Happy Earth Day everybody! We will celebrate by spanning the globe, checking in on SU alums playing ball far and near, all while leaving a minuscule carbon footprint. (Because my laptop runs on wishes and moonbeams.) This edition features a Matt Gorman resurgence in England, Terrence Roberts speaking out in Japan, and Preston Shumpert setting the nets on fire in Turkey. But, as usual, we start in the NBA.
The NBA playoffs have begun and there are three Orangemen whose teams made it into the postseason. Most prominent among these, of course, is Carmelo Anthony who is leading the Nuggets against Utah in a 4/5 matchup. Melo had 42 points on 18-25 shooting in the Nugs’ Game 1 victory. But Utah made defensive adjustments and held him to only 9-25 in game 2, as the series evened up. He still managed 32 points, but 14 of them came at the foul line. He also fouled out late, trying to pressure the ball in the backcourt with Denver down by 1 and about a minute left. Melo ended the regular season averaging 28.2ppg, just off his career high and good for third in the league behind Kevin Durant and some guy from Cleveland.
Also in the playoffs after a late-season surge are the Chicago Bulls, grabbing the 8 seed with Hakim Warrick playing a reserve role. Hak had 4 points in 9 minutes in Game 1 against the Cavs, but did not play in game 2. The Bulls lost both games and seem outmanned and outgunned, and likely headed for a quick exit. This season Warrick averaged 8.7ppg and 3.6rpg in 28 games for Chicago after coming over in a deadline trade from Milwaukee; overall for the year he averaged 9.6ppg and 4.1rpg. He’ll be a free agent again this summer but will probably have to wait for some of the big names to come off the board before he finds a home.
Etan Thomas and the Oklahoma City Thunder are also in the playoffs, as the 8 seed in the West. You can probably guess that Etan has not seen any action so far in their series against the Lakers. However, he did start to get a few minutes here and there as the season wore on, after not playing a single second between Dec 4 and Mar 3. He got into five games over the final three weeks of the season, his biggest statistical contribution being 3 points and 2 boards back on March 24. But he has not complained about his lack of PT, and in fact has been a positive veteran presence in the incredibly young Thunder locker room. His contract is expiring and whether he latches on with another team remains to be seen. He is 32 years old, which is not young by NBA standards, but not yet past the point of being productive.
The other Cuse guys in the NBA have ended their seasons. Jonny Flynn finished his rookie campaign by missing the final game of the season due to a hip injury after starting the first 81. You can definitely call it an “up-and-down” year for Jonny. Overall he averaged 13.5ppg and 4.4apg. He had some excellent games, such as this 18-point 8-assist effort in a win on March 30, the Wolves’ only win in March or April (they ended the year losing 23 out of their last 24). He also had some games where he’d shoot 3-11 or 2-8, and only tally a couple of assists. His assist-to-turnover ratio ended up at about 1.5-to-1. He will have a chance to make some serious strides over the summer, and he may have to; the Wolves still have the rights to Ricky Rubio and if he decides to come play in the US, Jonny will have some competition on his hands.
Finally there is Donte Greene. His contributions to the Kings’ efforts fluctuated wildly during the year, as coach Paul Westphal tended to play favorable matchups. Some games Donte got as many as 40 minutes; other games he didn’t even reach 10. He ended up starting 50 games for Sacramento, averaging 8.5ppg and 3.1rpg. But as streaky as he was this season, he still can throw down a few:
Suck it, Jon Brockman!
Donte is undoubtedly in the Kings’ plans for next season, though he is not such a vital piece that they wouldn’t consider trading him should an appropriate deal emerge. But you have to count this year as a huge step for him. The only impression he made last season was the impression his butt left on the bench (unless you count his trip to the D-League). To move from that situation to being a starter in over half your team’s games is true progress. And he is still so young that there is plenty of room for his game to grow.
Staying in the US for a moment, we find a surprising tidbit from the ABA. None other than Jeremy McNeil shows up on the roster of an ABA team known as the Texas Fuel. There is no evidence that he played in any of their games, nor even that he was ever really on the team. It could be all a mistake; they appear to also have a player named Jason McNeil, and if you look at their roster page, every player besides Jeremy has a fresh photograph, while Jeremy’s appears to be scanned from an old SU game program. Nevertheless, it’s possible that he is out there still trying to play ball, and if he does latch on somewhere hopefully we will be able to let you know.
The real news from the ABA is that Josh Pace ended his season in a big way. His Southeast Texas Mavericks won the ABA title, beating the Kentucky Bisons 2 games to 1 in the finals. Josh had 20 points in the deciding game on March 29, averaged 22 points in the three game series, and was named Finals MVP. A couple of weeks later Pace was named the overall MVP of the league, i.e. for the entire season. Congratulations Josh! Being the hoops beast that he is, Josh wasn’t around to accept the award in person because he’d already gotten himself over to…
to begin playing for the NBL’s Bay Hawks. On April 9 he played in his first game for the Hawks and immediately led them to a win with 20 points and 4 assists, both team highs. He similarly led the team with 18 points and 5 assists last week, though they lost the game. He’ll have another game tomorrow.
That first game of Pace’s was a victory over the Waikato Pistons, who at that time were the employers of Eric Devendorf. TNIAAM has done a great job chronicling everything that has happened to Devo over in Kiwi-land. He led the Pistons to a 6-1 record in their first 7 games, averaging over 24 points and 4 assists per game. He was named Player of the Week twice in those seven weeks. And then he got into some sort of fracas at a bar and was immediately cut by the Pistons. He was quickly snapped up by the Exodus Saints and scored 31 points for them in his first game with the team. He also had 10 rebounds in that contest. Meanwhile, his roster spot on the Pistons has been filled by former Pitt pain-in-the-nuts Carl Krauser, who had been playing in Venezuela but wanted to get out of there after having guns pulled on him multiple times. Actual quote from Carl:
“And one time I walked into a store, four guys come up on me and they put a gun to my head so I’m like, man, I’m done with this.”
That’d probably be my reaction too.
The European Orange contingent is wrapping up its seasons, though there are playoffs in the futures of some of these guys. Not for Elvir Ovcina, though. His German squad is in 16th place in an 18-team league. Not for his lack of trying, though. Elvir has played well. His most recent game was a 13-point, 11-rebound effort, leading the team in the latter category. Over his last five games he’s averaged 12.4ppg and 6.6rpg.
Demetris Nichols will likely make the playoffs in the French league. His team is tied for fourth and the top 8 teams make the postseason. Demetris, though, has been struggling. Despite being in the starting lineup for five of the past six games, he’s only scored 22 total points over that span (3.7ppg). He’s not doing much else in the boxscore either. He’s not quite in Ongenaet territory, though; Kristof has not played in a game since the last day of January. He is at least still on the roster though — here’s his latest DNP.
Matt Gorman and the Sheffield Sharks are headed for a postseason showdown. They finished in the #2 position in the standings. They, along with #1 Newcastle, are clearly head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league, and I expect those two teams will meet for the championship. However, the first playoff game for Sheffield is tomorrow against Plymouth. After not having much of a role early in the season, Matt’s made his presence felt much more strongly over the past six weeks. The Sharks played nine games in that span, and Matt averaged 14ppg and 10rpg in those games. They included such monster performances as this 11-point, 17-rebound effort and this 16-point, 10-board, 5-block domination. Matt winds up the regular season averaging just over 9 points and 6 rebounds per game, as well as being one of the top ten shot-blockers in the league even though he averaged less than one block per game; I’d say that tells you all you need to know about the British Basketball League, but considering the success that Gorman is having, you probably figured that out for yourself already.
And then of course there is Preston Shumpert in Turkey. Shump is back to doing his usual damage for Efes Pilsen. When we last checked in he was going through a rough patch of poor performances. Well I’m happy to report he snapped out of that right quick. He’s played seven games since then and in five of them he scored at least 17 points. He’s regained his brilliance from long range, too. For example, consider this 22-point avalanche he laid on Darussafaka which included 6-8 shooting from deep, or this 20-points-in-21-minutes thumping of Bornova in which he shot 3-3 from deep and 7-8 overall. His average over this seven-game stretch is 16ppg and 17-26 shooting on three-pointers (65%). For the year he is shooting just under 60% from deep. Efes has locked up the regular-season championship — they are in first place, 4 games ahead of the 2nd-place team with only one game remaining before the postseason begins.
Ryan Blackwell’s Osaka Evessa have vaulted into first place in the Western Conference of the BJ-League with two games remaining. They reeled off ten straight wins recently, and are 11-2 in their last 13 games. This streak coincided with the insertion of Blackwell into the starting lineup. Ryan had been content to be a major player off the bench this season, but upon re-emerging as a starter he picked up his production and the team has benefited. Ryan scored in double figures in all but three of these 13 games — and in each of those three that he did not reach double digits, he had either 8 or 9 points. Overall he’s averaged 13.1 points and 7.0 rebounds over that 13-game stretch. Osaka has locked up a berth in the BJ-league playoffs, which begin next weekend.
Meanwhile, the season is nearly over for Terrence Roberts. His Saitama Broncos are in last place, and have been for most of the year. Like Blackwell, Terrence has had a very productive seven weeks for the Broncos all told. He’s played in 14 games since our last look-in, and reached double-digit scoring in 11 of them. He also had double-digit rebounds in five of those games, and at least 8 boards in all but two of the games. The crown jewels of his performances are a 23-point, 15-rebound effort on March 18 and 25 points & 8 boards on April 4, a game in which he attempted seven three-pointers and hit four of them. (For reference, he is only averaging one three-point attempt per game on the season.) Overall, he’s averaged 14.3ppg and 9.1 rebounds over these 14 games. He gave an extensive interview to the Japan Times last month that is well worth checking out. Reading it, I was struck that he seems to have matured and become a more reflective and well-rounded individual. In it, he reveals that his team has (in his view) underachieved this year, but that he expects them to cohere in the future after they’ve had more time playing together. Does that mean he’s anticipating staying in Japan another year? Is he considering making a bit of a career in the land of the rising sun, like Blackwell who has played there for three seasons now? In short, is Terrence Roberts turning Japanese? One thing we have learned today is that he’s better off there than in Venezuela. Stay tuned….