Archive for October 5th, 2013

Sixers sign Gani Lawal, waive Solomon Alabi

The Philadelphia 76ers today announced they have signed free agent forward Gani Lawal (GONN-ee luh-WALL). The Sixers preseason roster stands at 20 players.

Prior to signing with the Sixers, Lawal (6-9, 234) was a member of VEF Riga of the Latvian League and last season, he averaged 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks for Virtus Roma of the Italian League.

Lawal was originally an early entry candidate for the 2010 NBA Draft following his junior season at Georgia Tech and was selected with the 46th overall pick by Phoenix. He was on the Suns roster during the 2010-11 season and was also assigned to the NBA Development League.

A McDonald’s High School All-American, Lawal was twice named All-ACC Third Team while with the Yellow Jackets. The 24-year-old is also a member of Nigeria’s senior national team and competed in the 2013 FIBA Africa Championship.

In a related move, the Sixers have waived center Solomon Alabi.

LeBron James

The Heat has an endorsement deal with the Bahamas, and the team did its part to attract attention to these beautiful islands and its wonderful people, but from the perspective of players and coaches, the trip was valuable time spent building team chemistry.

When the players weren’t sweating on makeshift courts in an enormous ballroom, they were lounging together by the pool or palling around together in the resort’s casino. Unlike the trip to China last year, families and friends of players and coaches weren’t invited to the Bahamas.

“To come down here, just us, it gives us a great time to bond and have some camaraderie both on and off the floor,” James said. “We worked our tails off for five practices and to be able to have down times in the afternoons to just chill around the pool, we had a lot of laughs.”

Dwyane Wade called it the best training camp of his 11-year career despite most of the practice time being dedicated to defensive fundamentals. The Heat’s defense performed below its normal standards to begin the 2012-13 season and time was spent in the Bahamas to prevent a recurrence of the problem.

Reported by Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald

Derrick Rose finally set to return for Bulls

In the pantheon of greatly anticipated exhibition games, oxymoron that it is, Saturday’s in the Indianapolis basketball temple ranks among the most significant, a great welcome back for one of the NBA’s basketball gods.

Or at least most everyone still hopes.

“I’m just playing the same way I normally do,” Derrick Rose promised after Bulls practice Friday, displaying the sort of self assurance we were accustomed to watching in him when he’d attempt a game winning shot. “There’s no point holding back. I think we go as I go, and me being aggressive gets people open. And that’s how I’m going to play.”

But this bit of sangfroid at this time perhaps defines Rose best as the basketball world wonders just what they’ll see in Rose after the longest injury absence ever for a former league Most Valuable Player.

Rose has not played against NBA competition in a game, even an exhibition, since his catastrophic knee injury in the opening playoff game to conclude the 2011-12 season. He missed all of last season amidst doubt among some in the community of his motives and readiness. But he remained stoic and committed. And now he says he’s ready.

Reported by Sam Smith of the Blog

Timberwolves trying to improve their defensive communication

The Timberwolves broke training camp Friday afternoon with coach Rick Adelman grateful that his team survived four demanding workouts without a significant injury but concerned about his best players’ defensive focus.

“We’ve known from the very beginning that we have a lot of offensive players, and their concentration is at that end,” Adelman said. “Their concentration has to be at both ends. You can drill on them everything in the world, and when they’re drilling, they’re fine. As soon as they get on the court, their concentration starts slipping. I’d say most of it is mental, and it’s something as soon as we start playing other teams, we’re going to find out real quick.”

Adelman and his coaches spent four days instructing their players on such complexities as proper positioning and rotations and preaching a basic such as urging them to communicate better on the court.

“You have to talk on the court,” Adelman said. “Every coach you talk to, their guys don’t talk enough. They get in the locker room and they talk all the time, but on the court, they don’t. That’s just the way it is. The good defensive teams talk. That’s one of the reasons [Kevin] Garnett has been so effective here and in Boston. He’s very vocal and helps his teammates out. We’ve got to get our guys to do that.”

Reported by Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Suns guard Eric Bledsoe aims to solidify himself as an NBA starter

LeBron James was the first. Then ex-teammate Jamal Crawford.

Both players went on record over the offseason sharing their opinion that the Suns landed themselves a future NBA star in 6-foot-1, 195-pound point guard Eric Bledsoe.

The Suns certainly hope so.

They hope they’ve acquired a player, who much like backcourt teammate Goran Dragic, will blossom once out of the shadow of a perennial all-star.

As a backup to Chris Paul last season, Bledsoe averaged a career-high 8.5 points to go along with 3.1 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.43 steals in 20.4 minutes.

When given the chance to start when Paul got hurt, Bledsoe, in 12 games, responded with 14.2 points, 5.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals in 34.2 minutes.

“I was looking forward to this moment, and it came and I’m ready for it,” Bledsoe said of being a first-time starter as he enters year four of his pro career. “I’ve been preparing for it this summer—not only this summer, since I’ve been playing basketball since college. I’ve been preparing (that) one day I would get a chance to be a starter in this league.”

Reported by Craig Grialou of Arizona Sports

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis says he is tired of losing

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has run out of patience with his team’s rebuilding efforts and expects to finally receive a payoff for his investments this season in the form of a playoff appearance.

Before the Wizards held an open practice and scrimmage on Friday at Verizon Center, Leonsis addressed reporters for roughly 30 minutes and put the organization on alert that the excuses of the past are over. The team has all that it needs to compete and he wants to see different results when he grabs his courtside seat.

“I’m tired of losing,” Leonsis said. “It’s not a lot of fun coming to games knowing, ‘This is going to be a tough night.’ We’re just at that point now, it’s the fourth year, we’ve retained our players, we’ve added players, we’ve spent a lot of money. And I expect us to be a playoff-caliber team. I think our fan base expects that too and that’s the pressure I’ve placed on our organization, that we have to meet the expectations of our fans – and it’s time.”

Reported by Michael Lee of the Washington Post (Blog)

Kyle Singler looking to prove himself on Pistons

Enter a new coach — the Pistons’ fourth in six seasons. It means proving time again for Singler — especially when considering the addition of Smith, Caldwell-Pope and even Chauncey Billups.

“Every year you kind of have to prove yourself again,” Singler said. “Last year was last year for a lot of players and, for me personally, I thought I had a decent year. But this year I have to prove that I belong out on the floor.”

Singler, 25, doesn’t mind the competition.

“It just makes us more dangerous as a team,” Singler said. “I still view myself as a very good player and an asset to the team.”

Singler spent most of the off-season relaxing in the outdoors before beginning preparations for the season. He struggled against the elite small forwards last season, but maybe he can match up better against second-teamers. He can finish in traffic better, and he can probably improve his deep stroke as well.

“I just want to be a guy that can move, create havoc on both sides,” Singler said. “That’s basically the vision that I have for myself and that they have for me.”

Reported by Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press

Jose Calderon rests sore hamstring, misses Friday scrimmage

Dallas Mavericks fans will have to wait another night to see how well point guard Jose Calderon and shooting guard Monta Ellis work together.

The Mavs spent nearly $60 million over the summer in signing Calderon and Ellis. While Ellis was able to flourish in Friday’s Blue-White scrimmage at American Airlines Center — the Blue prevailed 31-15 — Calderon didn’t play because of a sore left hamstring.

Calderon has been limited the past three days. Coach Rick Carlisle hopes to have Calderon back for Sunday morning’s practice, a day before the Mavs open preseason play at home at 7:30 p.m. Monday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Reported by Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

New 76er Royce White not on overseas trip with team

New 76er Royce White tried last week to dispel any speculation that air travel would hinder him from playing for the team this season.

However, the 6-foot-8 forward, who has an anxiety disorder, wasn’t among the 14 players who flew here [Spain] Thursday. The Sixers will face Bilbao Basket on Sunday at the Bizkala Arena at Bilbao Exhibition Center. On Tuesday, they will face Oklahoma City in Manchester, England.

“It really was just based on our team doctor giving me and [general manager] Sam [Hinkie] and the club advice that it may be best for him to remain at home,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said of White’s absence. “You know we are with him. We will support and help him.”

Reported by Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer

The plan was to have Royce White accompany the team on the European trip that includes two games and stops in Bilbao, Spain and Manchester, England. As late as Wednesday, a day before the team’s departure, that plan was still in place. In the hours before the flight, however, the plans changed, and White didn’t go.

White, the 16th overall pick by the Houston Rockets in 2012, didn’t play at all in the NBA last season because of a battle with the team over his anxiety disorder, which makes it difficult for him to get on a plane. He said last week at media day that he would fly to games when necessary and drive to others when he could. But the team decided to let him sit out the trans-Atlantic flight at the last minute after conferring with White’s doctors.

“He was given a hall pass,” is what one team executive said yesterday.

Reported by Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News

Chuck Hayes determined to regain leadership role on Kings

Early in the 2011-12 season, as reporters surrounded Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, laughter broke out among the players.

Chuck Hayes took offense, yelling that the behavior was unacceptable. But as losses piled up over the next two seasons, Hayes blended into the background when teammates laughed afterward. Hayes now says he no longer wants to be a part of a culture that accepts losing.

“That’s exactly what happened,” Hayes said. “I tried to come in and be the vocal leader, but when things went bad, I let that bring me down. I let it bring down my spirit. That was wrong on my part. It’s unfair to my teammates; it’s unfair to the coaching staff. So I just want to sustain that veteran role.”

It was uncertain if Hayes would be back this season, if the Kings could find a taker for the two years and $11.7 million still owed to him after two underwhelming seasons with the team.

Reported by Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee

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