Archive for October 15th, 2008

China loves Joe Alexander

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Charles F. Gardner) reports: It didn’t take long for Milwaukee Bucks rookie Joe Alexander to be discovered by the Chinese media. Before the Bucks’ practice Tuesday at the Guangzhou Gymnasium, the 6-foot-8 Alexander was swarmed by a huge group of reporters. His fluency in Mandarin was one reason for his popularity, and the fact he spent much of his youth living in Beijing, Hong Kong and Taiwan. “They enjoyed me a little bit,” Alexander said in a phone interview. “There was a pretty fair amount (of media), more than I’m used to.”

Eddie Jones will not join the Pacers but the franchise will recoup the ability to sign another player as a result of an agreement reached today.

Jones was acquired by the Pacers from Dallas, along with two second-round picks and cash, in exchange for Shawne Williams on Oct. 10.

The 36-year-old veteran guard made it clear he preferred not to play this season.

The Pacers worked with agent Leon Rose and reached an agreement that lowers the salary-cap figure for the one season remaining on Jones’ contract, thus clearing enough room for the team to sign another player to a veteran minimum contract without exceeding the NBA Luxury Tax threshold.

Bobcats exercise two player options

Charlotte Bobcats General Manager Rod Higgins today announced that the team has exercised its options on Adam Morrison and Jared Dudley for the 2009-10 season.

Morrison, the third overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, played in 78 games for the Bobcats as a rookie in 2006-07, averaging 11.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists.  He was named to the All-Rookie Second Team after ranking second among all NBA rookies in scoring and minutes played, while also ranking sixth in assists.  Morrison missed the entire 2007-08 season after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee during the preseason.

Dudley, the 22nd overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, played in 73 games for the Bobcats last season, with averages of 5.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists.  He ranked among the league’s top 20 rookies in field goal percentage (seventh), steals (eighth), rebounding (12th), assists (T-14th) and scoring (T-17th).

The Charlotte Bobcats will host their annual Cool School preseason game presented by Harris Teeter for middle school students at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, October 16, against the Orlando Magic. Approximately 16,000 students and teachers representing 31 regional cities and 14 counties will take part in this educationally geared event.

DJ White out 4-6 months after surgery

On Monday, October 13th physicians successfully removed the benign growth from D.J. White’s jaw, the Oklahoma City Thunder announced today.

Team physicians will perform the second phase of the surgery, where they will mend the jaw with a bone graft taken from White’s hip, in approximately six weeks.

White’s expected recovery time remains 4-6 months.

Grizzlies make training staff promotions

Current Memphis Grizzlies Assistant Athletic Trainer Jason Biles was promoted to strength and conditioning coach, General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations Chris Wallace announced today.  In a related move, former University of North Florida Head Athletic Trainer Jim Scholler was named the club’s new assistant athletic trainer.

Biles enters his second season with the Grizzlies after he was appointed the team’s assistant athletic trainer in August 2007. In his new role, Biles will oversee the off-court conditioning of the Grizzlies, enhancing their performance through exercises in flexibility, strength, speed and power, while assisting Grizzlies Head Athletic Trainer Drew Graham with rehabilitation of injuries.

Prior to joining the Grizzlies, Biles worked at Athletes Performance in Las Vegas, where he served as the performance physical therapy manager and developed and implemented performance training programs for professional athletes in the NBA, NFL, MLB, PGA and ATP. He was also the lead physical therapist at the Bollettieri Sports Medicine Center at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., where he traveled with professional tennis players and provided rehabilitation for athletes training for the NFL combines and NBA offseason training programs.

Scholler spent nine of the last 10 years as an athletic trainer for the Ospreys, including the last four as the head athletic trainer, where he oversaw administration and supervision of all athletic training services provided to UNF student-athletes.

He served as UNF’s graduate assistant athletic trainer from 1998-2001, covering baseball and men’s soccer and as the Ospreys assistant athletic trainer from 2001-03, providing care to the men’s basketball, volleyball, men’s and women’s tennis, cheerleading and dance teams.

Scholler, who also served as the athletic trainer for the Greek National Baseball team  in 2003 and 2005 that competed in the European Baseball Championships, spent one season as the assistant athletic trainer at Notre Dame in 2003-04, where he oversaw the health care of the men’s and women’s cross country and men’s lacrosse teams.

The Grand Haven, Mich. native earned his bachelor’s degree in movement science from the University of Michigan in 1998 and his master’s degree in healthcare administration from UNF in 2001.

Mike Wilks keeps hanging on

For a guy who is never sure he has a job, point guard Mike Wilks is doing OK. The 5-10, 180-pound point guard is entering his 7th season and has already played for the Hawks, Timberwolves, Rockets, Spurs, Cavaliers, Sonics, Nuggets and Wizards. Here’s a report from the Orlando Sentinel (Brian Schmitz):

He has never had a guaranteed contract heading into a season, and this one marks No. 7. “Every year I go in with a non-guarantee — every year,” Wilks said Tuesday. “I’ve been blessed where it’s worked out every year, where I’ve done enough to impress the team.” Wilks, 29, looks as if he’ll make the opening-night roster as the Magic’s third point guard behind starter Jameer Nelson and Nelson’s backup, Anthony Johnson. But he won’t know how long he’ll be with the team until next year. The Magic have until January to guarantee his contract, valued at around $1 million. Wilks’ value to the club increases when the Magic closely monitor Nelson’s health.

Considering Anthony Johnson’s advanced age, I say it makes sense for the Magic to keep Wilks for now, though he really needs to raise those career shooting averages of 40.0% from the field and 31.1% from three-point range.

Rashard Lewis ready to break out

The Orlando Magic roster includes Dwight Howard and a pair of star small forwards in Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. Because there’s no great power forward on board, Lewis wound up playing as an undersized PF last season, and he’ll be doing so this year as well. Though his offense remains that of an outside-shooting SF, defensively he’s up against rugged players. Lewis took a bit of a back seat to teammates last season but this year plans on being more assertive. Here’s more about Lewis from Florida Today (John Denton):

“(Being more selfish) is something that I need to do, but not necessarily trying to do,” Lewis said. “It’s just my nature to play the right way. When I’m double teamed, I’m going to look for the open man. But at some points in the game, I do have to be more selfish to score more points when we need baskets. I’m more comfortable with the system, with the guys and now I’m more ready to be a little more selfish.” General manager Otis Smith has been prodding Lewis to not defer so much to small forward Hedo Turkoglu, who had a breakout season in part because Lewis kept defenses honest. And head coach Stan Van Gundy has pushed for Lewis to try and get to the rim, and ultimately the free throw line, more by resisting the notion to shoot so many 3-pointers. After all, the Magic didn’t reward Lewis — a one-time all-star during his playing days with the Seattle SuperSonics, — a six-year, $118 million contract for him to just fit in. He has the skill set to be a dominant scorer, but often his mellow demeanor saps some of his aggressiveness. The Magic are trying to change that aspect of the 6-foot-10, 230-pound Lewis.

The Magic should remain one of the best teams in the East, but they aren’t true championship contenders just yet. Their big question mark remains their backcourt. Watch the performance of their guards this season. If no one steps up, it’ll limit how far the Magic can go in the playoffs.

Rondo eligible for long deal next summer

Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has turned out to be a better player than most fans expected. He came into the league seemingly a backup-level talent, yet developed enough to be worthy of starting on a team that wound up winning the championship. The Boston Globe (Marc J. Spears) reports:

Rajon Rondo is hopeful he can be a Celtic long after the Big Three are gone. General manager Danny Ainge said yesterday that the $2.09 million team option on Rondo for the 2009-10 season will be exercised before this season… Rondo will be eligible for a lucrative long-term deal next summer that would begin with the 2010-11 season. Signing him next summer as opposed to when he is a restricted free agent during the hot 2010 market will have salary cap implications for Boston. Duffy plans to push hard for a long-term deal; Danny Ainge does not comment on free agent issues.

It isn’t likely that Rondo will ever develop into a superstar — though, he’s proved doubters wrong in the past — but at the very least he should be a very solid starter for years to come.

Blazer Nicolas Batum looking good

The Trail Blazers loaded up on talent for the upcoming season, through the draft as well as with good health from Greg Oden. But here’s the Oregonian (Joe Freeman) reporting:

The biggest surprise of the practice was that Nicolas Batum worked extensively with the starting unit. The 19-year-old rookie forward from France has been a standout during exhibition play, and coach Nate McMillan — who is searching for a replacement for the injured Martell Webster — said he wanted to experiment with Batum in the first unit. McMillan also plans to look at Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez as potential starters.

Portland is one of everyone’s must-watch teams this season. They aren’t necesarily going to be a great team, but after the potential they showed last year and all the talent they have on board, I’ll be going out of my way to watch their development, and you should, too.

Haq-a-Shaq likely to continue

Shquille O’Neal misses lots of free throws. And he’s continuing to do so. Other teams often resort to fouling him on purpose, just to send him to the line so he can miss free throws. This will likely continue. Here’s the Arizona Republic (Paul Coro):

It has been more of the same from O’Neal at the free-throw line in the preseason, with eight misses in 12 tries. And it might be more of the same “Hack-a-Shaq” approach this season for the career 52.4 percent free-throw shooter. The NBA reviewed the rule allowing intentional fouls away from the ball without penalty until the final two minutes but did not alter the rule to protect a weakness. “I was fine with that,” O’Neal said. “It doesn’t work. It may work in a series, but it’s not going to get you to the championship. San Antonio tried it, but they went home a couple weeks after we went home. I just have to go to the line and make them pay. And I will. “The only thing I call cowardly is when you’re up by 10 and do it. That’s a cowardly move. I didn’t say nothing last year, but that’s a coward move. They should really do something about that. When you’re down, I can see using it as a strategy, but when you’re up 10 to 15 points, there’s really no need for that.”

Shaq should try shooting free throws underhanded while facing away from the basket. He could stand, facing the opposite side of the court, start shooting underhand aiming across the entire length of the floor, only continue the motion high up in the air, bouncing the ball off the ceiling at an angle that would aim it at the proper rim. All while the arena plays looney tunes music or the theme to the Benny Hill TV show. Hey, it’s just an idea.

–Jeff

T-Wolves today

LAST NIGHT’S GAME: Wolves 96, Bulls 86

The Timberwolves used a balanced attack and relentless defensive effort to rally from an early 19-point deficit in Chicago last night, ultimately pulling away for a 96-86 victory. With the win, the Wolves improved to 3-1 on the preseason. The Wolves started the game flat, missing seven of their first eight shots and falling behind by double-digits just five minutes into the game. Another 9-0 Chicago run pushed the margin to as many as 19 late in the quarter, and the Bulls held a 30-13 lead after one. With four reserves in the game to start the second quarter, however, the Wolves rallied back, using a 14-1 run midway through the frame to pull within four, and they ultimately took a narrow 46-45 lead into the intermission. After trading baskets for much of the third quarter, Minnesota took the lead for good on a Randy Foye jump shot with 4:42 to play in the third and held off a late Bulls rally for the win. After the sluggish first quarter, the Wolves outscored the Bulls 83-56 over the final three quarters while limiting Chicago to just 21-for-51 shooting and forcing 16 turnovers in that span. Corey Brewer led the Wolves with 15 points and nine rebounds, and the balanced attack featured six different players in double figures. Kevin Ollie helped key the rally by pitching in eight points and three assists on a perfect 2-for-2 from the field and 4-for-4 from the line in a reserve roll. Drew Gooden led the Bulls with 20 points, while Luol Deng added 15 in a game-high 45 minutes.

NEXT WOLVES GAME: Wolves at Toronto Raptors - Thursday, Oct. 16 - 6:00 PM - Air Canada Centre

Minnesota will look to continue its solid preseason play in Toronto on Thursday as they face a new-look Raptors team now featuring Jermaine O’Neal. The Raptors swept the two-game series with the Wolves last summer and have now won eight straight regular season meetings with the Wolves dating back to the 2004 season. The teams have met on five previous occasions in the preseason, with the Wolves winning twice.

BALANCING ACT: The Timberwolves’ 3-1 mark through the first half of the exhibition season has been fueled by contributions from top to bottom on the roster. While all 15 players who have seen action have played fewer than 30 minutes per game, six different Wolves are averaging at least 10 points per game, led by Rashad McCants’ 14.3. Here’s a look at the Wolves’ scoring leaders through four preseason games:

Rashad McCants (14.3 ppg)
Corey Brewer (14.0 ppg)
Al Jefferson (13.5 ppg)
Randy Foye (10.5 ppg)
Kevin Love (10.5 ppg)
Blake Ahearn (10.5 ppg)

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