Holy crap, you guys! It’s back!
Yes indeed. For those who rely on Cuse Country to keep you informed about the comings, goings, and doings of former SU basketball players, it has been a long, empty winter. Lucky for you, the planets have aligned properly to allow me, once again, to drop more knowledge on you than the lake effect drops snow on Syracuse.
The last update was back on November 30. In the 12 weeks that have elapsed since, a veritable pantload of stuff has happened. Some of it (the confluence of former Orangemen in Reno) was covered quite nicely elsewhere in the Orange Blogosphere. Much of it (Terrence Roberts getting re-signed and then re-cut in Israel) was not. This is going to take a while so lean back, put your feet up, grab yourself a Genny Light and let’s get going.
We’ve got to start at the top, and that means Carmelo Anthony. On the night of our last update (Nov 30) he played only a dozen minutes with a sore elbow, snapping his NBA-leading streak of 222 games scoring in double-figures. He was back for the next game and played well throughout December, highlighted by a game against the Wolves in which he scored 33 points in one quarter (the third), tying George Gervin’s NBA record. He finished that game with 45 points overall and 11 rebounds. He had some good games and some not-so-good, and the Nuggets finished December at 21-12. Then, three games into January, Melo broke a bone in his right hand. He missed ten games over the next three weeks, and the team went 6-4 in those games. But since his return, the Nugs have been red-hot, going 7-1. This includes a win over their nemeses the San Antonio Spurs and six consecutive road wins. This stretch also included a game against the Thunder in which Melo had 32 points and a career-high 11 assists, and scored with 5 seconds left to give Denver a 1-point win. The Nugs are 37-17 and have vaulted into 2nd place in the West (though they are not close to catching the Lakers) and have two more road games this weekend before returning home to face the Celtics on Monday night. So far this season Carmelo is averaging 21.9 points, 7.2 boards and 3.6 assists per game.
Melo’s championship-winning sidekick Hakim Warrick is going strong with the Grizzlies. I wrote this in the last update:
And Hakim Warrick has started to fall off for the Grizzlies, with his best performance being 8 points and 5 rebounds last Wednesday night but the rest of his games this week in the 2-4 point, 1-3 rebound range. Looks like he may be moving further out of the rotation in Memphis. It’s still early, though; if history is any guide, he’ll have a stretch in December or January where he puts up 20 & 10 a night for a while.
Just call me Cusetradamus. Well, almost. In his very next game after I wrote this, Hak did drop 20 on the Hawks. He had double-digit points in 11 of Memphis’ 15 December games, and 10 of their 14 January games. He reached 10 or more rebounds a couple times in that span. Overall he averaged 13.7 points and 5.4 rebounds in those two months. The Grizzlies, however, remained terrible. They won 4 in a row in mid-December and were 6-9 that month, but they went 1-13 in January and fired their coach on Jan 23. At first, Warrick found himself having difficulty adjusting to the new coach’s offense and expectations, culminating in a 5-minute scoreless stint against the Wizards on Feb 2. But, as has happened so often during his career, his talent has forced the coach to play him. He got himself an efficient 17 points and 8 boards the next game, and just last week had 31 & 8 in a loss to the Sixers. The Grizzlies are a franchise that seems to lack any sort of direction or purpose; who knows if Warrick will be in their plans for next season. He’ll be a restricted free agent and he might find himself on the market.
Jason Hart had, all things considered, a good December. He played in 11 of the Clippers’ 15 games, with his best performance being a 30-minute effort against the Bucks in which he scored 9 points and handed out 7 assists. His playing time stabilized in late December when backup PG Mike Taylor went out indefinitely with an injury and Hart became the backup to Baron Davis. But then Jason tweaked his elbow and missed a couple games in early January. He came back and gave it a go on Jan 8 and 9 but then had to shut it down for a couple of weeks. He returned to action on Jan 23, played in three games, then missed three more (these were “Coach’s Decision” as the Clippers signed veteran Fred Jones for backcourt depth). Since then Jason has logged token appearances in five games so far in Feburary.
Etan Thomas had a stretch in late December and early January where he was actually getting some decent PT — generally 15 minutes a game or so. He wasn’t incredibly effective during these stretches, statistically; his best game was a 4-point, 7-rebound effort on Dec 27. But then on Jan 12 against the Bucks he went down with a knee injury in the first quarter. He tore his left MCL and is out indefinitely. He may be able to return for the end of the season, but it’s unclear whether the Wizards (who are terrible and have committed the rest of their season to youth development) would give him much time at this point even if he were completely healthy. As for next season, he’s still under contract for one more year. In the world of today’s NBA, that will make him a hot commodity next season: there will be plenty of teams looking to get under the salary cap by the summer of 2010 so they can go after any one of a number of superstar free agents — a list that begins with LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. Etan has a clause in his contract whereby his new team must pay him a 15% bonus if he is traded, so that complicates things a little. But the way things are going right now it looks highly probable that he will be moved out of Washington before the end of next season. The Wiz are already committed to three giant contracts and likely won’t be part of the major free-agent bidding, so they’ll probably look to move him then.
Donte Greene had a decent December, highlighted by a 13-point effort against the Timberwolves on the 19th. But then his playing time started to really dip towards the end of the month, and on January 9, after not playing in five consecutive games, he was told to spend a couple weeks among the tumbleweeds in Reno. Donte played five games with the Bighorns of the NBADL. His arrival coincided with Reno’s signing of Gerry McNamara (more on that shortly). Reno went 4-1 during Donte’s tenure with the team, a remarkable occurrence considering that they’d started their existence 1-12 (including 0-9 in December). Though Donte didn’t start for Reno, he played at least 30 minutes every game and averaged 20.4 ppg (nice) and 4.2 rpg (not too good) and shot 45% from the floor (not bad) and 28% from 3-point range (yuck). The good news for his development is that he took at least 10 shots each game that weren’t three-pointers. Since his return to the Kings in late January, Donte has played in just 6 of Sacramento’s 14 games, mostly in garbage time.
Much was made of the Syracuse presence in Reno when it happened. As I mentioned a moment ago, Donte’s stint with the team coincided with their signing of Gerry McNamara. In addition, the Bighorns also employ Damone Brown (indeed he’d been the first pick in the D-league expansion draft last fall). Brown has been starting for them all year; Gerry has come off the bench since joining the team in January. First, Damone. He’s been a main cog in the Bighorns’ machine all season. He began the year with three straight double-doubles. He had another one in mid-December; then his production began to fluctuate. Starting with a Christmas Day loss to Iowa, he went through a 10-game stretch that included 6 games below 10 points but also a fifth double-double and a 19-point, 8-board effort. The tail end of this was undoubtedly due in part to Greene’s arrival and the corresponding drop in Damone’s minutes. Indeed, since Donte’ left town, Damone’s production has risen back up to its early-season levels. In his last 8 games he’s averaged 19.3 points and 7.4 rebounds, including two more double-doubles: 26 & 12 on Jan 31 and 20 & 11 on Feb 8, their most recent game. (For some reason Reno ended up with no games in the two weeks bracketing the All-Star game. Other D-League teams have been in action during this stretch.)
As for Gerry, he’s made a solid impact on the Bighorns as well, but probably nothing that is going to turn NBA heads. In 13 games as Reno’s backup point guard he’s averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 assists per game. He put up 16 points and 5 assists against his former club the Bakersfield Jam back on Jan 20 (though Mateen Cleaves was not in uniform for the Jam that night), and dropped 20 on Utah on Jan 31, but for every good performance he’s also thrown up a clunker like his 2-point, 1-assist, 0-6 from three-point range dud on Feb 8.
But wait, we’re not done with the D-League excitement yet! After being cut early in the season by Chicago, and apparently not garnering much interest around the Association, Demetris Nichols decided to keep his game in shape by returning to the D-League. Demetris signed with the Idaho Stampede on Jan 27, but before playing a single game with them he was traded to the Iowa Energy on Jan 29. Iowa is where he plied his trade for most of the 2007-08 season, but unlike last year when he was “sent down” by the Bulls, this time he’s playing under a free-agent contract and could be signed by any NBA team at any time. Nichols wasted no time making his presence felt in Iowa. He scored 11 points in 16 minutes in his first game, then had scoring totals of 16, 15, 23, 24, and 15 in his next five games. He came off the bench for his first three games with the team but has now reclaimed the place in the starting lineup that he held last year. He’s shooting 49% from the floor and 36% from three-point range so far this season.
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for: we’re off to the faraway lands, where everyone is talking about the saga of Terrence Kodiak Roberts.
In the November 20 Pro Update we heard the glum news that T-Rob had been cut by his Israeli squad Kiryat Ata. Well, Israel isn’t done with Terrence until Terrence decides he’s done with Israel. So, after about ten days of enjoying the Israeli countryside, Terrence joined up with another team in the Superleague, Ramat Gan. He played in this game on November 30 (against his former team) and this game on December 14. In those linked boxscores, his stats are the ones that aren’t aligned properly, because his name — yea, his very existence — has apparently been deleted from the Israeli Basketball database, since he was cut by Ramat Gan shortly after that 2nd game. If there was ever doubt that Terrence Roberts is more than most small countries can handle, this should serve as confirmation.
So, Terrence took his website and got the heck out of Israel. But the story has a happy ending. The teams that cut him are 2 of the bottom 3 teams in the league; meanwhile he was quickly snapped up by a Romanian team that must not have been able to believe their luck. Roberts signed in January to play for the basketball team in the city of Cluj-Napoca; the club is known variously as “Universitatea Cluj-Napoca”, “U Cluj”, and “U Mobitelco” which is their corporate sponsor. So far Terrence has played in five games for U Cluj and averaged 8.2 points and 4.4 rebounds. For what it’s worth, U Cluj is 4th in the Romanian League, just one point behind a three-way tie for first. I smell playoffs! And if you think that Terrence has left any of his Kodiak Bear style behind, I give you this:
Oh hell yeah. That rim is about to die.
But the great news doesn’t end there. Guess who has finally come home you guys!
Yes, after years of toil in Belgium, the one and only Elvir Ovcina has returned to his native Bosnia to carry on his tradition of excellence. On Jan 19, KK Bosna ASA BH Telecom announced that they’d signed Elvir for the remainder of the season. So glad to have him home to tell his tale, you can find this interview with Elvir on the front page of their team website. He made his presence felt almost immediately, registering double-doubles in his first two games with the team while playing over 30 minutes each night. Overall he’s averaging 10 points and 9 rebounds per contest so far.
In addition to Ovcina, another Cuse Country favorite is returning to the hardwood. We were informed via a comment left on an old Update earlier this week that Ryan Blackwell has returned to Japan and signed up with another team in the Japanese BJ-League. (That name never gets old.) The past two seasons Ryan has played for the Sendai 89ers; he began this year without a team but the news is that he has signed with the Osaka Evessa, who are currently in 3rd place in the West after winning the championship last season. The BJ-league only plays games on the weekends, so Ryan has yet to suit up for them. But we’ll let you know next week how he does in his first game action since last spring.
Preston Shumpert’s team Efes Pilsen was eliminated from the Euroleague season after the first round — a ten-game home-and-home series with five other teams in which they went only 4-6. Preston wasn’t terribly effective against this elite competition, averaging just 5.3ppg. Back in the TBL (Turkish Basketball League) he’s averaged only about 9 points per game, a far cry from last year’s 17ppg dominance. It’s mainly that he’s been inconsistent. He’s had a lot of double-figure scoring games, but there are also a few mixed in where he gets just 1 or 2 points. His most recent game he had 14 points and 2 boards in a win over his former team Besiktas Cola Turka. Efes Pilsen can’t complain too much, though: they’re 18-1 and sitting in first place.
Otis Hill is still rocking rims in Ukraine for BC Odessa. He’s averaging 15.9 ppg (at the moment this is good for 9th in the league) and 4.3 rpg, shooting over 60% from the floor and nearly 80% from the foul line. (He’s even 1-6 on three-pointers this year.) Odessa is currently in 4th place in the Ukranian League, and has also made the semifinals of their ongoing intraleague cup tournament (separate from the regular season/playoffs — in fact, as far as I can tell, the regular season is on hold until March to accommodate this tournament).
Matt Gorman continues to be the darling of the English airwaves. Early in the season he was interviewed for the Sheffield Sharks website; that conversation was so engaging that the BBC took notice. For serious. The BBC. Possibly the most respected news organization in the world. Interviewed Matt Gorman. That’s big time. Matty has been playing his guts out for Sheffield, who are floundering at 7-13 on the season so far. He’s averaging 12.3ppg and 7.0rpg so far this year, according to the statistical summary published by the league (PDF).
Josh Pace has found some sort of groove in Estonia. While he isn’t dominating the way he did the CBA last season, he is certainly contributing and occasionally brilliant. His team, Kalev/Cramo, was a participant in the FIBA EuroChallenge this year but went just 2-4 in group play and did not advance to the 2nd round. Josh did what he could to keep them in the last game, scoring 21 points in a game they had to win to advance. But they didn’t do either. Back home in the Baltic League things are going better for Kalev. They’re sitting in third place in the 12-team league. Pace is averaging a ridiculously consistent 9.6ppg and 3.9rpg. His high scoring total for an individual game is just 14, but he has also scored at least 7 points in every game but one. He’s been very steady all season, playing just over 20 minutes per game off the bench.
In China, Darryl Watkins is continuing to manhandle those poor guys over there. I mean, seriously, it’s just not fair. In 33 games this season (far more than most foreign leagues have played to this point) Mookie is averaging 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds per game. He’s even dishing the ball to the tune of 3.5 assists per contest. Here are his statlines for his past two games:
Despite these incredible individual performances, Mookie is still just one man, and he isn’t getting much help. His Tianjin squad is in 15th place out of 18 teams. Maybe they could sign John Wallace or something.
Finally, a couple of non-pro updates. As was reported on TNIAAM and elsewhere about a month ago, Josh Wright is playing for the University of Ottawa. He’s appeared in 11 games for them and is averaging 17.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game this season, including 16 points, 8 boards and 7 dimes in his most recent game which was Saturday. The Geegees are 19-2 with a home showdown against 20-1 Carleton this weekend. Meanwhile, there has been an Adrian Autry sighting! This is old news, but Red became the Director of Men’s Basketball Operations at Virginia Tech last September. And, finally, DayShawn Wright was supposed to be playing for the PBL’s Buffalo Stampede this season, but he’s nowhere to be found on their roster… I’m sure he’ll turn up somewhere down the line.
That’s it. That’s the list. Hope you enjoyed your Genny Light; I know I enjoyed mine! Hopefully it won’t be another three months before we get to do this again.
(PS. I am proud to say that while I was researching this post I discovered that Cuse Country is linked as a source for Terrence Roberts’ Wikipedia page. I think that means we’re officially part of the Internet now.)