NBA Hopefuls Update

Don’t look so excited, Demetris.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. NBA training camp. Where guys who are used to being the best player on their own team are suddenly scrapping against each other for the honor of riding an NBA bench night after night. Not a few of these guys hail from the beacon of light that is Syracuse University. Let’s take a look.

Demetris Nichols

Last night Demetris had himself a real solid game. He played nearly 14 minutes, scoring 9 points on 3-5 shooting (including 2-4 from deep) and grabbing 2 rebounds and one steal. This is by far his best effort of the preseason. He did not play at all in Utah’s first preseason game, and in the second he went scoreless in 6 minutes (though he did have 2 assists). More good news for Nichols is that one of his main roster competitors, undrafted rookie Ryan Thompson, hasn’t exactly grabbed his chances in game action. Thompson was given a rare start on Monday, but scored only two points in 22 minutes (both from the foul line) with 2 rebounds. His minutes shrunk to 10 last night, and he went scoreless. Obviously there is more to sticking with a team than scoring prowess, and various defensive measures will not show up in a box score. But based on these reports it appears Demetris is outplaying at least one of his rivals. The other guys vying for a spot are a pair of interior-type forwards — 2nd-round pick Jeremy Evans and 2nd-year man Othyus Jeffers — and a point guard, Sundiata Gaines. All three have played fairly well in limited minutes this preseason. The Jazz have 12 players under contract, so up to three of these five players could make the team.

Darryl Watkins

Things are much bleaker for Mookie. He played in New Orleans’ first preseason game (2 pts, 3 reb in 6 min) but not the second. He is fourth in the center rotation behind Emeka Okafor, Jason Smith, and Pitt’s Aaron Gray. And with the Hornets already having 14 guys under contract, the chances that they use their final roster spot on a fourth center are wafer-thin. (Also competing for that last spot are guards DJ Strawberry and Mustafa Shakur, but the Hornets could also decide to sign none of those players and keep the slot open instead.) His best hope, it appears, would be to sign on as an injury replacement should one of the backup centers go down during the preseason. But you never know. There are still about a half-dozen games to go in October before the season starts, and he might step up and make an impression that can’t be ignored.

Jason Hart

Hart is in camp with the Timberwolves now that they’ve returned stateside, but is not expected to make the team. Minnesota has three point guards under contract (Luke Ridnour, Sebastian Telfair, and some guy named Flynn) and appear to be keeping Jason around as a combination of insurance policy and mentor for those three. Jason did play three scoreless - actually statless - minutes in yesterday’s win over the Nuggets. [Side note on that game, because I know you are wondering: yes, Wes Johnson did spend some time guarding Carmelo Anthony. Also, Wes scored 16 points in 20 minutes (including 3-5 from deep) while Melo had 19 -- 15 of them from the line -- in 20 minutes of his own.]

Andy Rautins

While his place on the Knicks’ roster is all but assured, as a 2nd-round pick Andy doesn’t have the guaranteed contract so it’s worth looking in. If he flames out in camp, he could theoretically get cut. There is a paucity of game evidence, though, to determine whether that is happening. The Knicks have only played one preseason game to date against another NBA team — the matchup with the Timberwolves in Paris way back on October 6. (They also had a friendly against an Italian League team while in Europe.) Andy played 12 minutes in that game and scored 6 points on 2-3 from deep, and grabbed 3 rebounds. Plus he blocked a shot by Kevin Love. He got generally good reviews for his performance, and to the extent he is mentioned in various recent preseason news articles, it’s that they are hoping to turn him into a point guard and expecting him to play significant minutes. It helps his prospects that Mike D’Antoni has hinted at using a larger-than-usual rotation in order to implement his run-n-gun style. And if you need a bit more Rautins fix, here is a feature article from Bleacher Report and here is a banal interview he gave to knickerblogger.net (part of an ESPN-affiliated blog network).

Paul Harris
I don’t know where Paul is. He’s not popped up anywhere that I’ve seen. Someone at the Dome Friday night ask Jonny what’s going on with his pal.

That’s the list. Everyone else on the NBA rosters has a contract, at least. I am not going to give the full rundown here but once the season starts we’ll do a big overview of where everyone ends up and how they are doing (as several overseas leagues have already begun play). However, I will give you one taste before we go:

Elvir in Germany. Looking badass as usual.

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