This past Wednesday, Etan Thomas saw his first NBA action since December 4. The Thunder were in the midst of getting clobbered by the Nuggets (final margin was 29, but the Denver lead was above 40 points at times during the game) and Scott Brooks saw fit to give E some burn. Thomas entered with about 3 minutes left in the third quarter, and finished out the game for a total of 15 minutes played. He contributed 4 points and 3 rebounds to the cause. If you’re counting, that’s a three-month span of complete inactivity finally ended. NewsOK.com is right in saying that Thunder fans probably don’t want to see much more of Etan, because his presence on the court means they’ve already lost the game.
In that same game, Carmelo Anthony had 30 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. This was a big bounce-back for Melo after a rough three-game stretch during which he shot a combined 22-65 (34%) and averaged just over 20 points per game, far below his season average of 28. Denver lost two of those three games, but with the win over Oklahoma City and last night’s triumph over the Pacers (Melo: 34 pt, 6 reb, 4 ast) they have held on to first place in their division and are neck-and-neck with the Mavs for 2nd place overall in the West. It seems that Carmelo has been feeling fatigued and worn out recently, which may have contributed to that stretch of bad games. He got an IV before the game against the Thunder and it certainly appears to have helped.
The other big news around these parts is the beginning of the New Zealand basketball season. Eric Devendorf made his debut for Waikato, and what a debut it was. He scored 49 points, hitting 10-16 twos, 7-10 threes, and 8-8 from the foul line. He also had seven rebounds and, yes, one assist. Their next game is not until the 13th. Meanwhile, Josh Pace has yet to report to his Kiwi team (the Bay Hawks) because he is still doing work for the Southeast Texas Mavericks in the ABA. The Mavs are on a roll, having won 11 straight games going into tonight’s contest. Josh had 13 points in their last game, following up on his 26 & 9 last Sunday, his 22 points on Feb 23 and 18 points on Feb 21. Of course, it can’t be too hard to score those quantities of points when your team regularly scores around 130 and wins games by 40- and 50-point margins. The Mavs are ranked first in the ABA and will begin their quest for a title on Monday the 15th. I expect Pace will remain with them until their playoff run ends, at which point he will hop the next flight to New Zealand and join the Hawks.
Back in the NBA, guys are settling into roles. Hakim Warrick is playing decently for the Bulls, averaging 8.7 ppg and 4.3 rpg off the bench over the past six games. He’s played around 25 minutes per game since coming to Chicago. (And the guy he was traded for, John Salmons, has exploded into a star and led Milwaukee to a 7-1 record in their last 8 games. But we won’t talk about that.) Jonny Flynn has remained steady for the Wolves. He had 19 points and 4 assists Wednesday against Dallas, and overall averaged 13ppg and 5 assists over that span, both of which are right around his season average. Donte Greene’s fortunes have fallen just a bit from earlier in the season, as the Kings continue to experiment with different lineups and rotations (often adjusting to match up better with their opponent). He had 16 & 5 in a whopping 42 minutes against the Suns a couple of weeks ago, but since then he hasn’t done much. He even got the dreaded DNP in a close-fought win over the Jazz last weekend. He’s only scored 4ppg in his past 5 games. But don’t tell that to the 2nd-graders of Stone Lake Elementary in Elk Ridge. Donte and his teammate Carl Landry showed up to read to the kids back on the 24th.
According to this article, the players showed up late because, in Donte’s words, “practice was a little crazy.” Seeing as how this event was the day after Donte went 0-4 with 2 turnovers against the Pistons, one expects he was “encouraged” by the coaches to put in some extra work.
Not a lot of big news from the rest of the world, so I’ll run it down pretty quickly. Demetris Nichols had 9 points in 19 minutes last week for Gravelines and plays some serious man defense (as you can see in the photo); Elvir Ovcina had 16 points and 3 boards in the 46ers’ loss last week in Germany; Matt Gorman had 7 points and 7 boards in Sheffield’s recent win in the British league; Kristof Ongenaet has not played in either of his team’s last two games in Italy. Preston Shumpert’s Turkish squad lost a heartbreaker in Euroleague play, falling to Real Madrid by two and falling out of the competition. Preston played only 3 minutes in this game and did not score. In league play he played 11 minutes against his former team Besiktas, scoring 2 points. Not sure why his production has dropped off so much in the past month or so. And in the Japanese BJ-league, Terrence Roberts had 9 points and 9 rebounds Saturday but only 3 points and 1 board Sunday as the Broncos lost a pair to the Lake Stars. Meanwhile Ryan Blackwell had a ho-hum Saturday with 8 points and 7 boards, but then he exploded for 19 points and 17 rebounds Sunday as Osaka split a pair with the Okinawa Golden Kings. Roberts’ Broncos are in last place, but Blackwell’s squad is tied for 2nd in their division and angling for a playoff berth. Finally, Damone Brown did not play in the Buffalo Stampede’s last game (a loss in Rochester) but he is still on the roster for the time being, at least according to their website.