Archive for July 14th, 2010

Respect Steve Blake

Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register reports:

Recognize Steve Blake

Blake is a far better athlete than is generally understood, with Mitch Kupchak revealing that in Blake’s Lakers pre-draft workout he “tested out as one of the best players we’ve ever had as far as physical ability.” That was seven years ago, and even though Blake still looks like a dude working behind a Subway counter, he actually does mixed martial arts that showcase his uncommon core strength.

Blake’s competitive fire would fit well in the Octagon, too. He can be found on YouTube going face-to-chest to 7-footers Andrew Bogut and Dwight Howard in just the past six months, standing up for himself. The over-under on confrontations between Blake and Sasha Vujacic in practice next season? I’ll say 12 … unless Vujacic and his expiring contract get traded before they get there, though the odds of that salary dump decreased when free agent Raja Bell chose Utah over the Lakers.

InsideHoops.com editor says: I’m thinking Derek Fisher will still start for the Lakers, but then sit quickly, with Blake getting the bulk of second and third quarter minutes. And then maybe Fisher plays in the end to nail a clutch jumper or two. But Blake very well could start. Looking forward to finding out.

James Johnson trims down

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports:

James Johnson trims down

Between the full beard he has added and the 25 pounds he has lost, James Johnson looks like a completely different person this summer.

Johnson’s game, though, looks quite similar from his rookie season, which is to say impressive flashes of athleticism followed by moments of painful decision-making.

This is a critical season for Johnson, who kept a remarkably upbeat attitude throughout all the trials and tribulations he faced. Even when LeBron James posterized him with a dunk in the Bulls- Cavaliers playoff series, creating a replay that led James’ “The Decision” special, Johnson eagerly guarded James some more.

Tim Buckley of the Deseret News reports:

Jazz reach agreement with swingman Raja Bell

The Jazz have reached an agreement with free agent Raja Bell, a veteran swingman who played previously in Utah and last was with the Golden State Warriors.

Details of the agreement, which the Jazz did not confirm, were not immediately known.

Bell is coming off recent wrist surgery that curtailed his 2009-10 season.

The deal is contingent on Bell passing a physical exam.

InsideHoops.com editor says: Good signing for both parties. Old Bell can still provide defense and veteran experience off the bench, plus he can trip opposing players with his cane.

Ekpe Udoh out 6 months

The AP reports:

Ekpe Udoh out 6 months

The Golden State Warriors say top draft pick Ekpe Udoh will miss six months after undergoing surgery on his injured left wrist.

Udoh underwent the operation on Wednesday in San Francisco to repair a torn ligament in his wrist. He will have his wrist immobilized for about 10 weeks.

Marcus Thompson of the Contra Costa News (blog) reports:

His wrist will be immobilized for 10 weeks, which means he will be just getting the cast off around the time camp starts. After that, starts rehab, which clearly the doctor thinks will take at least three months. That puts Udoh out until January, if everything goes according to plan. If recent history is any indicator (which it probably shouldn’t be because no one knows how well he heals), don’t expect Udoh back before the All-Star break.

The New Jersey Nets have signed free agent guard Jordan Farmar, forward Travis Outlaw and center Johan Petro, Nets President Rod Thorn announced today.  Per team policy, terms of the contracts were not released.

Farmar, 6’2”/180, is a four-year NBA veteran with career averages of 6.9 points and 2.1 assists in 18.1 minutes over 301 career games with the Los Angeles Lakers.  The UCLA product was selected by the Lakers in the first round (26th overall) of the 2006 NBA draft.  Farmar helped the Lakers win back-to-back championships in 2008-09 and 2009-10.  In 69 career postseason contests, Farmar holds playoff averages of 5.9 points and 1.4 assists in 15.0 minutes per game Last season, Farmar appeared in all 82 games for the Lakers, posting averages of 7.2 points on 43.5% shooting and 1.5 assists in 18.0 minutes per game.

Outlaw, 6’9”/207, is a seven-year NBA veteran with career averages of 9.5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 22 minutes over 400 career games.  He has shot .441 from the field and .363 from behind the arc.  He played in 34 games last season for the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers.  On February 16, the Starkville, Mississippi native was traded from Portland to Los Angeles along with Steve Blake in exchange for Marcus Camby and cash considerations.  In 11 games with Portland, Outlaw averaged 9.9 points and 3.5 rebounds in 21 minutes before being traded.  In 23 contests, including six starts with the Clippers, he tallied 8.7 points and 3.6 rebounds in 22 minutes per contest.  Selected out of Starkville High School in Mississippi, Outlaw was chosen by Portland in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2003 NBA Draft.  In six career playoff games, Outlaw holds averages of 9.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in 28 minutes per contest.

Petro, 7’0”/247, is a five year NBA veteran with career averages of 5.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16.7 minutes in 306 career games with Seattle/Oklahoma City and Denver.  A native of Paris, France, Petro was selected by the Seattle SuperSonics with in the first round (25th overall) of the 2005 NBA draft.  After three and a half seasons with the Seattle/Oklahoma City franchise, Petro was dealt to Denver during the 2008-09 season.  Last season, Petro posted averages of 3.4 points on 53.5% shooting and 3.6 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game for the Nuggets.

The Phoenix Suns today acquired forward Hedo Turkoglu (TURK-oh-lue) from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for guard Leandro Barbosa and forward/center Dwayne Jones, the club has announced.  The trade is pending the completion of physicals.

“Hedo is a versatile player and somebody who we always thought would fit into our system,” said Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry.  “He is a good ball handler who can create plays for other people and who can play three different positions.  He’ll fit well into what we’re trying to do here.”

In the 6-10, 220-pound Turkoglu, the Suns acquire a multi-dimensional player who is both a premier long-range shooter and a top passer at his position.  Turkoglu owns career averages of 12.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 28.2 minutes in 752 games (443 starts) with the Sacramento Kings (2000-03), San Antonio Spurs (2003-04), Orlando Magic (2004-09) and Toronto Raptors (2009-10).

In 10 career seasons, Turkoglu has made seven playoff appearances and has won a postseason series in all but one of those appearances, including a trip to the 2009 NBA Finals as a member of the Magic.  The 31-year-old Turkoglu averaged 15.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists in helping to lead Orlando to the franchise’s second berth in the league’s championship series.  Overall, Turkoglu’s teams are 9-7 (.563) in playoff series all-time.

The first Turkish-born player in NBA history, Turkoglu has averaged double-digit scoring in each of his last six seasons, including 15.8 points over his five-year tenure with the Magic.  A willing and capable passer, Turkoglu is one of only three NBA forwards who have averaged at least four assists in each of the last three seasons, joining Miami’s LeBron James and Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala.  Turkoglu has made 100 or more three-pointers in each of the last five seasons, averaged 126 threes in that span (631-of-1644, .384) and is a career 38.3-percent shooter from long range.

Turkoglu’s best career season came in 2007-08 when he was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player after averaging 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists.

One of the league’s top clutch shooters, Turkoglu has made six game-winning shots in the final seconds of a game since 2006-07 and game-clinching free throws on two other occasions in that span.

Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Turkoglu played four seasons for Efes Pilsen of the Turkish Professional League from 1996-2000 before being selected by Sacramento with the 16th overall pick in the first round of the 2000 NBA Draft.  His NBA signing was a national sports event in his native Turkey that featured a nationally televised press conference.

Celtics sign Jermaine O’Neal

The Boston Celtics announced today that they have signed center/forward Jermaine O’Neal.  Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Jermaine provides veteran leadership and experience,” said Celtics President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge. “His talents are an excellent complement to our core roster.”

O’Neal, a 6′11″ center/forward, has appeared in six all-star games and has been named to three All-NBA teams. The product of Eau Claire High School in South Carolina has posted career averages of 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds to go along with 1.9 blocks over his 14 year career with Portland, Indiana, Toronto and Miami. He posted a career-high field goal percentage of 52.9% last season with Miami.

“When the opportunity arose for me to join an organization like the Celtics, I could not refuse,” said O’Neal. “I cannot wait to get to Boston and start to practice with the rest of the team in pursuit of a championship.”

John Reid of the New Orleans Times Picayune reports:

Hornets withdraw contract offer to Luther Head

The New Orleans Hornets will not offer free agent shooting guard Luther Head a contract because he had some physical issues during his physical examination that was a concern of the Hornets’ medical staff. league sources said Wednesday.

Earlier this week Head and the Hornets had agreed to a two-year contract that was contingent on him passing his physical. Sources said the decision not to offer Head a contract did not have anything to do with general manager Jeff Bower and the Hornets mutually agreeing to part ways on Tuesday.

Lakers re-sign Derek Fisher

Lakers re-sign Derek Fisher

The Los Angeles Lakers have re-signed free agent guard Derek Fisher, it was announced by General Manager Mitch Kupchak.  Per team policy terms of the contract were not released.

Fisher, a five-time NBA Champion with the Lakers (2000-02, 2009-10), returns for his fourth straight season with Los Angeles and 12th overall.  A 14-year NBA veteran, the 6’1” guard, who played in all 82 games in 2009-10 for the fifth straight season, ranks second among all active players with 413 consecutive regular season games played.

With the Lakers’ victory over Boston in the 2010 NBA Finals, Fisher won his 33rd career playoff series, tops among all active players in the NBA.  The combination of head coach Phil Jackson and Fisher has now accounted for 108 postseason victories, the third highest total for a player/coach duo in league history, trailing only Jackson/Kobe Bryant (114) and Jackson/Scottie Pippen (110).

As an individual, Fisher ranks among franchise leaders in playoff games played (3rd/183), regular season games played (9th/790), playoff steals (3rd/205), regular season steals (8th/829), playoff 3-point field goals made (2nd/212) and regular season 3-point field goals made (2nd/759).  League-wide, Fisher’s total of 224 playoff 3-point field goals made ranks him 6th in NBA postseason history while his total of 43 3-point field goals in the NBA Finals is 3rd most all-time.

Originally selected by the Lakers in the first round (24th overall) of the 1996 NBA Draft, Fisher entered the league alongside then-rookie Kobe Bryant and spent eight years (1996-2004) with Los Angeles before signing with the Warriors as a free agent in 2004.  Since returning to the Lakers prior to the 2007-08 campaign after two seasons in Golden State and one in Utah, Fisher has helped the Lakers to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two consecutive NBA Championships.  In 1,028 career regular season games, Fisher is averaging 9.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.08 steals.

Hawks sign-and-trade Josh Childress to Suns

The Phoenix Suns today acquired swingman Josh Childress in a sign-and-trade deal with the Atlanta Hawks, the club has announced.  In exchange, Atlanta receives the Suns’ 2012 second-round draft pick.  Childress has signed a five-year contract.

“Josh is a tremendous athlete who can play multiple positions,” said Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry.  “We think he is going to be a great perimeter defender who can bring a lot on the offensive end as well with his ability to slash.  Josh will add a lot to our team because he is so multitalented.”

The Suns’ agreement with the 6-8, 210-pound swingman means Childress will return to the NBA in 2010-11 after spending the last two seasons with Greek club Olympiacos, the most successful basketball franchise in Greece and a traditional European powerhouse, where he signed following the 2007-08 NBA season.  Most recently, Childress led Olympiacos to a 23-3 record in Greek League play in 2009-10 and a berth in the Greek League Finals.  Childress averaged a team-leading 15.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in Greek League action last season and also posted 15.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in Euroleague play.

The 27-year-old Childress owns four years of NBA experience, all with the Hawks, and career averages of 11.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 steals in 31.3 minutes in 285 games (67 starts).   He is a career 52.2-percent shooter from the field, including 36.0 percent from three-point range, who has averaged double-digit scoring in all four of his NBA campaigns.

Childress last played in the NBA in 2007-08 when he was the top reserve on an upstart Atlanta Hawks team that ended an eight-year playoff drought and pushed the eventual NBA Champion Boston Celtics to seven games in their opening round series.  That season, he averaged 11.8 points and 4.9 rebounds in 29.9 minutes in 76 games, all off the bench, while shooting an impressive 57.1 percent from the field.

Originally selected by the Hawks with the sixth overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, Childress was a three-year performer at Stanford where he became the first Pac-10 Player of the Year in school history in 2003-04.  Childress led the school to three NCAA tournament appearances and the 2003-04 Pac-10 title.

Rockets sign rookie Patrick Patterson

Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey announced today that the team has signed rookie forward Patrick Patterson to a multi-year contract. Per team policy, financial terms were not released. Patterson, who was an early entry candidate out of Kentucky, was selected by the Rockets in the first round (14th overall) of the 2010 NBA Draft.

Patterson (6-9, 235, Kentucky) finished his three-year career at Kentucky with averages of 16.1 points (.585, 617-1054 FG; .329, 24-73 3FG), 8.2 rebounds and 1.57 blocks in 97 career games (97 starts). He was one of five Wildcats picked in the opening round of the 2010 NBA Draft, which was the first time five players from one school were chosen in the first round of the draft. A 2007 McDonald’s All-American as a high school senior, Patterson became the 10th fastest player to reach the 1,000-point club at UK (58 games). He was a two-time All-SEC First-Team pick as a junior and sophomore, as well as a Second-Team selection as a freshman.

Patterson averaged 14.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.34 blocks in 38 starts as a junior, earning First-Team All-SEC, AP Honorable Mention All-America, USBWA All-District IV Team and NABC All-District 21 Second-Team honors. The only SEC player to rank in the league’s top-five in scoring (17.9 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg) in 2008-09, Patterson also shot a career-high .603 (240-398 FG) from the field and blocking 70 shots (2.06 bpg) as a sophomore. He was named First-Team All-SEC and NABC Second-Team All-District in 2008-09. Patterson averaged 16.4 points and 7.7 rebounds in garnering SEC Co-Freshman of the Year accolades by league coaches. He was also named Second-Team All-SEC and NABC Second-Team All-District in 2007-08, adding SEC Freshman of the Week honors three times.

In addition, Patterson was selected for the 2007 USA Basketball Junior National Select Team, and was the MVP of the 2006 National Basketball Players Association Top-100 Camp.

Kyle Lowry signs Cavaliers offer sheet

Kyle Lowry signs Cavs offer sheet

The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed Houston Rockets restricted free agent point guard Kyle Lowry to a contract offer sheet, Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant announced today.  Per league and team policy, terms of the contract were not announced.

Lowry played in 68 games this past season for the Houston Rockets.  He averaged 9.1 points on .397 shooting, 3.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 24.3 minutes per game.  The 6-0 guard was selected by the Memphis Grizzlies with the 24th overall draft pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. In four seasons in the NBA, Lowry has career averages of 8.7 points on .421 shooting, 3.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.0 steal in 23.6 minutes per game.

The Rockets will now have seven days to match the Cavaliers offer and retain Lowry’s services. If not, Lowry will become a member of the Cavaliers.

The New Jersey Nets have named Billy King as the team’s new general manager, Nets Principal Owner Mikhail Prokhorov announced today.  King succeeds Rod Thorn, who is stepping down as the team’s president after 10 years at the helm.  As per club policy, terms of King’s contract were not released.

“I am very pleased Billy King is coming on board as Nets General Manager,” said Prokhorov.  “He has all of the qualities we’ve been looking for in a candidate:  professionalism, good relations with the league, players and agents, and strong communications skills.  He will be an excellent fit with Head Coach Avery Johnson. Most importantly, Billy is ambitious.  He wants to win.  This is what I felt when I met with him and why he will be a strong addition to the Nets organization.”

“I am very excited about joining the Nets organization,” said King. “I want to thank Mr. Prokhorov and his executive team for the opportunity to oversee a franchise that has such a vibrant owner, an outstanding coach in Avery Johnson, and possesses the combination of young talent, cap space and draft choices that will allow us to build a squad that will be able to contend for an NBA title.”

King replaces Rod Thorn, who took over the reins of the team on June 2, 2000, and during his tenure, led the Nets to two NBA Finals appearances, two Eastern Conference titles and four Atlantic Division titles, the most successful stretch in the team’s NBA history.

“Rod Thorn is a legendary figure in the NBA, a man of true character and class,” said Prokhorov. “He has been nothing but committed and supportive during the transition to new ownership, and continues to share his wisdom and provide guidance for the Nets.  I wish him all of the wonderful things he deserves. I will always consider him a great friend of the Nets.”

King joins the Nets after spending 10 years with the Philadelphia 76ers organization, serving as the team’s president from 2003-2007.  King joined the 76ers on June 2, 1997 as vice president of basketball administration, a role in which he served as the point person for basketball operations. Less than a year later he was promoted to general manager, a position he held until being promoted to team president following the 2002-03 season.

During his 10-year tenure, King guided the team to five consecutive playoff appearances (1999-2003), including the 2000-01 season in which the Sixers captured the Atlantic Division Title on the heels of a 56-26 season and went on to win their first Eastern Conference Championship since 1983, to advance to the 2001 NBA Finals.

Before joining the 76ers, King served as an assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers under Larry Brown for four seasons. He joined the professional ranks after spending four seasons as an assistant at Illinois State University under Head Coach Bob Bender. He also spent one year as a color analyst for ESPN’s basketball coverage of the Ohio Valley Conference.

Holding several roles within the USA Basketball program throughout his career, King has served as a member of USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team Program Advisory Panel, on USA Basketball’s Board of Directors, as treasurer of USA Basketball and as an athlete representative on the 1997-2000 executive committee. King also served on the USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team Committees for the 1997-2000 and 2001-04 terms.

During his collegiate career, King was an outstanding defensive player on Duke University’s nationally ranked teams in the late 1980s and received the Henry Iba Corinthian National Defensive Player of the Year award following his senior season. King helped the Blue Devils to a 112-27 record, an average of 28 wins per season as Duke went to the Final Four twice, won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship and two ACC Tournament titles. In 1987, he helped the USA Basketball Men’s World University Games silver-medal squad to a 7-1 record.

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