Archive for October 24th, 2013

The return of center Greg Oden to NBA (preseason) action is a fun story, and hopefully it continues with Oden staying healthy and being a key member of the Miami Heat. Here’s Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

lebron james

LeBron James put it this way: “I have no idea what my feeling would be like after being away from the game for three years. I was so excited for him when he got on the court and his first basket he gets a dunk.

“Can you write it any better? Obviously he’s not where he wants to be, but the process is going great. I was so happy for him. I was like a big brother seeing his little brother succeed again. It was a great moment.”

Chris Bosh said: “We remind him daily that we’re going to need him. So, just to see him take that first step forward is huge.”

Oden played alongside Bosh, and that pairing should be effective against teams with two offensively gifted power rotation players, such as the Indiana Pacers, with Bosh slotted into his natural power forward position in those lineups.

Well, Danny Granger is banged up again. But it’s minor, hopefully. And not directly related to the stuff that kept him out for a long time. Hopefully. And the good news is, the Pacers are a talented team with a nice bench, so they can afford to be patient. Here’s Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star:

danny granger

Danny Granger’s return to the Indiana Pacers likely will be delayed a bit longer — although no one knows exactly how long.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after practice Thursday that the strained calf suffered by Granger last week is worse than previously thought and he doubts the former All-Star forward will play in the team’s regular-season opener against Orlando on Tuesday.

“There’s a chance he could play (against the Magic), but it’s probably unlikely,” Vogel said.

Granger did not play in Tuesday’s 107-89 preseason victory at Atlanta and will not play Friday night in the Pacers’ preseason finale at Dallas. He missed all but five games last season because of a knee injury.

Terrence Ross

The Toronto Raptors announced Thursday they have exercised the third-year team options on the Rookie Scale Contracts of center Jonas Valanciunas and guard Terrence Ross.

The contracts for Valanciunas and Ross are now guaranteed through the 2014-15 season. In accordance with the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Raptors had until October 31 to exercise their option on both players.

Valanciunas, seven-foot, 257 pounds, joined the Raptors after being selected fifth overall in the 2011 NBA Draft and spending the 2011-12 season playing overseas. He was named to the 2012-13 NBA All-Rookie Second Team after finishing the year ranked third among rookies in rebounds (6.0), blocks (1.26) and field goal percentage (.557). Valanciunas also ranked seventh among rookies averaging 8.9 points in 23.9 minutes.

A native of Utena, Lithuania, Valanciunas became the fifth rookie in franchise history to start on opening night and the second to record a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) in his debut October 31 versus Indiana. He was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for March, averaging 11.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and shooting .620 from the field in 15 games. Valanciunas scored a career-high 24 points and set a team rookie record shooting 16-for-18 at the free throw line April 3 versus Washington.

In July, Valanciunas was named Most Valuable Player of the 2013 NBA Summer League after averaging 18.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 29.3 minutes in four outings. Following Summer League, he returned to the Lithuanian National Team and helped his country earn a silver medal at the FIBA Eurobasket Tournament and qualification for the 2014 FIBA World Championship. Valanciunas has been named FIBA Europe’s Young Men’s Player of the Year the past two years (2011 and 2012).

Ross, 6-foot-7, 197 pounds was selected eighth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Raptors. Last season he posted averages of 6.4 points, 2.0 rebounds and 17.0 minutes in 73 contests. He shot .332 (65-196) from beyond the arc and finished fifth among rookies in made three-pointers. He led the team in bench points 16 times and scored in double digits on 22 occasions. Ross recorded career highs of 26 points and six three-pointers January 2 versus Portland.

Ross won the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk during All-Star Saturday Night on February 16 in Houston. He defeated Jeremy Evans in the final round with 58 per cent of the fan votes.

Ross netted a game-high 27 points in Monday’s double overtime victory versus New York. He is averaging 12.0 points and leads the team with nine three-pointers through seven preseason games.

josh childress

Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld announced today that the team has waived forwards Josh Childress and Pops Mensah-Bonsu and guard Xavier Silas.

Childress appeared in four preseason games averaging 2.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in eight minutes per contest.

Childress said he won’t forget his time with the team. “It was great,” said Childress to the Washington Post of the experience. “To be the first NBA game in Brazil, it was a big deal. I think culturally, not for myself, but for a lot of guys, it was a great experience for guys, to see a different world, a different culture, so the NBA did a great job with that. Without a doubt, over the past month, guys have bonded. There are lot of guys I did not know before I got here and now we’re friends and we’ll keep in touch throughout the year and in the summer.”

Mensah-Bonsu appeared in four preseason games averaging 0.5 points and 1.3 rebounds in five minutes per contest.

Silas appeared in three preseason games averaging 4.0 points in three minutes per contest.

The Wizards roster now stands at 15.

Defense is half the game, people. That’s just your friendly reminder of something important that is somehow easy to forget. With that said, here’s a report from Marc Berman of the New York Post:

mike woodson

“We’re still not ready defensively,” Woodson said. “We got five, six days to get there and Friday we’ll play [just] our rotation guys. Overall, we’re competing, but we’re not doing what’s asked to be done on the floor before the game. We got off to a bad start. Even when we can’t make shots, we have to get it done on the other end. That has not been our team in the past. We got to get back to playing Knick defense.’’

The Knicks fell to 2-3 for the preseason, but this was the worst of the losses. Woodson railed in Manchester, N.H., 11 days ago when the Knicks were routed by the Celtics, calling the effort “embarrassing.” But that was mostly hot air: The coach didn’t play his starters in that game.

The Sacramento Kings have waived guard Trent Lockett, it was announced today by General Manager Pete D’Alessandro.

Lockett appeared in two exhibition games for the Kings, tallying four points (2-3 FG), two rebounds and one assist in five minutes of action off the bench.

The preseason roster now stands at 15.

The Bulls and NBA are better with Derrick Rose healthy, active, leaping over defenders and dunking on people’s heads. But coming back from major injury always produces questions. Well, here are some possible answers, via Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago.

derrick rose

Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau believes after sitting out almost a year and a half, Derrick Rose is a better all-around player than he was before he injured his knee.

Thibodeau can see Rose has taken the next step in his development on and off the court.

“I think he’s gotten much stronger as a leader,” Thibodeau said before Rose scored 26 points in a preseason victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday. “And I’ve never worried about Derrick in terms of himself … but I think in setting the tone for the team, not tolerating others not doing their job. I think that’s probably his biggest growth.”

It definitely would have helped the new Brooklyn Nets players had point guard Deron Williams been healthy in training camp and preseason. Team chemistry takes a while. But long-term health is way more important than a quick start. Here’s Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

deron williams

Deron Williams didn’t play again in Boston on Wednesday, just as he didn’t in the five previous preseason games for the Nets. Though he and the Nets have been very pleased with his progression over the past several days from a sprained right ankle that he suffered last month, Williams admitted it could be “tough” to make it back in time for next Wednesday’s regular-season opener in Cleveland because of how little he has done on the court so far this preseason.

While it would be a disappointment for Williams, there’s no reason for the Nets to rush their star point guard back so he can play one game in October. The Nets haven’t put together a team with a payroll of over $100 million — that will cost, including luxury taxes, near $190 million — to win their season opener. They did so to compete for a championship, and they only will be able to do that if Williams is healthy and playing the way he did in the second half of last season.

Tayshaun Prince has always been about as skinny as the free throw line, but now he’s reportedly so thin, it’ll be hard to even see him on the court. Here’s the Detroit Free Press:

tayshaun prince

Former Detroit Pistons star Tayshaun Prince, who doesn’t have much extra weight to shed, as we all know, told the Memphis Commercial Appeal this week that he has lost 12 to 15 pounds because of a debilitating stomach ailment.

Prince has missed the entire preseason with the Memphis Grizzlies.

The 6-foot-9 sharpshooter, whose listed weight on the Grizzlies’ official roster is 215 pounds, told the Commercial Appeal he’s feeling stale and weak and that he experienced abdominal pains that kept him from eating most of the past week.

Phoenix Suns waive James Nunnally

The Phoenix Suns have waived guard/forward James Nunnally, the club announced today. The Suns’ roster now stands at 17.

Nunnally appeared in three games for the Suns this preseason.

Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose is back. And while he does look rusty for stretches, his athletic ability appears as good as could be hoped, and even more interestingly, his outside shooting in preseason has opened eyes. Here’s K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

derrick rose

As far as coach Tom Thibodeau is concerned, there’s no secret why Derrick Rose is suddenly a candidate for the 3-point shootout at All-Star weekend.

And if that possibility sounds ridiculous, well, so are Rose’s numbers, which Wednesday featured him scoring 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter of a 104-95 exhibition victory over the Thunder at Intrust Bank Arena.

On the night backcourt mate Jimmy Butler returned from injury, Rose struggled with his shot early. But he sank 4 of 8 from beyond the arc, including three in the final period. And he’s now 12-for-23 from 3-point range during the Bulls’ 7-0 preseason.

“You can’t imagine how much shooting this guy has done,” Thibodeau said. “Last year, he wasn’t playing in the games but he was shooting. He shot every day before practice, then in practice, then after practice. Then he’d go to the game and shoot some more.

Greg Oden returns to NBA action

Greg Oden is alive! And back on a basketball court. And even better, he was active and looked perfectly healthy and like a player worth watching and giving minutes to. It was nice to see. Here’s Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

Greg Oden

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra refused to tip his hand Wednesday morning. Wednesday night he played his trump card.

For the first time in nearly four years, Greg Oden appeared in an NBA game, when the hulking center checked in with 5:15 to play in the second quarter of Wednesday night’s 108-95 exhibition victory over New Orleans Pelicans at New Orleans Arena.

“It’s been a long time,” Oden exulted in the locker room afterward. “It’s been a long road for me, just to get that off my back, my first step tonight.”

Teammates were even more emotional.

“It was a very special moment,” forward LeBron James said. “I have no idea what my feelings would be like being away from the game for three years, and it was a proud moment. I was so excited for him when he got on the court and checked in.

“I might have to toast this for him. I ain’t no drinker, but I might have to take a shot for him.”

eric bledsoe

The Phoenix Suns are currently in talks with newly acquired guard Eric Bledsoe on a long-term contract extension. If the two sides can’t reach a deal by the end of the month, the 23-year-old combo guard would become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

The Suns are in an interesting spot because they’ve only seen the Kentucky product in training camp and a few preseason games, and it’s still uncertain that he will become the star many project him to be.

Nonetheless, general manager Ryan McDonough, while on Arizona Sports 620’s Burns & Gambo show Wednesday, agreed that Bledsoe does figure into the team’s long-term plans. McDonough said contract talks with the fourth-year player have gone “pretty well” to this point.

Reported by Andrew Gilstrap of Arizona Sports

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