cut during or after camp. But of the three, Johnson is most likely to stick, followed by Johnson. McCullough is a distant long-shot.

“DerMarr’s experience and versatility, Linton’s athleticism and defensive ability and Taj’s play with our summer league team gives them a chance to compete for a roster spot,” said Grunfeld.  “We’re looking forward to training camp as an opportunity to evaluate how they might fit into the mix at the small forward position.”

DerMarr Johnson (6-9, 210) is a seven-year veteran who has seen action with the Hawks, Knicks, Nuggets and Spurs.  He holds NBA career averages of 6.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in 136 games.  A Washington DC native, Johnson was originally selected by Atlanta with the sixth overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft following his freshman year at the University of Cincinnati.  He averaged 8.4 points and 3.4 rebounds for the Hawks in 2001-02, but missed the entire 2002-03 season after suffering four cracked vertebra in his neck following a car accident.  He returned to the NBA with New York in 2003-04 and spent the next three seasons (2004-05 through 2006-07) with Denver.  Johnson averaged 3.4 points in five games with San Antonio last season.

Linton Johnson (6-8, 205) is a five-year veteran who has seen action with the Bulls, Spurs, Nets, Hornets, Raptors and Suns.  He holds NBA career averages of 4.1 points and 3.4 rebounds in 141 games after going undrafted out of Tulane University.   Johnson had his best statistical run when he averaged 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds over the final 27 games for New Orleans/Oklahoma City after being acquired in a midseason trade with New Jersey.  Johnson averaged 2.6 points and 1.8 rebounds last season in eight games between Toronto and Phoenix.

McCullough (6-7, 227) averaged 2.2 points and 2.0 rebounds in five games with the Wizards’ entry in the 2008 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.  The rookie out of Winthrop averaged 11.6 points and a team-high 5.8 rebounds as a senior last season and helped the Eagles to a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

The Wizards’ training camp roster now stands at 17 players.  The team will hold camp from September 27-October 3 at the Siegel Center on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Wizards exercise option on Eddie Jordan

Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld announced today that the team has picked up the option on the contract of Head Coach Eddie Jordan, keeping him under contract through the 2009-10 season.  Per team policy, financial terms of the contract were not released.

“Eddie has done an outstanding job and has been instrumental in making us a perennial playoff team, so we are pleased to reward that success by picking up the option on his contract,” said Grunfeld.  “We are very excited about the upcoming season and feel that this team is ready to progress to another level under Eddie’s leadership.”

Jordan has compiled an overall record of 196-214 (.478) in five seasons as head coach of the Wizards and is currently the third-longest tenured head coach in the NBA behind Jerry Sloan (Utah Jazz) and Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs).  He has led the team to the playoffs the last four seasons (making the Wizards the only Eastern Conference team other than Detroit to do so), compiling a 171-157 (.521) mark during that span.

“I’d like to thank (Wizards Owner) Abe Pollin and Ernie Grunfeld, my assistants and the players for their confidence in me and for putting the pieces in place for us to continue to build on what we’ve already accomplished,” said Jordan.  “This team has proven it can compete at an elite level, and I have high expectations for what we can achieve moving forward.”

Jordan, a Washington DC native, was originally hired by the Wizards prior to the 2003-04 season.  After his first year, he led the team to a 20-game improvement and their first playoff berth in eight seasons (as well as their first playoff series win since 1982).  The team has made the playoffs each year since.  Jordan represented the Wizards as the head coach of the 2007 Eastern Conference All-Star Team by virtue of the team having the best record in the Eastern Conference heading into the All-Star break.  Jordan is third in total wins and total games coached among head coaches in franchise history and needs just seven wins to pass Wes Unseld and move into second place for total wins (behind Gene Shue).

Bulls add four to operations staff

The Chicago Bulls announced today the appointment of four individuals to its Basketball Operations staff, including Dave Severns as Assistant Coach for Player Development, Jeff Tanaka as Assistant Athletic Trainer, Justin Zormelo as Assistant Video Coordinator and Joshua Bonhotal as Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach.

Severns, 51, comes to the Windy City after spending the last 12 years at Nike as a player development coach.  While at Nike he worked with college players at its All-American Camp, Skills Academies and the Jordan Flight School.  Prior to Nike, he spent three years as the Video Coordinator at Fresno State University, two years as an Assistant Coach at Fresno City College and one year as an Assistant Coach at Chico State University.  Severns earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from California State University-Chico.

Tanaka, 37, brings more than 15 years of experience on the professional and collegiate levels to the Bulls. He spent the last 10 seasons as an Assistant Athletic Trainer with the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League and spent the previous two seasons at the University of California-Berkeley in the same capacity.  Prior to his tenure at Cal Berkeley, Tanaka had four stints in the professional ranks, beginning with a training camp internship with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1994.  He then spent two seasons as a graduate assistant with the 49ers (1995-96) before accepting a position as an Assistant Athletic Trainer for the NFL Europe Amsterdam Admirals in 1997.  After his time in Amsterdam, Tanaka spent the next two seasons at the University of California where he was Head Athletic Trainer for men’s basketball and the men’s and women’s swim teams.  Tanaka received a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1994 and in 2001 earned a master’s degree in kinesiology from San Jose State.

Zormelo, 24, will begin his first season with the Bulls after spending last season as a video room intern with the Miami Heat.  Prior to his internship with the Heat, Zormelo spent four years as the team manager (three years as head manager) for the Georgetown University Men’s Basketball team.  He graduated from Georgetown University in 2006 with a B.S. in finance.

Bonhotal, 25, will begin his second stint with the Bulls, this time in a full-time role. He served as the Strength and Conditioning Intern during the first half of the 2006-2007 season.  Most recently, he worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning in Winchester, Massachusetts. Bonhotal graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2006 with a degree in kinesiology.

Suns sign Goran Dragic

The Phoenix Suns announced today that the club has signed Slovenian guard Goran Dragic (GORE-on DRAG-itch) to a multi-year contract.

“It has been a lengthy process, but we’re happy to announce the signing of Goran Dragic,” said Suns President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Steve Kerr.  “He is a talented young point guard who we believe has a very bright future.”

Dragic’s rights were acquired by the Suns on June 26, 2008, in a draft-day deal with the San Antonio Spurs, who selected him with the 45th overall pick (second round).  Phoenix sent San Antonio the draft rights to 48th overall selection Malik Hairston, as well as a 2009 second-round pick and cash.  The 2009 pick was obtained from the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 3, 2005, in exchange for Zarko Cabarkapa.

Just 22 years old, Dragic joins the Suns with four years of international professional experience.  Most recently, the 6-3, 190-pound point guard spent the 2007-08 season with Union Olimpija in Slovenia and helped to lead his club to both the Slovenian League Championship and Slovenian Cup.  Against top competition in Euroleague play last season, Dragic averaged 9.7 points, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals in 13 games.  Likewise, he tallied 12.0 points, 3.1 assists and 1.7 steals in 28 Adriatic League games.  A quick guard with a knack for getting to the basket, Dragic shot 60.9 percent from the field in Euroleague play and 61.0 percent in the Adriatic League.

The lefthander began play in Europe’s top leagues in 2004-05 with Geoplin Slovan and was named the 2005 Slovenian League Newcomer of the Year.  Dragic also received All-Star recognition in 2008 in the Adriatic League as well as 2006 in the Slovenian League.

The newest Sun has been a member of the Slovenian Senior National Team since 2006.  Dragic’s play during the 2007 European Championships in Spain included 28 minutes of action in the Slovenian’s upset victory over Tony Parker and France to win Group D of the tournament.  He was also a member of the Under-20 National Team in both 2004 and 2005.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim retires

Sacramento Kings’ forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim today announced his retirement from the NBA as a player due to a reoccurring knee injury.

“First of all, on behalf of the entire organization I want to thank Shareef for his contribution to the Kings and NBA both on and off the court,” said Kings’ President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie. “He has had an exemplary career as a player and citizen. It is unfortunate for any productive career to be felled by injury. However, no one can ever doubt Shareef’s effort, commitment or desire to excel. It is our intention to find a new role for Shareef with the organization as he begins the next phase of his professional life.”

Abdur-Rahim enjoyed 12 seasons in the NBA with four different teams (Vancouver 1996-97 to 2000-01, Atlanta 2001-02 to 2003-04, Portland 2003-04 to 2004-05 and Sacramento 2005-06 to 2007-08), amassing career averages of 18.1 points (.452 FGs, .297 3FGs, .810 FTs), 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game through 830 outings. His most productive season, statistically, occurred during the 1998-99 campaign in Vancouver when he averaged 23.0 points (.432 FGs, .306 3FGs, .841 FTs), 7.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game through 50 contests (NBA Lockout season). The following season (1999-00), Abdur-Rahim averaged double figures in both points (20.3) and rebounds (10.1) per game, in which he played in all 82 contests for the Grizzlies.

“I’ve been in a situation where I’ve been trying to get healthy over the last year and a half,” explained Abdur-Rahim. “I came to grips with the fact that, health-wise, I won’t be able to get back to the condition and level that is needed to play in the NBA. My right knee has become arthritic over the years and is to the point where it won’t allow me do the things and play at the level in which I’m accustomed to playing. As tough as it is to come to grips with, it’s the reality.”

Abdur-Rahim was a member of the gold-medal winning United States Olympic team in 2000 while still with the Vancouver Grizzlies. He was selected to the Eastern Conference NBA All-Star Team where he scored nine points in 21 minutes as a member of the Atlanta Hawks in 2002.

“Regarding my career, I’ve been really blessed and fortunate,” said Abdur-Rahim. “I’m thankful that I had basketball and was able to play in the NBA. There aren’t a lot of people who actually get to do what they grow up dreaming about doing. I’ve had that opportunity and I’m really thankful for that. I’m also thankful for the coaches, trainers, owners, front office people and friends I’ve made through my time in the NBA. It was a tough decision, but in no way am I bitter. I’m just really thankful and happy that I was given the opportunity to play in the NBA.”

On December 28, 2002, Abdur-Rahim became the sixth-youngest player in NBA history to reach the 10,000-point plateau when he scored 18 points at Washington at age 26, trailing only Kobe Bryant, Bob McAdoo, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with that distinction. He scored a career-high 50 points (including a career-high 21 field goals made) versus Detroit on November 23, 2001, becoming the first Hawks player to hit that mark since Dominique Wilkins poured in 52 points in 1991.

Selected by the Vancouver Grizzlies (now Memphis) as an undergraduate out of California with the third pick of the 1996 NBA Draft, Abdur-Rahim has a long-standing history of community service involvement. He was named by The Sporting News as the NBA’s Number 1 Good Guy for 2004 after funding the Reef House in Atlanta through his Atlanta-based Future Foundation with the purpose of assisting at-risk and underprivileged youth.

Stephane Lasme signs in Serbia reports: Perennial Serbian League champion Partizan has improved its roster for the upcoming 2008-09 Euroleague season by inking power forward Stephane Lasme to a one-year deal. Lasme (203, 25) arrives from the Miami Heat, where he averaged 5.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 16 NBA games last season, during which he also played for the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the NBDL. editor says: I’ve seen Lasme just enough to feel that he could help an NBA team’s deep bench. A solid 9th-13th man worth giving a shot. The overseas experience should help him a bit.

Salim Stoudamire to Spurs

The Arizona Star (Greg Hansen) reports: Salim Stoudamire has escaped pro basketball’s burial grounds — the Atlanta Hawks — and now will play for a winner. The ex-Wildcat shooting star has signed with the San Antonio Spurs and is expected to replace the three-point shooting threat of Brent Barry and perhaps Robert Horry. editor says: A shooting guard in a point guard’s body, Salim is good at making it rain from three-point range. His attitude has been questioned over the years, though. But this could be a really good fit for him.

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