Maria Sharapova and Sasha Vujacic call off engagement

It’s game, set, heartbreak for Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova.

The blond beauty confirmed Friday that she and former Nets player Sasha Vujacic called off their engagement and that she has been on her own “since the end of spring, actually.”

“I was waiting for someone to actually ask me that question, but nobody did, directly,” she said. “It was obviously a challenging decision, you know, from both of our ends.”

— Reported by Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News

C.J. Watson earns diploma from Tennessee

C.J. Watson recently tweeted out a picture of his diploma.

Six years after leaving Tennessee to pursue his dreams of being a professional basketball player, the Nets guard now holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the university.

“Every year since [I left] I’ve been going back and doing classes every summer,” Watson told the Post on Friday in a phone interview from Johannesburg, South Africa, where he’s participating in Basketball without Borders. “This summer I didn’t have to go back to campus, I could do it online.

“It feels great. It feels like a little burden off my shoulders. I’m glad that I’ve got it over and done with.”

— Reported by Tim Bontemps of the New York Post

Hilton Armstrong signs in Greece

Hilton Armstrong signs in Greece

Panathinaikos Athens fortified its frontline by signing center Hilton Armstrong, who will make his Turkish Airlines Euroleague debut this season with the Greens. Armstrong (2.08 meters, 27 years old) arrives from Asvel Basket Lyon Villeurbanne, with whom he played his first season in Europe last year. He averaged 10.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and was fifth in the Eurocup with 1.3 blocks in 11 Eurocup games last season, including a pair of impressive outings against Greek side Aris Thessaloniki. In fact, Armstrong earned Eurocup Last 16, Game 4 MVP honors after posting an 18-point, 8-rebound effort against Aris.

— Reported by Euroleague.net

Gregg Popovich sees big future for Kawhi Leonard

Gregg Popovich sees big future for Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard, future star?

Fan Question: What kind of season do you see Kawhi Leonard having next season? Also, where do you see him in five years?

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I think he’s going to be a star. And as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player. And what makes me be so confident about him is that he wants it so badly. He wants to be a good player, I mean a great player. He comes early, he stays late, and he’s coachable, he’s just like a sponge. When you consider he’s only had one year of college and no training camp yet, you can see that he’s going to be something else.

— Reported by Spurs.com

Jacob Pullen signs to play in Israel

According to Sportando, “Jacob Pullen won’t play in the Euroleague next season with Serbian Partizan Belgrade but in Israel with EuroCup regular Hapoel Jerusalem, as reported by David Pick. The ex-Kansas State combo guard who spent his pro rookie season in Italy’s Seria A with Angelico Biella, agreed to join Jerusalem over a tempting offer from Euroleague’s Partizan. The Chicago native will enjoy Jerusalem’s two games per week schedule, competing both in the Israeli Domestic League and the EuroCup competition.”

Bobcats working out Josh Howard

Bobcats working out Josh Howard

Former Wake Forest forward Josh Howard is doing some workouts with the Charlotte Bobcats this week, president of basketball operations Rod Higgins confirmed.

The Bobcats’ interest in Howard is still exploratory, as they consider ways to fill out their roster. The Bobcats would like to have another power forward, and have previously considered Antawn Jamison, Kris Humphries, and Carl Landry, who all signed elsewhere. Howard, 6-7, has played both power and small forward.

— Reported by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer

Lakers to unveil Kareem statue, will retire jerseys of Shaq and Jamaal Wilkes

The Los Angeles Lakers will hold ceremonies to honor three of their all-time great players during the 2012-13 season, it was announced today.

In the first of these events, on Friday November 16, the Lakers and STAPLES Center will unveil a statue of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at Star Plaza outside STAPLES Center. Kareem’s statue will join those of former Lakers Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Jerry West, former Kings hockey great Wayne Gretzky, boxer Oscar De La Hoya and former Lakers broadcaster Francis “Chick” Hearn.

On Friday December 28, in a half-time ceremony, the Lakers will retire jersey #52 in honor of Jamaal Wilkes, and on Tuesday April 2, will retire jersey #34 in honor of Shaquille O’Neal.

Abdul-Jabbar was a member of the Lakers from 1975-1989. He finished his career as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer (38,287) a record that still stands today. His accolades include six NBA Championships (1971, 80, 82, 85, 87 and 88); six-time NBA MVP (1971, 72, 74, 76, 77 and 80); 10-time All-NBA First Team; Five-time All-Defensive first team; Six-time All-Defensive Second Team and 19-time All-Star. Abdul-Jabbar was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995.

Wilkes was a member of the Lakers from 1977-1984. Wilkes finished his NBA career as a four-time NBA Champion (1975, 80, 82 and 85); three-time NBA All-Star (1976, 81, and 83); two-time All-Defensive Second Team and Rookie of the Year (1975). On April 2, 2012, Wilkes was announced as a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction class of 2012.

O’Neal was a member of the Lakers for eight seasons (1996-2004). During his career in Los Angeles, O’Neal was named NBA Most Valuable Player once (2000), Finals Most Valuable Player three times (2000, 2001, and 2002), All-NBA First Team on six occasions (1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004) and NBA All-Star seven times. As a Laker, O’Neal posted averages of 27.0 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.49 blocked shots while winning three NBA Championships (2000, 2001 and 2002). The NBA’s sixth leading scorer of all-time (28,596), O’Neal earned a fourth NBA Championship in 2006 as a member of the Miami Heat.

Four Thunder players on Basketball Without Borders trip to Africa

Nick Collison is part of a hefty Thunder presence in Africa this week. Four of the seven NBA players participating in Basketball Without Borders this year are from the Oklahoma City roster. Serge Ibaka, a native of the Republic of Congo, joins Collison, Thabo Sefolosha and Cole Aldrich as camp coaches.

Chicago’s Luol Deng, Milwaukee’s Luc Mbah a Moute and Brooklyn’s C.J. Watson are also participating in the basketball clinic for 60 African boys and girls, and helping life skills seminars and education on HIV and AIDS.

”We’re out here to not only change other people’s lives but also to change ours, to give us a different perspective on other how other people live,” Aldrich said. ”Serge grew up in a totally different lifestyle than any of us did, and we’re learning a little bit of that through this trip.

”It’s been so much fun, there’s a lot of things we’ve got to continue to do and we’re just trying to spread the word of basketball and just help people that need help.”

— Reported by Jeff Latzke of the Associated Press

Orlando Magic hire James Borrego, Wes Unseld Jr, Brett Gunning, Laron Profit, Luke Stuckey

The Orlando Magic have named James Borrego, Wes Unseld Jr. and Brett Gunning as assistant coaches, General Manager Rob Hennigan and Head Coach Jacque Vaughn announced today.

In addition, Laron Profit and Luke Stuckey have been named assistant coaches/player development, while Gordon Chiesa has been named special consultant to the head coach.

“Each coach brings a unique skill set to the staff,” said Vaughn.  “Collectively, this staff possesses a diverse basketball background. We are truly fortunate that these men have decided to join our Magic family.”

Borrego spent the last two seasons (2010-12) as an assistant coach with the New Orleans Hornets.  Prior to joining New Orleans, he spent seven seasons with the San Antonio Spurs from 2003-10.  Borrego started as an assistant video coordinator in the summer of 2003 and finished his tenure as an assistant coach.  During those season seasons, he was a part of two NBA World Championship teams in 2005 and 2007.

Borrego began his coaching career at the University of San Diego, where he was an assistant coach for two seasons from 2001-03.  During the 2002-03 campaign, San Diego captured the West Coast Conference Championship and earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Borrego played three seasons at the University of San Diego, and during his senior season (2000-01), was named to the West Coast Conference All-Academic Team.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in leadership studies from USD.

Born and raised in Albuquerque, N.M., Borrego led Albuquerque Academy to a pair of state championships.

Unseld spent the 2011-12 campaign as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors.  Prior to joining Golden State, he spent 13 seasons with the Washington Wizards, including six seasons as an assistant coach from 2005-11.  Unseld played a key role in player development for the Wizards, helping Washington to four consecutive playoff appearances from 2004-08.  His scouting reports were also vital in the team’s game planning and preparation.

Unseld began his NBA career in 1997, just four days after graduating from John Hopkins University, as a professional and college scout for Washington.  He was promoted later that same year to advance scout.  In addition to his nine-year tenure as advance pro scout for the Wizards, he also spent three seasons (1998-2000) as an advance scout for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.  In 1998, Unseld spent part of the season serving as an assistant coach for the Mystics.

A native of Maryland and the son of Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, Unseld Jr. played on the men’s basketball team at John Hopkins for three seasons.

Gunning spent the last four seasons (2008-12) in various capacities with the Houston Rockets.  He began with Houston in 2008 as the team’s director of player development, where he was responsible for improving player performance through on-court, one-on-one skill development and the use of video analysis.  Gunning was then named an assistant coach prior to the 2011-12 campaign.

Prior to joining the Rockets, Gunning spent seven seasons (2001-08) as a member of the coaching staff at Villanova University under Jay Wright.  During his time with the Wildcats, Gunning played a vital role in recruiting and developing a unit that secured four straight NCAA Tournament berths and made three trips to the Sweet 16.  He was named associate coach in 2005 and was recognized following the 2007-08 season as one of the top 25 assistants in the nation by Rivals.com.  Gunning’s responsibilities with Villanova included on-court teaching, recruiting and scouting.

Gunning was also a member of Wright’s staff at Hofstra University for seven seasons from1994-2001.  He was a part of a staff that turned Hofstra into an American East powerhouse, posting a 72-22 (.766) record from 1998-2001.  Gunning, who assisted with recruiting, individual instruction, scouting and film analysis at Hofstra, was also instrumental in the development of the Pride players.

A native of Broomall, Penn., Gunning graduated from Malvern Prep in 1990 and spent two years as a team manager during his undergraduate studies at Villanova, before accompanying former Wildcats Head Coach Rollie Massimino to UNLV in 1992.  He then served as a student assistant for two years with the Runnin’ Rebels, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1994.

Profit played in 135 regular season games during his four-year NBA career with Washington and the L.A. Lakers, averaging 3.3 ppg., 1.5 rpg. and 1.2 apg. in 11.4 minpg.  He was originally selected in the second round (38th overall) of the 1999 NBA Draft by Orlando, but was traded to Washington prior to the 1999-2000 season and never played for the Magic.  Stuckey has served as varsity head coach at San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas, CA, a suburb of San Diego, for the last four seasons.

Last season, Chiesa served as a consultant for the NBA Development League.  He is best known in NBA circles from his time as an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz, a position he held for 16 seasons from 1989-90 to 2004-05.  During his tenure, he helped guide Utah to two Western Conference crowns, three Midwest Division championships, a regular season record of 809-471 (.632) and 14 consecutive postseason appearances, including 149 playoff games.  Chiesa has also been an assistant coach with Seattle and Memphis, and was the Grizzlies’ director of pro scouting.

Eddy Curry reportedly worked out for Nets

Eddy Curry works out for Nets

Seeking to fill the lone remaining hole on their roster — a backup center behind Brook Lopez — the Nets could give Eddy Curry a second-chance in New York.

Curry, along with Hilton Armstrong, worked out for the Nets Wednesday, according to Yahoo! Sports. Curry, the much maligned former Knick, spent last season with the Heat, playing 14 games and averaging 2.1 points while riding the coattails of LeBron James to his first NBA title.

Curry, 29, played a combined 10 games in his final three seasons with the Knicks before his contract was used as salary ballast in the Carmelo Anthony deal in February 2011.

— Reported by Tim Bontemps and Fred Kerber of the New York Post