Where Are They Now? (Pro Update Fall 2008)

Well, folks, it’s that time of year again. The summer has come and passed. The innocence can never last. Basketball seasons around the world are in full freakin’ swing. And, as usual, the globe is dotted with dollops of Orange. Other than some of the players in the NBA, everyone has moved on from the team with which he ended last season. We’ve got the full rundown here. Sometime in the next few weeks I’ll also update the Orange Professionals page which is the semi-permanent place to go to find out who is where and what is when. (The page is currently way out of date.)

Let’s start at the top. The NBA season has been running for about two weeks now. There are six former SU players currently making their living in the Association. How have they been doing?

OK, whatever.

Carmelo Anthony is doing just fine, thanks. With the trade of Allen Iverson to the Pistons for Chauncey Billups (who is a much better fit in Denver) things are looking up for the Nuggets. They’ve won three in a row after going 1-3 to start the year. Melo is contributing his usual fat numbers. After serving a 2-game suspension to begin the season (because of his DUI last spring), he’s averaging 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists over the past five games, highighted by a 28-point, 8-board, 6-assist win over Dallas on Friday in which he was 14-14 from the free throw line. Carmelo will face off tonight against his “rival” (but not really because they’re friends and plus only play each other like twice a year but the NBA marketing department wants them to be rivals because they were in the same draft so they call them rivals and hope it sticks but they never call Darko anyone’s rival) LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

The Hallmark movie of the week about Etan Thomas’s life needs a bit of a rewrite. After spending all of last season recovering from heart surgery, he became the Wizards’ starting center when Brendan Haywood got injured. He had an excellent first game back, scoring 10 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. But he hasn’t been able to match that production in any of the four subsequent games he’s played (he also missed one game with an ankle sprain), averaging just 4 points and 3 rebounds in 15 minutes per gams over that span. He’s splitting time more or less evenly with rookie 7-footer JaVale McGee and Syracuse’s own Andray Blatche, and as those guys are young “future of the franchise” types, if the Wiz season goes much further off the rails (they started 0-5 before winning last night) he could find himself with less and less time. At least his man won the White House.

Things are slightly better in Memphis, where Hakim Warrick is settling into his role for the hapless Grizzlies. He’s not starting but he is one of their primary bench options and plays usually from 20 to 30 minutes. He’s had two great games: 19 points and 10 boards on Nov 7, and 18 & 7 on Nov 1. In Memphis’s other seven games, he’s put in between 6 and 9 points every time, with anywhere from 1 to 8 rebounds. His nads get mentioned once again in this interview with Royal Ivey at Slam Online.

Things go downhill from here. Jason Hart has had few moments with the Clippers. He did start one game — Nov 1 vs. the Jazz — but managed just two points and two assists in 15 minutes. He also got 29 minutes the night before, managing 3 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds. But these minutes happened only because Clippers star PG Baron Davis got hurt. Once Davis returned, Jason went back to the bench. He’s appeared in only one of the Clippers’ five games since then, scoring two points in five minutes against John McCain and Sarah Palin.

It’s even worse for Demetris Nichols. He’s appeared in just two games for the Bulls, one for two minutes and the other for four. He’s scored a total of two points. Finances and injuries may potentially be putting his roster spot in jeopardy: Bulls PG Kirk Hinrich (last seen missing some three-pointers in the final seconds of the 2003 NCAA National Championship game) is going to be out for three months, and Larry Hughes is also out for the conceivable future. While the Bulls do have a roster spot available to sign another PG, they are up against the salary cap. They might choose to waive a player in order to save tons of money in cap penalties, and if they do, Nichols is one likely candidate.

Donte Greene has also found little time available on the floor. He’s appeared in just four of the Kings’ nine games to date. His best performance was 5 points and 2 rebounds in 8 minutes against the Clippers last night (he also managed two turnovers in that time). But who needs playing time when you are busy making your own web show?

Episode 1, part 1 (you may have seen this on TNIAAM about a week ago)

Episode 1, part 2

I await Episode 2 with bated breath. I’m worried, though: these videos don’t seem to be on Kings.com anymore, though that is supposedly where they originated. In fact, a search of the site reveals zero results for “donte greene show”. Kings.com has apparently purged itself of all references to this show. I hope it hasn’t been cancelled! Maybe it means they’re shipping Donte to the Reno Bighorns once the D-League season starts up.

Speaking of the Bighorns, we reported last month that Damone Brown was chosen by them as the #1 pick in the D-League expansion draft. There isn’t any news here since the Bighorns don’t officially start practice until Sunday. Their first game is Nov 29 against Gerry McNamara’s old chums, the Bakersfield Jam. Gerry, himself, is currently a basketball nomad. We know he was cut by the Utah Jazz the day before the NBA season began. He was not chosen in the D-League draft, though he could sign with a team there after the season starts. As far as I can tell he has not signed any overseas contract yet. Knowing Gerry, though, he’s not about to hang up his Keds. I’m sure he’ll pop up somewhere.

There are two other players who have been staples of this feature over the past two years who are, surprisingly, currently unemployed in professional basketball as far as I have been able to find. Elvir Ovcina and Ryan Blackwell had been the two guys with the most stable overseas careers. Blackwell had played for the Sendai 89ers for the past two seasons, leading them to the championship game last year. Ovcina had been on Telindus Oostende in Belgium for three seasons, winning a ring in 2006-07. But each of them has ended his association with his team, and neither has popped up on a new team so far in my searching. Retirement is a theoretical possibility, though they are both still in their early 30s and both were still very effective players last season. I’ll keep looking but if anyone finds out anything, please let me know.

There are six guys who are playing professionally at the moment over in the eastern hemisphere. All have brand-new teams. Some stayed relatively close to where they were last season — others have gone half a world away. We begin our journey in…

ENGLAND

Who’s hungry?!?

Home of Trafalgar Square, blood pudding, and the Sheffield Sharks, current employers of Matt Gorman. After toiling in the Irish league last fall, Matt has made the jump to… not the Mainland, that would be like France or something… the Big Island? No, that’s in Hawaii. Whatever. It’s an upgrade. Matty is doing a bang-up job for the Sharks. Through seven regular season games, he’s averaging 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds according to the league stat sheet (PDF). The Sharks have also played two BBL Cup games (like many overseas leagues, the BBL has a mini-tournament played in the middle of the regular season — in fact they have two of them: the BBL Cup and the BBL Trophy, not to be confused with the BBL Championship which is the playoffs that follow the regular season). In one of the Cup games, Matt had 22 points; in the other he had 15. Toss those into the mix and he’s actually averaging 15.1 ppg. (Box scores online only show point totals; cumulative season stats are available in all categories but nowhere is there a game-by-game breakdown of anything besides points.) The Sharks lost their 2nd Cup game so they are out of that competition (which is a single-elimination tournament).

England loves 14-yr-old cheerleaders.

Anyway, Matt’s best game of the season to date came on Nov 7 when he scored 22 points to lead Sheffield over London. He was named the Player of the Game and got to shake some dude’s hand. Also, in case you missed it a few weeks ago, we found a sweet clip of Matt being interviewed by some high school kids. It’s really quite fun. Quite. Cheerio. Hip-hip and all. There are some more shots of Matt on the Sharks’ website. Here are a few keepers:

Man I’ve missed that sweet, fluid jump shot of his.

Here’s one more:

While that may look like Gorman from behind, it’s actually the Sharks’ mascot who is not a shark. His name is “The Dude” (insert Lebowski reference here) and he is apparently an Australian surfer. Sharks… surfer… did they really go there? Yes they did. Bizarre. From England we hop over into the mainland, to…

UKRAINE
Where the senior member of the Orange basketball pros, Mr. Otis Hill, can be found dominating the competition despite being unable to jump more than a few inches off the ground, and where all the websites are in Cyrillic. Otis plays for BC Odessa in the Ukrainian UBL, which is a new league in Ukraine, having splintered off from the Ukrainian Superleague this summer. One difference in the two leagues is that the UBL schedules more regular-season games than the Superleague, and in fact more games than most top European leagues. (This more or less means two games per week rather than one.) Odessa has played 11 games so far, and they are 8-3. Otis is averaging 15.3 ppg and 7.2 rpg so far, and has come on strong lately, posting 22 & 11 on Nov 6 and following that with 21 & 11 on Nov 8. More evidence for the claim that, wherever Otis goes, he dominates. He’d even probably dominate around the corner in…

ESTONIA
Where the WWW country extension is “.ee” and where Josh Pace is doing his thing for Tallinna BC Kalev/Cramo. He’s averaging 10.4 ppg through five Estonian League games, including 18 points and 5 boards in his most recent game. They are 5-0 and so far the class of the Estonian League. They also won the Estonian Cup — a preseason tournament among all the teams in their league (similar to the BBL Cup described above, except that all the games were completed before the regular season began). In the three games of that tournament Pace averaged 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds. They also play in the Baltic Basketball League (in which Gerry McNamara’s Latvian team from last year also participates) but are not doing as well — they are 1-3 on the season. In those games Pace is averaging 10.4 ppg along with 3.8 rpg. Finally, Kalev/Cramo will also be participating in the FIBA Eurochallenge this year, which starts in a couple of weeks. Busy busy busy. Those Estonians know how to throw down. Just like the fellas in…

TURKEY
Where Preston Shumpert has begun his second season in the TBL. However, he’s switched teams; after being named league MVP last season playing for Besitkas Cola Turka, this year he signed on with Efes Pilsen. So he’s gone from a team sponsored by a soda to one sponsored by a beer. Good choice, sir. (By the way, one of P’s teammates on Efes Pilsen is former St. John’s gunner Bootsy Thornton.) Shump hasn’t exactly set things on fire so far: he’s averaged only 4 ppg through his first three games. He also missed one game; perhaps he’s nursing an injury…? That’s the only logical explanation I can think of for why he isn’t scoring 25 a game.

In addition to the TBL, Efes Pilsen plays in some other competitions (you should not be shocked by this anymore). They are a 2008-09 Euroleague team, which is the premiere international competition on the continent (along with FIBA’s Eurocup). So far they are 2-2 in Euroleague round-robin play. Shumpert played in only two of those games (lending further support to my injury hypothesis) recording an average of 7 points in 25 minutes. There is also the Turkish Cup which involves the TBL teams in a “pod”-format tournament (like the Olympics’ basketball system). Efes won their ‘pod’ 3-0; Shump played in two of the games and scored 10 and 7 points respectively. The second stage of the Cup is not yet scheduled.

If you go to Turkey to watch Preston play, you may as well take the ferry across the Mediterranean to stop in…

ISRAEL
There you can see the one and only Terrence Roberts crushing lesser men in his jaws. He plays for Kiryat Ata in the Israeli SuperLeague. The team has yet to respond to Terrence’s injection of testosterone — they are only 1-2 on the year. (Though this is their first year at the premiere league level, so some growing pains are understandable.) Terrence is averaging 9 points and 7 rebounds per game so far, and is 0-6 on three-pointers. He also had 16 points and 14 rebounds in the first-round “Winner Cup” game (yes, another league tournament separate from the regular season) but Ata lost that game and was eliminated from the competition. They were nice enough to take a few photos though. T-Rob looks good:

…and tall:

Caption suggestions for that last picture are welcome. Finally, another half-a-world away, Terrence’s classmate and frontcourt mate has recently moved to…

CHINA
With Ryan Blackwell no longer playing in Japan, it’s up to Darryl Watkins to represent SU in the Far East. Mike Waters broke the news last week that Mookie, having been cut by the Spurs near the end of training camp, signed with Tianjin from the Chinese Basketball Association. It looks like he’s decided to forego another stint in the low-paying D-League to make a little money abroad. (And perhaps improve his game: with so many “tweener” guys in the D-League trying to make names for themselves, it’s tough for a pure post player who relies on being fed the ball.) The season has not started yet in the CBA, and Mookie isn’t yet listed on the team’s roster. But the first game is Sunday and once he shows up and dunks on some kids I’m sure they’ll take note. And we’ll have it for you here.

3 Comments

  1. Posted November 14, 2008 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    I’m so psyched that Terrence Roberts is going to be a regular now on these updates.

  2. Daz
    Posted November 14, 2008 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Josh, between field hockey and this, you are on fire with the well researched posts. So much to comment on…

    Where did ‘Melo learn to go 14 for 14 from the line? Hint: not SU (though he did shoot 70% FTs there, he must have learned it somewhere else.)…

    I think Eton is taking a page from Jimmy Carter’s book. Much as Carter is known as our greatest Ex-President, with his post-president activities garnering more praise then his presidential ones ever did, Thomas is arguably making a bigger mark off the court than on it. Though, here’s hoping he still has a good year as a player. Who else thinks Kevin Johnson in Sac-town just paved a path for Eton as a future Mayor?…

    Josh, love the new way to refer to the Dallas Mavs…

    I was really hoping the Terrence Roberts link was going to be to his glorious website. This is no time to neglect the world’s best designed website: http://terrenceroberts.com/...

    As for the picture, it looks to me like #13 is casting a spell on the basketball, which may also be having the effect of putting Terrence to sleep.

  3. wolfy
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Ryan Blackwell will sign with Japanese team “Osaka Evessa” this weekend.

    http://evessa.com/home/

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