First of all, if you haven’t seen it yet, check out our exclusive interview with Ryan Blackwell that ran last week.
It’s been three weeks since I’ve checked in on the pro ranks. (Things have been a bit unsteady at the ol’ homestead.) There is so much to talk about. Demetris Nichols scored his first NBA points, then got cut from his 2nd NBA roster. Terrence Roberts apparently never made it to Greece, despite the rumors of two weeks ago. Josh Pace is absolutely tearing up the CBA like it was New Zealand. The Syracuse Raging Bullz shut down operations, leaving Dayshawn Wright to fend for himself. But we begin with some fresh Damone Brown news.
Damone has surfaced in the NBA D-League playing for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the team that he was on during the 2nd half of last year. You may recall that Damone spent the summer in Utah Jazz camp but did not make the team. It looks as if, rather than going overseas to get paid, he decided to pursue his hopes of returning to the NBA. He wasted no time in making his presence known: he was in the starting lineup for his first game with the Skyforce on Nov 30; he scored 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. He did not play in their game the next night (reason unknown) but in the following game (on Dec 4) he started again and had 18 points and 8 rebounds.
As mentioned above, Demetris Nichols was finally activated for a few Cavs games over the past week. He played in three games, scoring a total of two points (and playing a total of 15 minutes). But when Anderson Varejao ended his holdout Wednesday, someone had to go from the Cleveland roster, and Nichols was it. The cut just happened within the last couple of days, so he hasn’t landed anywhere yet. My unfounded hunch is that he will sign with a D-League team as a free agent and try to play his way into the league. It makes more sense than waiting around hoping an NBA team will take a chance on your “potential” 6 weeks into a season in which you have hardly sniffed a live court.
Darryl Watkins continues to hold onto his spot with the Kings. He hasn’t played much recently, getting into two games in late November and contributing one rebound, one steal, and one blocked shot combined. I keep waiting for the Kings to option him to the D-League where he can get some playing time and develop his game, but I guess they like having him around to clobber Spencer Hawes during practices. About a week ago I found this nice feature article on Mookie from NorthJersey.com (from whence he hails). It was written earlier in the season when he was seeing more minutes, but still it’s a good read.
Jason Hart had his best game of the year back on Nov 23. He scored 11 points (first time this year in double figures) including 3-4 on three-pointers in 19 minutes. This was the third game in which he’d played significant minutes, as Deron Williams was struggling around that time. But Williams’ game has returned to form and Jason’s role has stabilized. He generally plays somewhere between 7 and 15 minutes a game, scores a few points, maybe gets a couple assists or a steal, plays some defense and tries not to turn the ball over. Standard backup point guard stuff, and he’s fitting the bill so far. And Utah is winning most of their games so expect it to continue in this vein for a while, unless there is an injury.
Hakim Warrick’s role has also stabilized. In the last update we reported that he’d scored 17 points in his first extended action of the season. He followed that game with 16 points in 25 minutes of play on Nov 19, but since then his minutes have dropped back into the teens (or less) and his scoring output has fallen off a bit too. Since the 16-point game, he has scored around 5 points per game. This article, written after his two high-scoring games in November, indicates that he is a defensive liability, but that he is keeping his spirit up and working hard to improve and contribute. I still think they should just trade him and be done with it.
And of course, Carmelo Anthony is a beast. The Nuggets have been up-and-down this year, and have gone 4-5 in their last nine games. Melo only really had one bad game in that stretch, one in which he shot 8-20 and didn’t get to the foul line in a blowout loss to Houston. He’s continuing to get around 25 ppg, 5 rebs and 4 assists per game. When he and Iverson get help from the rest of their team (like tonight, where Linas Kleiza scored 23 points in a win over Dallas) they tend to win. (Although Carmelo shot 9-30 in this game!!) But when they get no help, they generally lose.
More importantly, when I grow up I want my name made into a chain that looks something like this:
Matt Gorman continues to dominate the Irish like a true Orangeman should. He had 20pt, 10reb, and 4 steals in a win over Ulster back on Nov 24, then followed that with 24 points, 14 rebs, and 4 blocks in a close loss to Abrakebabra (yes, really) on Nov 31. This weekend the league will continue in-season Cup play, as eight teams including Neptune will try to advance to the cup semifinals.
Over in Belgium, Elvir Ovcina is apparently resting on his historic laurels. His play has steadily worsened since his triple-double in mid-November. He’s played an ULEB cup game in each of the last three weeks: On Nov 20 he had 12 points, 13 rebounds (all defensive!) and 5 assists in a win, but he slipped to 11 points and 5 rebounds in their next game (a loss) and in their most recent game tallied just two points and three boards in a last-second loss. They sit at 2-3 at the halfway point of pool play, and will have to make up two games in the standings in order to make it to the playoff round. In the regular Belgian League, things are not much better. He had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists on Nov 24, then only two points and two rebounds in their most recent game (Dec 1). Oostende lost both games and has slipped to third place in the league.
In Turkey, Preston Shumpert continues his solid play. He had 10 points in his game on Nov 24, and 18 points on Nov 30. His team is 6-3, tied for 4th place. They are in ULEB as well, and are 5-0 at the halfway point of Group play. In their last three games, Preston had 13 & 2, 19 & 7, and 10 & 3. And I finally found his team’s website, and his player page. He looks happy to be there.
In Israel, Otis Hill is a man among boys. He had 13 points and 4 rebounds back on Nov 25, followed by 16 points and 4 rebounds last Sunday (Dec 2). For some reason the links to the box scores aren’t working with my web browsers right now, but here is his player page where you can see the stats for yourself. His team is tied for first in the league at this point. His manliness was also apparent in Nahariya’s FIBA tournament games. In the first, he had 17 points and 11 rebounds against a tough Latvian squad. In the second, he had 26 points and 8 rebounds. Nahariya won this second game by 3 points, but having lost the first game by 4 points, they lost the overall matchup and did not advance to the next round — at least not as far as I can tell. (From the game stories, it appears that they were big underdogs going into this home-and-home series.)
In terms of Terrence Roberts and Greece, I was checking every so often to see if his name appeared on the team’s website or in any box scores, but it never did. I can only assume that the deal to bring him in fell through. He, like Gerry McNamara (and Kueth Duany for that matter) is still searching for a squad to call his own.
Ryan Blackwell’s team had Thanksgiving weekend off — not that the Japanese are celebrating Thanksgiving or anything. It was just time for their bye week. They got back into action last weekend with two games against the Tokyo Apache, who were tied with Sendai for the top spot in the standings before the weekend (though the 89ers have played 2 fewer games thanks to the bye week, so are one game ahead of Tokyo in the “loss column”). The teams split their two games and remain tied. Ryan had 13 points and 8 boards in the first one (loss), and 18 & 8 in the second (win).
Finally, Josh Pace has been crushing the competition in the CBA. After losing their first game in overtime (as reported here earlier), they won their home opener way back on Nov 18. Josh had 22 points in that game. Since then they have gone 4-3. Here are Pace’s point totals in those 7 games:
28, 34, 28, 28 (with 11 rebs, 5 assists, and 7 steals!), 7 — ejected in 2nd quarter along with 9 other players, 26 (with 14 boards and 10 dimes — triple double!), 28 (with 14 rebounds and 13 assists — triple double! The very next night!)
Josh was named the CBA American Conference player of the week for the first week of the season, and after those back-to-back triple-doubles, it will be hard to deny him the award for a second time. He is currently leading the league in scoring and steals, and is third in rebounds and assists. This weekend, Pace makes his triumphant return to Upstate NY as the Miners do battle with the Albany Patroons on Friday and Saturday nights. The Patroons have been best known on these pages as the erstwhile employers of Craig Forth, but they have made another recent signing:
Dayshawn Wright! Once the Raging Bullz decided this week to close up shop for the season, Wright cruised on down the Thruway and signed with Albany. Dayshawn played briefly in the CBA last year for the Minot (N.D.) Skyrockets (not to be confused with Damone Brown’s Sioux Falls (S.D.) Skyforce). He was just signed on Wednesday so might not play all that much, but you never know. So if you are a Syracuse fan in the Capital Region, go on out to the beautiful Washington Avenue Armory this weekend and party like it’s 2004!
R.I.P. Raging Bullz, 2007-2007