Pro Wrapup Summer 2009

Boy, that was not fun. I guess I should have expected that, at some point in graduate school, I would be required to actually do some actual work. Had to put aside for several weeks months my fervent desire to update Josh Pace’s progress in Estonia, and spend time dissecting the nuances of Martin’s Axiom. But that’s over and now I’m back, and hoo boy is there a lot to talk about.

We should start with the goings-down in the NBA, where Carmelo Anthony (and Jason Hart!) and the Denver Nuggets advanced to the Western Conference finals against Kobe “It was consensual” Bryant and the Lakers. They fell in 6 games to the eventual NBA champs. Melo averaged 27.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists in the six games, scoring over 30 three times. In the previous playoff series, Carmelo averaged 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists as the Nuggets dispatched the Mavs in five games, highlighted by Carmelo’s buzzer-beating three-pointer to win Game 3.

Melo also averaged 24 points, 6 boards, and 5 assists in the Nuggets’ 5-game first-round defeat of the Hornets. For the record, Jason Hart got into 8 games during the playoffs: 2 games of the Lakers series, 4 games of the Hornets series and two of the Dallas series, for a few minutes of garbage time in each case. His biggest contribution was a 7-minute, 2 point, 2 rebound, 2 assist appearance against New Orleans in a game Denver won by 60 points.

None of the other Cuse alums in the pros made the playoffs. Etan Thomas never got back on the court after injuring his MCL in January. For the year he averaged 3.1ppg and 2.5rpg for the Wizards. As noted previously in this space, he was traded a couple days before the draft to Minnesota, in a deal that included the #5 draft pick. He could compete for time, but his real value to Minnesota was as an expiring contract, freeing up cap space for next year. Speculation at the time of the trade was that the Wolves were considering Jonny Flynn as either the #5 or #6 pick, but that they really wanted Memphis’ Tyreke Evans. Well, Evans was snapped up by Sacramento at #4, and the rest is history. We’ll have more on Jonny in the coming weeks as NBA summer leagues get going. Paul Harris also accepted an offer to join the T-Wolves’ summer camp, following in Jonny’s wake. Remember when we all thought it was the other way around, that Harris was the surefire lottery pick and Boeheim was taking his pal Flynn as part of the deal? My my my.

Donte Greene, after his trip to the D-League in early January, returned to the Kings but didn’t make much of an impact on the worst team in the league. In March and April he was playing about 15 minutes per game, rarely scoring more than 5 points or grabbing more than 2 rebounds. Occasionally he contributed more, but it was very rare. It seems that he can either score at will in the D-League or barely make a dent in an NBA game. He’d better get to work this summer; the Kings will decide after next season if he is part of their rebuilding or not.

Hakim Warrick, on the other hand, ended the year on a very strong note. He scored in double figures in each his last 7 games, 9 of his last 10 and 14 of his last 17, highlighted by a 26-point outburst (on 10-11 shooting) along with 9 rebounds against Phoenix on April 26. He played in all 82 games for the Grizzlies, mainly as a reserve (he had 7 starts over the course of the season) and ended up averaging 11.6 points and 5.0 rebounds for Memphis. It will be interesting to see if he sticks with the Grizzlies for next year or what. Memphis drafted Hasheem Thabeet with the #2 pick, a move that shouldn’t really affect Hak’s playing time. But they also took Pitt’s Sam Young early in Round 2, and he could challenge Warrick at the small forward spot. Young is shorter, but a more aggressive player (especially on the rebounding side, where the Grizz have been historically weak and where Hak has not made enough of an impact). Warrick is officially a restricted free agent this summer, and the Grizz will have the right to match any offer he may receive. But they could simply choose to let him walk, and plug Young into his spot as the reserve SF. Especially with Rudy Gay in the final year of his contract — they will need to find some money to re-sign him, and giving Hakim a long-term deal might not be in their best interests. Update: Reportedly the Grizz have acquired Zach Randolph from the Clippers, or at least they will do so once trades are officially allowed to consummate on July 8. This definitely reduces Warrick’s value to Memphis. He won’t start over Randolph or Gay. If he signs a large offer sheet with another team this summer, the Grizz might not want to, or be able to, pay him a lot to be a reserve.

After being cut by the Bulls in mid-November and spending his time dominating the D-League, Demetris Nichols got a cup of coffee with the Knicks this spring. He was given a par of 10-day contracts after impressing the brass during a tryout for a number of D-League free agents. Unfortunately he only got into two games during that time (scoring a total of 5 points) and when his second contract was up, he ended up back with the Iowa Energy. He averaged 21.7ppg and 5.3rpg for the Energy, leading them to the D-League playoffs where they lost to the Dakota Wizards. This report suggests that Nichols actually had a contract offer from the Knicks to stay on for the rest of the season, which would mean he turned it down and decided to keep his options open. Intriguing. And perhaps stupid. We’ll see. Word is that he is in the Toronto Raptors’ summer camp. The same report also notes that Gerry McNamara, SU’s other D-league denizen, left the Reno Bighorns of his own volition (the official transaction jibes with this, saying he was waived for “personal reasons”) and is contemplating retirement. He’s since signed on with TK99 to do some sort of weekly radio appearance in Syracuse, so it sounds like he’s done seeking his fortune overseas and is going to come back to CNY and live like royalty on the goodwill of the public.

That about covers it for the guys playing ball in the USA. But as always there is a plethora of activity overseas that must needs reporting.

First, we hop over to China where Darryl Watkins just destroyed all that was in his path this year. In earlier updates we chronicled how dominant he was in the Chinese League. He finished the season averaging 21 points and 14 rebounds per game for a terrible team (his squad, Tianjin, finished 13-37; they were 16th out of 18 teams). His best game was probably this 36-point, 13-board effort against Shangdong, or perhaps 26 points and 27 boards vs. Jiangsu. His game log is littered with double-doubles — in fact, of the 45 games he played, he had double-doubles in 35 of them. Unbelievable. Mookie has come back stateside and is working in the Houston Rockets summer camp, hoping to catch on to a team that lost its two primary centers from last season (Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo).

As you probably saw on Mike Waters’ blog several weeks back, Matt Gorman was selected to participate for the “Rest of the World” team in the All-Star game in England’s British Basketball League. The BBL holds its All-star game after the season has ended — well, actually on the same day as its championship, as a “warm-up” event. Both went down on May 3 this year. Matty’s Sheffield Sharks had been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, losing a single-elimination game by one point. Unfortunately the BBL has been revamping its website since the season ended, and I have not been able to find any boxscores or stats from this past season. I can find links to them but they all redirect to their new home page. And the Sheffield Sharks’ website is broken. So I won’t be able to tell you how Gorman did on the year overall, or how his heroic effort fell just short in the playoffs. I can tell you that he had 14 points in the playoff game, thanks to this game story from the newspaper covering the victorious Leicester Riders. Here’s the end of the game - you can see Matt (in yellow) on defense:

In Romania, Terrence Roberts was clearly not interested in winning the league championship. Otherwise I assume he would have simply willed his team, U Cluj, to victory through sheer tenacity and force of personality. I guess he was more interested in giving the guys from CSU Atlassib a chance to enjoy themselves a bit. Terrence ended up playing 14 games for U Cluj this season, averaging 10.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. His best games were a 28-point, 8-board performance on March 1 and a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double on March 28. They made the playoffs but lost their first-round series to eventual champion CSU Atlassib Sibiu, featuring former Va Tech star Bryant Matthews (remember him?). They lost the first game by 5 points. Terrence played an unfathomable 4 minutes in this game. He made them count, scoring 5 points and grabbing 2 rebounds. I can only assume that he was removed from the game because his ferocity was scaring away all the fans. Either that or he got injured, because he did not appear in either of the next two games. I can’t find any news articles that may shed light on the circumstances. But as he had been playing 15-20 minutes a game towards the end of the season, I think his absence from the playoffs has got to be due to some sort of unfortunate circumstance.

Elvir Ovcina ended up playing only five games for KK Bosna this winter before succumbing to some sort of calf injury. He was very effective in those games, averaging 9.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists during that time, including a 15-point, 11-board explosion in his first game with the team. KK Bosna came in 7th in the Adriatic League, but were the winners of the Bosnian Cup this season. So, once again Elvir goes home with a championship. The man is just a winner — even when he’s injured. Here, courtesy of the Adriatic League website, is a bit of Elvir sheen to get you through the summer:

Preston Shumpert also took home some hardware. His Efes Pilsen squad (one of my favorite overseas teams, since they are named after a beer) just won the Turkish League championship. The playoffs wrapped up just a couple of weeks ago, with Efes dispatching Fenerbahce Ulker 4 games to 2 in the finals. Shump made his presence felt in the finals, averaging nearly 16 ppg, with a high of 28 in the pivotal Game 3. Efes was down 2-0 in the series, but the Game 3 win launched them on a 4-game streak to take the trophy. Preston averaged 10.5 ppg this season for Efes Pilsen (including playoff games), mostly coming off the bench. Which gives him pride of place when it comes to mugging for the championship camera:

Josh Pace also got some trophy action this season. (It’s damned contagious!) BC Kalev/Cramo won the Estonian League championship, defeating #1 ranked Tartu Ulikool/Rock (I don’t make this stuff up, honest) 4-2 in the finals that wrapped up on June 1. Josh didn’t have a huge role in the Finals, playing about 12 minutes per game and averaging just under 4 points in the six games. However, he was a solid role player for Kalev/Cramo all year, and in fact he had 17 points and 4 boards in their first playoff game, which they won on the way to dispatching Tallinn Technical University KK in the first round. Kalev/Cramo was denied in the playoffs of the tougher Baltic Basketball League (featuring the top teams from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania). In fact, they were bumped by the very same Tartu Ulikool/Rock in the quarterfinals, which must have made winning the Estonian League championship into sweet, sweet revenge. For the year, Josh averaged 8.2 ppg and 4.0 rpg in Estonian League play, and 9.2/4/2 in Baltic League games (including playoffs). He had a number of impressive games, such as 19 points, 12 boards and 6 assists on April 9 and 14 & 10 on April 1. Here’s the obligatory (by now) championship photo:

A much more subdued celebration than in Turkey, but they were smart enough to invite the ladies. Ah, the ladies… anyone know whether Estonia is giving out work visas?

Ahem.

Ryan Blackwell, after playing the last two seasons with Sendai in the Japanese BJ-League, was teamless for the first part of this year. However, in mid-February he signed on with the defending league champions Osaka Evessa to try to help them repeat. He played in 21 of their 52 regular-season games, and all four of their playoff games, averaging 18.3 ppg (10th best average in the league), 9.9 rpg (11th) and 3.8 apg (10th). Unfortunately he was unable to lead Osaka to the winners’ circle; after finishing the regular season in 2nd place in their division, they fell short in the semifinals to the eventual champs (the Ryukyu Golden Kings) despite 27 points, 8 boards, and 6 assists from Mr. Blackwell in their final game. No word on whether he is going to remain in Osaka for next season, or whether he will once again test the waters elsewhere.

And then there is Otis Hill. The granddaddy of them all. Otis has been playing pro ball since 1997, two years longer than any other SU alum (Elvir Ovcina — class of 1999 — is next in seniority, along with Donovan McNabb). He’s been all over the map: Ukraine this year, Israel last year, and Poland & Croatia the year before; his Wikipedia page indicates he’s also played in Italy, Spain, and Belgium; he began his career in the CBA. Who knows where else he’s been in between. Anyway, no matter where he goes, he just does the damn job. This season was no exception: at the age of 35, he averaged 14.4 points and 5.0 rebounds for BC Odessa in the Ukraine. Odessa made it to the Ukranian semifinals before losing to Budivelnyk. Otis did have 25 points and 7 boards in game 1 of the semis, but Odessa lost that game by 8 and then was blown out in games 2 and 3. Hill’s best game of the season was undoubtedly his 24-point, 12-rebound, 7-assist effort back on March 22. He had plenty of 20+ point games this season, but in that game he reached his season high in both rebounds and assists. I’m also proud to report that Otis hit one three-pointer this season.

We should also briefly mention Josh Wright, who suited up for the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees for the second half of this season. Josh ended up playing in 12 games for uOttawa (not to be confused with Ottawa University, which is in Kansas) and averaging 16.9ppg. At season’s end he said he intended to come back next year as a 5th-year senior, but a bit later he decided to try to make it as a pro overseas. Right now he is back in CNY, playing in the King of Kings summer league in Utica, along with Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, James Southerland, Mookie Jones, and (supposedly, though he apparently hasn’t arrived yet) Billy Edelin. The indefatigable Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician has been keeping track of the action in the KoKL, I strongly encourage you to check it out.

A couple of bonus sightings for you before we go:

First, our old pal Louie McCroskey had a brief fling with the Albany Patroons of the CBA. He was signed in early November but waived a few days before the season began.

Second, former Mr. Basketball of Connecticut, Syracuse prize recruit and absolutely mammoth bust Mark Konecny has surfaced playing for the Quebradillas Pirates in the Puerto Rican League. Their playoffs are underway. Mark played in 11 of 26 games during the regular season, averaging 2.4 ppg and 1.6 rpg, with highs of 6 points and 6 rebounds on June 3. He has not appeared in any of the playoff games to date. (Side note: I’d like to briefly welcome all you porn-seekers who have found this site by searching for the phrase “mammoth bust”. Enjoy!)

Of Damone Brown, we shall say nothing.

One Comment

  1. Posted July 7, 2009 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    Great work, I really missed these things. And a Mark Konecny update no less! I would not have bet on seeing that name in here.

    Didn’t Shumpert play for Fenerbahce last season and then switch teams in the offseason to the other power team in the league, Efes? If I’m right, then this must be doubly sweet for his rep and doubly bitter for Fenerbahce.

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