Coleman Collins, joining us from France where he’s playing professionally, remembers the time his Virginia Tech team trusted him to wow visiting recruit Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Long story short: Luc Richard chose UCLA.
It’s never too early to begin looking towards the future, and with the 2013 NBA Draft approaching, fans should be excited about the potential influx of talented youngsters.
Although some of the top players have yet to even step foot on their college campus, their upside alone will garner NBA lottery aspirations.
As with any mock draft, it’s important to realize these players are being drafted according to their future projections, regardless of their skill set at this point.
Obviously there is no way to realistically set the draft order, so the picks will be listed in accordance to the team’s 2012 record.
Here are a few players to be aware of before the draft.
Nerlens Noel, 6’11”, 216 lbs., Kentucky, Freshman
Noel is built in the Anthony Davis mold. He features a 7’4” wingspan and although his offensive game may need some polish, he controls tempo with his freakish shot blocking.
He is a mobile big man who is also a proficient passer from the post. With his size and speed, Noel entered Kentucky as the No. 1 center, according to Scout.
With Kentucky’s team largely opting to play in the NBA next season, count on Noel to occupy a major portion of playing time for the Wildcats next season.
With his mobility and uncanny shot blocking ability, Noel can control the paint and run the floor.
He certainly isn’t about to win any scoring titles in the short-term, but he will instantly benefit a team’s defense.
Shabazz Muhammad, 6’ 6”, 225 lbs., UCLA, Freshman
Muhammad is quite the all-around player leading up to his freshman year. He does a lot of things well, including getting to the hoop, defending, shooting and has a sneaky set of post moves.
He looks very similar to James Harden, but he is an inch taller and perhaps a step quicker. He is also a deceptive lefty, much like Harden.
He has an NBA-ready body and will succeed at the next level with his work around the hoop.
He needs to improve his accuracy from the outside, as he lacks a consistent three-point stroke, but the rest of his game is on point.
Look for him to thrive at UCLA this year, alongside fellow freshmen Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker.
Muhammad will undoubtedly provide some highlight reel dunks along with solid defense, but teams should expect to get a very talented wing player who can score in a number of different ways.
Cody Zeller, 7’0”, 237 lbs., Indiana, Sophomore
Zeller is the first player thus far who has actually appeared in an NCAA game.
Compared to his other brothers, Luke and Tyler, Cody is the most impressive one in the minds of NBA scouts. He averaged 15.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season as a freshman, including a 20-point performance against Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
Zeller is a talented big man, who is decisively mobile for his size, and is great at running the floor, much like his brother Tyler. But he is also a dangerous scorer, with both his back to the basket and in the mid-range game.
He was heralded as a proposed top-10 pick in the 2012 draft by Chad Ford of ESPN, yet decided to prolong his NCAA career and return to school.
With another year of polish on his already impressive game, Zeller could be selected in the top five.
James McAdoo, 6’ 9”, 225 lbs., North Carolina, Sophomore
McAdoo was largely a role player for the Tar Heels last season. But this year should be his time to shine.
With the departures of Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes to the pro ranks, McAdoo should be the featured player on North Carolina.
He is a versatile player who can play both the 3 and the 4, and is strong enough to fight for rebounds under the basket.
He seems to be similar to Danny Granger, without a three-point shot but with better defensive instincts. He is skilled at getting to the basket for his size and looks to attack the rim any chance he gets.
The biggest thing he has going for him is his basketball IQ, as he is a willing passer on the block, and rarely forces shots when he is defended.
All in all, he is already a very talented player, but with the right team he could become even better.
|1||Charlotte||Shabazz Muhammad – Freshman, UCLA|
|2||Washington||Nerlens Noel – Freshman, Kentucky|
|3||New Orleans||Cody Zeller – Sophomore, Indiana|
|4||Cleveland||James McAdoo – Sophomore, North Carolina|
|5||Sacramento||Ben McLemore – Freshman, Kansas|
|6||Brooklyn||Alex Poythress – Freshman, Kentucky|
|7||Golden State||Isaiah Austin – Freshman, Baylor|
|8||Toronto||Adonis Thomas – Sophomore, Memphis|
|9||Detroit||Ricky Ledo – Freshman, Providence|
|10||Minnesota||Tony Mitchell – Sophomore, North Texas|
|11||Portland||Rudy Gobert – International|
|12||Milwaukee||C.J. McCollum – Senior, Lehigh|
|13||Phoenix||LeBryan Nash – Sophomore, Oklahoma State|
|14||Houston||Rakeem Christmas – Sophomore, Syracuse|
|15||Philadelphia||Steven Adams – Freshman, Pittsburgh|
|16||New York||Otto Porter – Sophomore, Georgetown|
|17||Dallas||Mason Plumlee – Senior, Duke|
|18||Utah||Patric Young – Junior, Florida|
|19||Orlando||Jamaal Franklin – Junior, San Diego State|
|20||Denver||Isaiah Canaan – Senior, Murray State|
|21||Boston||Joshua Smith – Junior, UCLA|
|22||LA Clippers||Aaric Murray – Junior, West Virginia|
|23||Atlanta||Kyle Anderson – Freshman, UCLA|
|24||LA Lakers||LaQuinton Ross – Sophomore, Ohio State|
|25||Memphis||Jeff Withey – Senior, Kansas|
|26||Indiana||Trevor Mbakwe – Senior, Minnesota|
|27||Miami||Dario Saric – International|
|28||Oklahoma City||Andre Roberson – Junior, Colorado|
|29||Chicago||Trey Burke – Sophomore, Michigan|
|30||San Antonio||C.J. Wilcox – Junior, Washington|
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The 2012 NBA draft may have happened less than 12 hours ago, but it’s never too early to start thinking ahead to next year.
There are a ton of potential superstars that remained in a college, and there are even more that are preparing for their freshman seasons.
Let’s take a look at some of the best of these in our initial 2013 first-round mock draft.
1. Charlotte Bobcats: Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Kentucky
Noel is a freakish athlete that may just be the next Anthony Davis in terms of his shot-blocking ability and defense.
He made the wise call to go to Kentucky and play under coach John Calipari, who will certainly help hone this young man’s skills and make him a contender for the No. 1 pick.
2. Washington Wizards: James McAdoo, F, North Carolina
McAdoo would have been a lottery pick if he had declared in 2012, but he elected to go back to school.
Barring an injury or some unforeseeably awful play, another year in college should only boost his stock even further.
He’s got a lot of skill and projects to be a stud at either forward position in the NBA.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana
Zeller was another potential 2012 lottery pick that opted to remain in college. He’s now got a chance to go as early as No. 1 but may fall, depending on his performance this season.
His upside and continually improving game will definitely have him going in the top three.
4. New Orleans Hornets: Alex Poythress, F, Kentucky
Poythress can get to the rim and rebound like a beast. He’s another superstar Kentucky recruit that will have his stock boosted by being a part of a great program.
5. Sacramento Kings: Shabazz Muhammad, G/F, UCLA
This star recruit chose to take his talents to Los Angeles as part of a great UCLA recruiting class. He’s got incredible size for an NBA SG and is an immensely gifted athlete, as well.
6. Brooklyn Nets: Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor
The Baylor recruit may be the most athletic 7-footer in this class.
If his talents are as good as advertised next season, he could go earlier than this.
7. Golden State Warriors: Tony Mitchell, SF, North Texas
Mitchell decided to stay in school after testing the waters this season, and it might just pay off. He’s a supremely high-upside SF that has shades of Kevin Durant in his game.
8. Toronto Raptors: Adonis Thomas, SF, Memphis
The Memphis athlete has a great mid-range game and the ability to get to the rim consistently. If his motor is truly as great as many believe, he’ll make a solid swingman in the pros.
9. Detroit Pistons: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
Caldwell-Pope can knock down any shot on the floor and has range beyond the three-point line in the NBA.
A team that needs a sniper will gladly take him in the top 10.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves: C.J. Leslie, F, NC State
Leslie was going to be a first-rounder but decided to stick with the Wolfpack. He’s got the full package as a swingman, which includes ability to score, defend and rebound.
11. Portland Trail Blazers: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
Here is another Kentucky recruit that could easily go in the lottery if he has a good season and gets big minutes playing the 2.
He’s drawn comparisons to Joe Johnson for his size and versatility.
12. Milwaukee Bucks: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Adams has monstrous size, at 7’1” and 245 pounds. If he shows skills that match up with his immense height and frame, he’s a lottery lock.
13. Phoenix Suns: B.J. Young, G, Arkansas
This combo guard can simply get it done.
He managed to shoot 50 percent from the field during his freshman season while scoring 15.3 PPG and dishing out quite a few assists along the way.
14. Houston Rockets: Myck Kabongo, PG, Texas
Kabongo is a pass-first PG that a number of teams in the NBA would love to have.
After seeing the success of Rajon Rondo, many franchises believe their point guards do not need to be brilliant scorers to impact the game.
15. Philadelphia 76ers: Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
Bennett is a modern forward that can play outside or bang down low. He’s an okay defender, as well, and should be a decent NBA player.
16. New York Knicks: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Anderson is another UCLA product that has a bright future. He’s got the ability to handle the rock while possessing the standard swingman skill set.
17. Dallas Mavericks: Patric Young, C, Florida
Young was projected to be a first-rounder in 2012 but opted to stay with the Gators.
He’s got a combination of size and defense which many teams would love from a big.
18. Utah Jazz: Lorenzo Brown, G, NC State
Brown is a point guard that is more of an undersized SG. He looks to get his buckets first before passing, but has the handles to pull it off.
19. Orlando Magic: C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
McCollum’s NCAA tournament run proved he has the chops and confidence to hang in the NBA from such a small school.
He’s got nice handles and lights-out scoring ability.
20. Denver Nuggets: Reggie Bullock, SG, North Carolina
This young man has NBA range on his trey, ball-handling ability, court vision and a basketball IQ.
He’s a solid all-around guard prospect.
21. Boston Celtics: Ryan Harrow, PG, Kentucky
Harrow is a highly touted transfer from NC State that will be playing for the defending national champions this season.
He’s got a chance to lead them to greatness and become a first-round pick.
22. Los Angeles Clippers: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
SDSU had a nice season, and Franklin was a large reason for it as an explosive scorer and great rebounder for his position.
23. Atlanta Hawks: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Porter’s mid-range game and size make him an intriguing mid-to-late pick in the first round of the 2013 NBA draft.
He’s got to show some improvement this season in his overall ability to go higher.
24. Los Angeles Lakers: Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State
This undersized guard just knows how to score. He is best when driving and either dishing or laying it in.
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Moser, SF, UNLV
Moser can grab boards, score and do all the little things required of an NBA-caliber swingman.
26. Indiana Pacers: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Withey emerged during the 2012 NCAA tournament as a great post defender and excellent shot-blocker.
If he can continue to improve in 2012-13, he’ll be a first-rounder for sure.
27. Miami Heat: Dario Saric, F, Croatia
Saric is a solid prospect for a contender to stash in Europe if it is happy with its roster.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
The son of the former NBA superstar still has a lot of development to do, but his pedigree and raw skills are certainly present.
29. Chicago Bulls: DeShaun Thomas, SF, Ohio State
Thomas was a key contributor for the Buckeyes last season, and if he can continue to star without Jared Sullinger around, he could become a late first-round pick.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Le’Bryan Nash, SF, Oklahoma State
If Nash can interview well and prove himself on the court, he’s going to go much higher than No. 30.
He’s got a lot of character concerns to work past right now.
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It’s never too early to start looking at next year’s NBA prospects.
The 2012 NBA draft may boast one of the deepest classes in years, but there is plenty to look forward to in 2013, with some potential first-year collegiate players going on to become lottery picks.
Here’s my first 2013 NBA draft, complete with the probable stars of the class.
1. Charlotte Bobcats: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
Nerlens Noel has the potential to be an Anthony Davis-like prospect, but given Cody Zeller will have another year under his belt, he’ll be the more polished prospect at this point. He’ll also fill out a bit more. Zeller has a great feel for the game and could become a star in the NBA.
2. Washington Wizards: Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Kentucky
The Wizards need someone to pair up with center Nene Hilario, and Nerlens Noel, with his defensive potential and explosiveness, would be a great fit.
3. Brooklyn Nets: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
With Gerald Wallace likely headed out of town, the Nets will want to find their next small forward of the future. Shabazz Muhammad has outstanding athleticism and explosiveness and plays above the rim. He’s dangerous driving to the hoop and his length could make him a good defensive player.
4. Sacramento Kings: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Steven Adams is coming out of high school, and he’s already 7’1″, 245 pounds. He’s not only strong, he’s incredibly fluid for his size, with the ability to run the floor. He would look nice next to DeMarcus Cousins.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers: James McAdoo, F, North Carolina
James McAdoo could have been a lottery pick if he declared for the NBA draft this year. With some more experience under his belt, it’s very likely that he’ll be a top-10 pick. Athletic, strong and quick, with a developing jump shot, he could be the complete package.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves: Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor
Isaiah Austin could be a scary player. He’s an explosive big man who plays like a guard, and what do you know, he’s going to play for Baylor (see: Perry Jones III). His potential as an elite defensive player is off the charts. The Timberwolves need an impact player at center.
7. Detroit Pistons: B.J. Young, G, Arkansas
The 2013 draft doesn’t figure to have many top-tier shooting guard prospects, but B.J. Young of Arkansas has the potential to be one. He’s a scoring combo guard who can get into the paint and swing the ball to the outside. He averaged 15.3 points while shooting 50 percent from the floor in his freshman season with the Razorbacks.
8. Toronto Raptors: Tony Mitchell, SF, Alabama
Although Tony Mitchell plays shooting guard at Alabama, given his rebounding ability, he has the potential to be a small forward in the NBA. He’s a long, athletic player who can defend multiple positions.
9. New Orleans Hornets: Myck Kabongo, PG, Texas
I expect the Hornets to add two post players in 2012. In that regard, adding an impact point guard would be the next step. Myck Kabongo is a pure point guard reminiscent of Kendall Marshall. But he may be better than Marshall. He’s a committed defender and has a nice perimeter game, unlike Marshall.
10. Utah Jazz (via GS): Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
Anthony Bennett has the ability to guard both forward positions, he has an inside-outside offensive game and he’s a great rebounder. The Jazz wouldn’t mind some depth, as there likely won’t be any top-tier point guards at this spot.
11. Milwaukee Bucks: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Another one of UCLA’s promising recruits, Kyle Anderson is a length, versatile wing player who can act as a point-forward. He also has a nice midrange game.
12. Orlando Magic: Patric Young, C, Florida
I think it’s going to be difficult for the Magic to land a big-time center in the 2012 draft. In that case, Patric Young—given his NBA size and defensive ability—would be a nice pick here.
13. Houston Rockets: Lorenzo Brown, G, N.C. State
With some likely needs in the backcourt in 2013, I expect the Rockets to look at Lorenzo Brown, a scoring point guard who can attack the hoop and rebound the basketball.
14. Portland Trail Blazers: C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
C.J. McCollum showed his worth in the 2012 NCAA tournament. He has the potential to be a dangerous scorer with electric ball-handling skills, and nobody seems to scare this kid. The Trail Blazers may need a point guard or shooting guard by 2013.
15. Phoenix Suns: Adonis Thomas, F, Memphis
A freak athlete, Adonis Thomas can either explode into the paint and hammer it home or knock it down from mid-range if you give him space. He has a great motor and would be welcome on any NBA team.
16. New York Knicks: Reggie Bullock, SG, North Carolina
Reggie Bullock is long and athletic, has deep range on his shot, finishes well and has the versatility to be a nice backcourt complement for New York.
17. Utah Jazz: Ryan Harrow, PG, Kentucky
N.C. State transfer Ryan Harrow should benefit tremendously under John Calipari’s wing. His quickness allows him to penetrate into the interior and he has the ability to score in bunches.
18. Boston Celtics: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
Jamaal Franklin burst onto the scene last season for SDSU, going on to average 17.4 points and 7.9 rebounds. Avery Bradley is next in line at shooting guard for Boston, but Franklin could provide nice depth.
19. Dallas Mavericks: Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky
Another one of Kentucky’s star recruits this year, Alex Poythress has the ability to be a lottery pick, but given other teams’ potential needs, he may slip a bit. Poythress, with his slashing ability and ability to crash the boards, would add more talented youth to the Mavericks’ aging roster.
20. Philadelphia 76ers: C.J. Leslie, SF, N.C. State
C.J. Leslie could have been a late first-round pick if he declared this year. With another year under his belt, he could enter the Top 20. If the 76ers grab a big man in this year’s draft, I expect them to add a small forward in 2013. Leslie, with his explosiveness, emerging perimeter game and ability to be a disruptive defender, would be a nice pick here.
21. Minnesota Timberwolves (via MEM): Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
With deep range and a fluid shooting stroke, KCP has the potential to break out next season. Given he’s already a very good defender, I could see him making the first round. The Timberwolves need someone to pair up with Ricky Rubio.
22. Los Angeles Lakers: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
It’s no secret that the Lakers need help at small forward. Otto Porter has a nice mid-range game, and his length translates nicely to the NBA. He began to emerge for Georgetown last season and appears ready to take his game to the next level.
23. Atlanta Hawks: Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State
Isaiah Canaan may be a little undersized, but his strength makes up for it. He’s a scoring threat with the quickness to penetrate to the hoop, and he has incredible desire and character out on the hardwood.
24. Los Angeles Clippers: Mike Moser, SF, UNLV
The Clippers could use another threat on the wing, and Mike Moser—with his inside-outside scoring ability and eye-opening rebounding—would be a nice addition to a team on the rise.
25. Denver Nuggets: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke
An athletic, explosive big man who crashes the glass and can run the floor, Mason Plumlee would provide nice depth for George Karl in Denver.
26. San Antonio Spurs: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Jeff Withey made a name for himself in the NCAA tournament this year as an excellent shot-blocker and post defender. You can’t tell me Gregg Popovich wouldn’t want some defense in the post as Tim Duncan gets closer to the end of his career.
27. Indiana Pacers: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
I expect the Pacers to pick up Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague this year. If that’s the case, they’ll need to add depth behind Danny Granger in the future. Dario Saric has great size, has displayed offensive skills beyond his years (he’s only 17 years old), and he’s a good passer.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers (via MIA): Le’Bryan Nash, SF, Oklahoma State
Le’Bryan Nash comes with character concerns and has taken plays off at OSU, but he’s a terrific athlete, physical defender (at times) and has an NBA body. His sheer athleticism and hops makes it hard to see him landing outside the first round. The Cavaliers will likely take the best player available at this spot.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
Tim Hardaway, Jr. is still learning the game. His shot selection was spotty in his sophomore season at Michigan, and he needs to take care of the ball. But Hardaway does have the athleticism and scoring ability to be a first-round pick in 2013.
30. Chicago Bulls: DeShaun Thomas, SF, Ohio State
DeShaun Thomas was a big player for Ohio State last season. He has the size, strength and athleticism to make a difference at small forward in the NBA, not to mention the scoring and rebounding ability, but questions about his defense and desire may push him down the board a bit.
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The enormous talent of Oklahoma City Thunder point guard has never come into question. Very few guards in the NBA possess the pure ability that Westbrook does, as the Miami Heat found out Tuesday night when the UCLA product scored 43 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists.
However to be truly great, you need more than just the physical tools. You have to master the mental part of the game as well.
That’s something worth debating if Westbrook will ever figure out or not. By the looks of things, his mental understanding of the game will never catch up with his physical talents on the court.
Some will try and make the excuse that Westbrook is young, but the reality is that while he’s only 23, he’s been in the league four years now.
Westbrook has started 336 of his career 354 games (including playoffs). How much more time does he really need to fully understand how the game is played.
He delivered a masterful performance in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, but the most maligned player of these NBA Finals is that for a reason.
There have been countless late-game turnovers , including two costly ones in the fourth quarter Tuesday night. In addition bad shot selection has been a Westbrook trademark late in games.
However his defensive blunder proved costly in what ultimately was a Game 4 loss.
Mental mistakes kill teams and there wasn’t a worse time for Westbrook to allow his mind to slip. There’s really no excuse for not understanding that the shot clock reset to five seconds.
Quite simply that’s a player who’s not mentally focused.
As the quarterback of the team, it’s Westbrook’s job to run the Thunder. It’s his job to make the smart and high percentage play when the game is on the line. That doesn’t always mean putting the team on his back, although there are times for that as he showed Tuesday night.
But a great point guard has to mentally understand the situation. Westbrook is far from that.
To use a football analogy, it’s similar to a quarterback having to understand down and distance. Keeping the chains moving is sometimes more effective than trying to throw the ball down field every play.
Westbrook must understand (at both ends of the floor) that he doesn’t have to make the big play every time down the floor.
Sometimes keeping it simple works the best.
He doesn’t need to swing for the fences all the time. Late in games, he’s a guy that tries to hit the home run when a simple sacrifice fly will win you the game.
There are very few guards in the NBA that have the talent that Westbrook has. But there are a ton that understand the game and have mastered the mental aspect of playing winning basketball.
Until Westbrook figures that part of the game out, he will never be as good as his pure talent says he should be.
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Kevin Love was a guest on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Tuesday and told the host he’s a lock to make the squad because he’s the token white guy.
Asked by Kimmel if he needed to try out for the squad, Love broke out a joke.
“Well it’s interesting. For me, I don’t know if I have to because they always need at least one token white guy,” he joked. “I think that I have a pretty good shot of making it there.
“It’s like the white guy in the gang — he’s the one you really gotta watch out for.”
Love talked about plenty of other topics, and said he doesn’t really want any team to win the NBA championship since his T-Wolves didn’t make the playoffs. He did admit he’s partial to the Thunder because his former UCLA roommate and teammate Russell Westbrook is on the squad.
Love also discussed his Twitter absence at length. Love explained to Kimmel that he got into trouble by the team for breaking news of the Rick Adelman coaching hire via Twitter, and that why he’s been less active with it. I guess we’ll excuse him for not mentioning that he also ripped his front office for botching the 2009 draft, but he did concede that many of the franchise’s social media rules probably were created in response to his social media habits.
Thanks to LBS contributor A. Liu for the tip
MIAMI (Reuters) – Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook has no intention of changing his style of play despite questions being raised about his on-court decision making. Westbrook came into the league as the number four pick of the 2008 NBA Draft as a UCLA scoring guard and was thrust into the point guard role for the Thunder, who have split the opening two games of the NBA Finals with the Miami Heat. …
When you’re eight years old, it’s easy to be impressionistic.
It has yet to register for you—in that painful footfall of cognizance—that your favorite players will one day be forced to bow to the inexorable force of time. Age takes no prisoners, after all.
When you’re eight, greatness looks like it could go on forever, undimmed as the day it first set foot in the pros.
Or maybe even before that.
Baron Davis came into UCLA in 1997 as one of the first marquee freshman recruits of the Steve Lavin era. (Lavin took the reigns from Jim Harrick before the 1996-97 season.)
I was eight in ’97, and I had a dull notion of my allegiance to the Bruins. It was implicit at that stage; not yet readily defined.
I’d cheered when they’d won the NCAA title back in ’95 because my father, an alum, had cheered. It was just one of those things you did, taking up the supporters’ mantle passed down through generations, so to speak.
But Baron gave me the opportunity to put my own stamp on my UCLA fanhood.
Here was a player who captivated on a nightly basis and made me want to follow UCLA basketball. It was the first time I could say that about any player in any sport.
And follow I did, with near-religious zeal. I was beside myself when Davis blew out his knee against Michigan in the 1998 NCAA tournament, and I cheered when he made his comeback for the next season.
His transcendent athleticism came back to him, slowly at first, then as if it had never left him. The Baron Davis of the 1998-99 season was one of the most entertaining I’d ever seen.
It was also the perfect encapsulation of him as a basketball enigma. Baron, and the UCLA team to a greater extent that season, could hang with the best in the land and do it in a captivating manner.
But they could also be maddeningly inconsistent, as we saw when the Bruins were upset by 12th-seeded Detroit in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 56-53.
It would prove the last game Davis ever played at Pauley Pavilion, as he announced soon after that, that he would be entering the NBA draft.
Many wondered if he was ready. When the Charlotte Hornets made him their third pick, some of those reverberating doubts began to fall flat.
They were nearly eviscerated once his NBA career got going. It has not stopped since, either.
For all his faults, Davis has averaged 16.1 points and 7.2 assists to just 2.8 turnovers over 13 seasons, many in which he was deemed one of the best point guards in the game.
His knee buckled menacingly on that play, resulting in the sort of stomach-churning, throat-constricting pain that accompanies any disgusting injury. The unnatural—a knee twisting in a manner it never should—never fails to put us off guard.
An MRI on Monday would reveal “a partial tear of the patella tendon and complete tears of the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right leg,” according to a Yahoo! Sports report. That’s on top of a dislocated kneecap, mind you.
Davis’s knee, for lack of a better word, is kaput. It will take at least 12 months of rehabilitation for him to make a return to full-time basketball.
At his age—a just-turned 33—that is tantamount to your body handing you a severance check. Davis is likely done.
The news threw me into one of those funks that simply sticks, as if it were a permanent addition to your mindset.
Something would be lost were Davis to finally retire, I thought.
Baron had a habit of drifting in and out of games, but that only made me an even bigger fan.
Because when the prime-time Baron showed up, there was little you could do but stand and applaud, mouth agape.
That airtight handle, that ability to fly past defenders and throw himself at the rim with such reckless abandon.
Few players in the game’s history have packed the power Baron had coiled in his 6’3″, 225-pound frame. (He’s since whittled down his weight to 212.) He was a linebacker who’d decided to play basketball. And he made many a would-be shot blocker pay for trying to check his flight.
When he was at his best—the 2001-02 postseason for example, where Davis averaged 22.6 points, 7.9 assists, 7.9 rebounds and 3.6 steals while leading the then-Charlotte Hornets to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they would fall short to the New Jersey Nets—there were few defenders who could hope to slow him down, let alone contain him.
If you were an opposing defender, you had little choice but to get out of his way.
Davis’s flaws were on display during those nine postseason games—the turnovers (3.0 a game), the iffy shooting (37.8 percent from the field, including 33.9 percent from three and 59.7 percent from the free-throw line)—but to linger too long on his faults would be to miss his overall effect on games. It could be revelatory.
This was a man who could galvanize his team, and the game for that matter, like few in the NBA’s history. That type of high-risk, full-tilt approach could end badly of course, but it more often than not proved scintillating.
Long before LeBron, we witnessed another high-powered act. And this one was under 6’5″.
That dunk on Kirilenko will live on forever, but many forget that Davis averaged 25.3 points on 51 percent shooting from the field during that postseason. He could be far more than highlights and flash. There was a substance that people rarely appreciated amidst the high-flying dunks and eye-popping assists.
In that ’07 postseason, Davis made good on that world of potential we’d always seen but perhaps worried he might not tap.
But like any work of genius—and there are few greater personal exploits than Davis and the Warriors taking down the No.1-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round—Davis was always going to come back down to earth after that postseason of exploits.
Peaks and valleys. Ebbs and flows. Nature will always get you in the long run.
And come back down he did. Though he was good for the Warriors the following season, it just wasn’t the same dynamic as that “We Believe” side from the spring of ’07.
Then like one of his vintage crossovers, he was gone from Northern California as if in a flash, back home to Los Angeles by way of the Clippers so he could be near his ailing grandmother.
He has floated around the periphery of the NBA’s inner circle since then, making headlines more for endorsement deals than his play on the court.
Injuries decimated his play, none more severe than the most recent, which looks to have put a premature end to his career.
Rest assured, however, that Davis will be OK without basketball. His interests have always extended beyond the court, sometimes to his NBA employers’ chagrin (they wanted him 100 percent focused on basketball), but to his personal and long-term benefit.
Competitive sports provide a nightly surge of endorphins not unlike the effects of consistent exposure to a drug. Retirement—forced removal from that wonderful feeling, wrecks some more than most.
Some never quite recover from the nightly binging on stardom and acclaim.
They simply can’t recreate that flooded feeling of enjoyment.
Davis appears to have the personal wherewithal, and variety of interests, to escape that trap. Maybe those interests deviated some of his attention from basketball and kept him at times from being truly great.
Maybe, maybe. Conjecture is a game that can go on forever.
What we know is that as Davis moves on from the game, it’s important to remember what he gave us. We were able to witness a visionary grow from baby-faced assassin to bearded vet. He may not have gotten the glory we might have hoped for—scoring titles, NBA championships—but he served the game well nonetheless.
And it’s heartening to think that, while we’ll mourn the loss of a great, he’ll be just fine.
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Gadzuric, 34, an athletic big man out of UCLA, will be added in case Amar’e Stoudemire and Jared Jeffries break down in the playoffs. Prior to signing with the Knicks, Gadzuric played for the Texas Legends in the D-League and overseas in China. Gadzuric’s last NBA action came last season when he played for the Nets, appearing in 14 games. Gadzuric had played eight seasons for the Bucks after UCLA.
“It gives us another big,” Woodson said. “Just in case Jared is not able to come back from his rest. It gives us a veteran big that’s been around that could use fouls and rebound.”
Interesting move this late in the season. The Knicks could have used some depth at the center position a couple weeks ago as was noted on this blog by Tommy Dee.
I guess this means Mike Woodson had enough of Steve Novak at the center position. That statement alone shows the lack of depth behind Tyson Chandler as well as the lack of confidence in Josh Harrelson and Jerome Jordan, who has never really gotten any meaningful minutes this season.
This brings into question Jared Jefferies return from the knee injury as he was back for a couple games and now back out again. There has been some talk of him needing surgery in the offseason.
Walker fell out of the rotation after the JR Smith signing and injuring his elbow. After acquiring him from Boston in the Nate Robinson trade, he showed some promise shooting well from three and showing some very good athletic ability. The problem was his ball handling and decision making. He couldn’t dribble drive to the basket to really take advantage of that athletic ability.
Listen, guys, I’m not sitting here and looking for challenges. But sometimes an All-NBA-caliber power forward tweets out a picture of his brand new mustache , and when that happens, Your Man feels compelled to respond.
Now, I may not have the Minnesota Timberwolves star’s fancy salons, staffed 24 hours a day by Parisian groomers equipped with the finest liniments and hair tonics in the land, but I’ve got heart . I’ve got gumption . I’ve got the ability to grow a ‘stache that didn’t get no fancy UCLA book learnin’ . (Actually, I went to Providence!) Plus, check out our eyebrows. There’s more fight in my eyebrows than in Kevin Love’s eyebrows by a COUNTRY MILE.
So, ‘stache-wise, who ya got? The first-round draft pick, All-Star anointed one? Or the hardscrabble, livin’-by-his-wits underdog from the mean streets of nice neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Staten Island? Let us know in the comments, and also, please, please pick me .