Friday, June 25, 2010

Draft Recap

On a night where John Wall and Evan Turner dominated headlines, this year's NBA draft provided steals such as Maryland's Greivis Vasquez, selected 28th by the Memphis Grizzlies. (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Let's just say last night's NBA draft was, in a nutshell, the most interesting four hours in the NBA season; and that includes game 7 of the NBA Finals.

All in all, sixty men were fortunate enough to hear their names called by either commissioner David Stern or deputy commissioner Adam Silver; and although all sixty will not make an immediate impact for a myriad of reasons, the order in which they were selected provided an entertaining backdrop to what will go down as a monumental offseason, which will be highlighted on Thursday when an elite class of free agents hits the open market. Some teams now have the space to go after a LeBron James or Chris Bosh, while others opted instead for the old-fashioned way of rebuilding. Here's a look at the winners, losers, steals, and surprises of last night's theatrics at Madison Square Garden.


Washington Wizards - Even without John Wall, Washington had a solid draft, going with Marquette's Lazar Hayward at the end of the first round and trading for Hamady Ndiaye of Rutgers in the second. Both demonstrated they can be solid backups in the near future, and both are products of the Big East.

New Jersey Nets - The pick of Derrick Favors would have surprised me if it weren't announced some six hours prior to the draft, but New Jersey is really in this column because of the trade they made with Atlanta to acquire Texas forward Damion James, who will give the Nets a decided edge in rebounding along with Brook Lopez.

Memphis Grizzlies - They only kept two picks, but Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez will pay immediate dividends for the Grizz, and Memphis fans will love both.

Dallas Mavericks - Mark Cuban purchased the rights to Dominique Jones after he was drafted by Memphis and was lucky to get Solomon Alabi in the second round to fill two needs.

Big East Conference - Eleven Big East players were selected last night, starting with Syracuse forward Wesley Johnson, (taken 4th overall by Minnesota) and ending with Stanley Robinson of UConn. (taken 59th by the Magic)


Boston Celtics - The reigning Eastern Conference champs made a questionable first-round pick in Texas guard Avery Bradley when they had better options available when they came on the clock at No. 19. Luke Harangody is a solid player, but has yet to prove that his game will translate to the professional level.

Toronto Raptors - Expected to lose Chris Bosh to free agency, the Raptors didn't do themselves any favors with the selection of North Carolina forward Ed Davis, whose ability was compromised by injuries during his two years in college, leading many to predict him among the potential busts in this year's draft class.

Lance Stephenson - "Born Ready" was anything but after just one year at Cincinnati, and fell all the way to 40th overall, where he was taken by the Indiana Pacers, where he will try to make Midwest fans forget about Reggie Miller.


James Anderson - Drafted 20th overall by the Spurs, Anderson has been anointed by yours truly as the next breakout star in the NBA, and would have gone to Chicago if they didn't make the Kirk Hinrich deal last night. The Spurs, much like the Pittsburgh Steelers, continue to show why they are unlike any other club when it comes to the draft, always taking the best player available (DeJuan Blair a year ago) and plugging him into their system.

Dominique Jones - He should get a chance to play early and often in Dallas in a rotation that includes Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki; and will be able to show off his skills against the Western Conference's elite on a regular basis.

Greivis Vasquez - With Mike Conley being shaky at the point in Memphis, Vasquez could be a starter sometime during his rookie year, and provides an ability to score from the point as well as pass.


Andy Rautins - Drafted 38th by the Knicks when most thought he wouldn't even hear his name called, Rautins gives the Knicks scoring ability and an outside shot in the backcourt.

Devin Ebanks - Projected as a fringe first-rounder, Ebanks fell to the Lakers at 43, and should be a solid player on the bench over the next few years.

Da'Sean Butler - Ebanks' teammate went right before him, going to Miami at 42, ending his freefall that was caused by his torn ACL in the Final Four against Duke.

Gordon Hayward - Probably the biggest surprise of all came when the Butler product went to the Jazz with the No. 9 pick, as Utah was rumored to be considering Luke Babbitt (who went 16th) and Ed Davis. (selected 13th)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2010 Mock Draft

The stars of tomorrow take center stage in Thursday night's NBA draft, with Kentucky's John Wall a near-certainty to be drafted first overall by the Washington Wizards. (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

I have always been intrigued by the annual draft for each of the four major sports, sometimes to the point where my preparation for the next one would begin almost immediately after the last pick was announced. In recent years, however, I have not been as obsessed, waiting to post mock drafts until after pro days and workouts have been completed; and 2010 comes as no exception.

Although there is no such thing as a sure thing, it is almost a slam-dunk (no pun intended) that John Wall and Evan Turner will go 1-2 to the Wizards and 76ers, respectively, and Wesley Johnson appears to be headed to New Jersey at No. 3. What happens after that, you might ask? Well, it is my hope that the following predictions will help you make sense of tomorrow night's NBA draft at Madison Square Garden, where commissioner David Stern will welcome sixty men into the National Basketball Association.

1) Washington Wizards - John Wall (G - Kentucky) - The replacement to Gilbert Arenas and the latest in a long line of can't-miss prospects, Wall is deserving of the top spot after his lone campaign in Lexington.

2) Philadelphia 76ers - Evan Turner (G/F - Ohio State) - One may argue that the Sixers don't need Turner since they have Andre Iguodala, but in Turner they get their best potential franchise player since drafting Allen Iverson No. 1 overall in 1996.

3) New Jersey Nets - Wesley Johnson (F - Syracuse) - With a healthy Devin Harris, Johnson will give new coach Avery Johnson two gifted shooters in his lineup on any given night. His game is also more suited to the professional level than anyone else available in this spot, assuming Wall and Turner are indeed gone.

4) Minnesota Timberwolves - Derrick Favors (F - Georgia Tech) - Minnesota wants Johnson and has rejected numerous trade offers to prove it, but in Favors they get yet another young front line player that will blend in nicely with Kevin Love and Al Jefferson.

5) Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins (F/C - Kentucky) - One more John Calipari product gone, as Cousins gives the Kings their long-awaited replacement for Chris Webber. He is a work in progress, however, and his maturity has been a cause for concern.

6) Golden State Warriors - Al-Farouq Aminu (F - Wake Forest) - Aminu is coveted by the Clippers at No. 8, but he's clearly the best player on the board for the Warriors here.

7) Detroit Pistons - Greg Monroe (F - Georgetown) - I can't see Detroit taking a flyer on Ed Davis after his broken wrist, and having covered the Big East for the last three years, I can personally say that Monroe is ready to take his game to the next level, and a forward that plays like a point guard is hard to pass on.

8) Los Angeles Clippers - Gordon Hayward (F - Butler) - With Aminu off the board here, the Clips take the first reach of the night with the darling of the NCAA Tournament.

9) Utah Jazz - Luke Babbitt (F - Nevada) - Utah craves Monroe, but will take Babbitt if he's not there, since Kyle Korver is not expected to come back.

10) Indiana Pacers - Ekpe Udoh (F - Baylor) - Udoh has amazed in his workouts, and becomes the latest rising star on a front line that includes Danny Granger, Tyler Hansbrough, and Roy Hibbert.

11) New Orleans Hornets - Patrick Patterson (F - Kentucky) - Rumor has it that the Hornets are shopping Emeka Okafor, so they opt to replace him with a dominating rebounder in Patterson.

12) Memphis Grizzlies - Cole Aldrich (C - Kansas) - Even though the Grizz drafted Hasheem Thabeet last year, there is no way they can pass on a big man, thus taking Aldrich.

13) Toronto Raptors - Xavier Henry (G - Kansas) - Another Jayhawk goes here after Patterson is off the board, and even though Henry will spend most of his time in the backcourt, Toronto gets its replacement for Chris Bosh.

14) Houston Rockets - Ed Davis (F - North Carolina) - Davis' injury is going to scare more teams off than initially expected, but Houston will end his freefall.

15) Milwaukee Bucks - Paul George (F - Fresno State) - With John Salmons supposedly opting out, Milwaukee suddenly needs help on the wing, and they get it in George, who has been rising up draft boards lately. George will likely back up new arrival Corey Maggette.

16) Minnesota Timberwolves - Eric Bledsoe (G - Kentucky) - Jonny Flynn will be moved to shooting guard to accommodate Bledsoe, who despite possibly being a reach at 16, gives Minnesota another potent backcourt weapon.

17) Chicago Bulls - James Anderson (G - Oklahoma State) - The next breakout star in the NBA, (and that's a bold statement) Anderson is Chicago's man in this spot, and he'll almost definitely be there for the taking.

18) Miami Heat - Damion James (F - Texas) - Pat Riley has been searching for a replacement for Shawn Marion, and he gets a scorer who was also the Big 12's all-time rebounding leader in college.

19) Boston Celtics - Dominique Jones (G - South Florida) - Boston shakes it up by taking a man who was clearly the most underrated guy in the Big East last year, averaging over 20 points per game on a USF squad he led into the NIT.

20) San Antonio Spurs - Daniel Orton (F - Kentucky) - Let's face it, Tim Duncan is getting older and won't be around forever. Spurs decide to think about the future with this pick.

21) Oklahoma City Thunder - Hassan Whiteside (C - Marshall) - Whiteside could go as high as 11 to the Hornets, but lands in Oklahoma City, who desperately needs a big man.

22) Portland Trail Blazers - Craig Brackins (F - Iowa State) - Portland should start to admit that the Greg Oden decision was a mistake, and this pick would be a step in the right direction.

23) Minnesota Timberwolves - Kevin Seraphin (F - France) - Minnesota can't afford to pay three first-round picks, so if they don't unload any, Seraphin is the guy in this spot. Knicks have been rumored to be interested in this pick.

24) Atlanta Hawks - Quincy Pondexter (F - Washington) - Joe Johnson is likely out in Atlanta, and Pondexter can fill his spot in the lineup adequately.

25) Memphis Grizzlies - Elliot Williams (G - Memphis) - The former Duke recruit that transferred home gets to stay home with Memphis taking him.

26) Oklahoma City Thunder - Larry Sanders (F - Virginia Commonwealth) - After already taking a center earlier, Kevin Durant gets more help up front with the 6-10 Sanders.

27) New Jersey Nets - Lance Stephenson (G - Cincinnati) - Here's another shocker as the Nets grab the Brooklyn standout, a move that will help them two years from now when they open their new arena.

28) Memphis Grizzlies - Avery Bradley (G - Texas) - Bradley could go higher, but he is a good pickup for Memphis, where he could platoon with Mike Conley at the point.

29) Orlando Magic - Jordan Crawford (G - Xavier) - Crawford epitomized my concept of "ABSOLUTE MONEY" with his breakout NCAA Tournament, and his arrival in Orlando should spell the end of the J.J. Redick era. Crawford could also challenge Vince Carter for playing time during the season.

30) Washington Wizards - Devin Ebanks (G/F - West Virginia) - Ebanks may not be what Washington wants in this spot, but he is an all-around player who would help complete the Wizards' starting five.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lavin Almost Dun(Lap) With Johnny Staff

Steve Lavin puts his last piece of St. John's puzzle in place with the hire of Mike Dunlap as his third assistant coach. (Photo courtesy of

It was almost a foregone conclusion two months ago that finally became official today with a press release from Mark Fratto, the associate athletic director for communications at St. John's who serves as the Johnnies' men's basketball SID.

In a move that is being lauded by Red Storm fans and college basketball aficionados across the country, Steve Lavin seemingly completed his staff today with the hiring of Mike Dunlap as his third assistant coach. Dunlap comes to Queens fresh off stints at Oregon and Arizona, and will join Tony Chiles and Rico Hines as Lavin's assistants on the St. John's bench this season. Lavin has also hired Derrick Wrobel in an administrative capacity, and the Dunlap hiring comes two weeks after the new coach tabbed former Rice High School head man Maurice Hicks to be his director of basketball operations. Lavin introduced Dunlap to the St. John's community as a "sound tactician with a deep understanding of the game," who brings a "wealth of experience to our staff."

In addition to having the same Pac-10 ties Lavin possesses, Dunlap spent some time on George Karl's staff as an assistant with the Denver Nuggets as well, and coached professionally in Australia in the mid-1990s.

Gonzo Gone Wild

The latest piece of the Bobby Gonzalez puzzle has been put together today with the revelation that the disgraced Seton Hall coach's profanity-laced tirade was a factor in his dismissal. (Photo courtesy of SNY)

There have been hundreds of characters in the college basketball coaching fraternity; but for better or worse, only one Bobby Gonzalez.

After his interview last week with the Newark Star-Ledger's Brendan Prunty helped shed some light on the turn of events that led to his departure from Seton Hall, the former coach is again making headlines after a report of Gonzalez launched an expletive-fueled harangue at university dean Patrick Hobbs six days before he was dismissed as the leader of the Pirates.

Through court documents obtained by SNY that are relevant to the legal matter between Gonzalez and Seton Hall, SNY's Adam Zagoria today chronicled a telephone exchange between Gonzalez and Hobbs that took place on March 11th when Hobbs called the coach to ask about an incident involving Gonzalez and a Bergen Record reporter that Gonzalez allegedly threatened. Gonzalez proceeded to defensively and vehemently tell Hobbs that "nobody is going to tell me how to run my motherf---ing program. Not you, not Monsignor, (Seton Hall president Robert Sheeran) not (athletic director) Joe Quinlan." Gonzalez repeated twice more that it was "my f---ing program," and the legal documents state that Hobbs hung up after Gonzalez finished his harangue.

Seton Hall has filed a counterclaim against Gonzalez, who is still looking for a settlement from the university after being terminated for cause on March 17th following the Pirates' NIT elimination at the hands of Texas Tech, an event that is now a footnote in the sequence of happenings that led to Seton Hall hiring Kevin Willard as its new head coach two weeks later.

Izzo Turns Down Cavs To Stay At MSU

Now that Tom Izzo has decided to remain at Michigan State, the Breslin Center will continue to house the Spartan student section, affectionately dubbed the "Izzone." (Photo courtesy of CBS Sports)

After over a week of deliberation, Tom Izzo has finally reached a verdict in his personal trial, and for Michigan State fans, the coach has been acquitted.

That's because Izzo turned down the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier tonight to remain in East Lansing, where he has resided since 1983 as an assistant to Jud Heathcote before becoming the head coach of the Spartans. A press conference is currently underway to confirm Izzo's commitment to Sparty.

Izzo is no stranger to NBA temptation, as he declined an offer to coach the Atlanta Hawks in 2000 after guiding Michigan State to a national championship. It is widely speculated that the uncertain future of Cavaliers star LeBron James was among the many factors in Izzo's decision to stay where he was, as James will become a free agent on July 1st. Although the odds of the NBA's two-time reigning Most Valuable Player returning to Cleveland are not exactly very favorable, Izzo said via a press release that he "hopes a 6-8, 270-pound forward in Cleveland decides to stay home," a reference to James potentially re-signing with the Cavaliers. Izzo also praised Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, a Michigan State alum who reached out to Izzo shortly after deciding to part ways with former coach Mike Brown, for his class and professionalism.

Izzo will undoubtedly have a national championship contender taking the court at the Breslin Center next season, as the Spartans return everyone from last year's Final Four team except for now-graduated forward Raymar Morgan. Point guard Kalin Lucas is among the many returning for a senior season; and he is steadily progressing in his recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon that was surgically repaired, something Izzo can look forward to with pleasure after proclaiming that he is "here for life at Michigan State."

With a guarantee like that, the already prosperous Spartan life has only become more fruitful and promising, with great anticipation of an already bright future in East Lansing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

? To The Izzo?

Tom Izzo remains at a crossroads, unsure whether or not to stay at Michigan State or leave for the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

Ten years ago, Tom Izzo was tempted to leave Michigan State University for the then-vacant Atlanta Hawks job after guiding the Spartans to their first national championship since 1979. A decade later, Izzo is again feeling the allure of the NBA; but this time with a different team led by arguably the most recognizable player in the game.

Fresh off leading Sparty to its second consecutive Final Four and sixth in his 15-year tenure, Izzo has been contacted by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, and it is worth noting that Gilbert is a Michigan State alum. In fact, the Cavaliers' position is so intriguing that Izzo declined to answer questions regarding the situation at his annual basketball camp, and the coach has gone so far as to contact Kentucky coach John Calipari, who bolted UMass for the New Jersey Nets, about the transition to the professional game and life as an NBA coach. Cleveland has been searching for a coach since announcing that Mike Brown would not return next season.

In another twist of fate, ESPNEWS and the Cleveland Plain Dealer are both reporting that Cavaliers star LeBron James will endorse the hiring of Izzo, despite James' assertions that he will not get involved in the coaching search. James is a pending free agent who will hit the open market on July 1st, and it is unclear as to whether or not he will remain in Cleveland, as the Knicks, Bulls, Heat and Nets are among the many suitors for the reigning two-time NBA Most Valuable Player.

Should Izzo decide to return to East Lansing for the 2010-11 season, he will have one of his deepest teams ever since replacing Jud Heathcote on the Spartans' bench. Guards Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers and Chris Allen are all back for their senior seasons, and the only major player in last year's lineup that will not be back is Raymar Morgan, who graduated last month. Izzo also brings in a strong recruiting class led by shooting guard Keith Appling, a high school teammate of current Spartan forward Derrick Nix, who will enter his sophomore campaign next year.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Gonzo Breaks The Silence

Three months after being unceremoniously fired from Seton Hall, Bobby Gonzalez is finally opening up to the media about his divorce. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

Attention, college basketball world: Bobby Gonzalez is back.

That's right, the colorful Gonzalez, who was recently dismissed by Seton Hall this past March, has finally gone public about the events leading to his divorce from the Pirates, addressing some key elements of the relationship in an exclusive interview with Brendan Prunty of the Newark Star-Ledger.

Gonzalez, who has filed a lawsuit against the university for breach of contract, explained some of the reasoning behind his methods in the interview with Prunty, while at the same time saying Seton Hall president Msgr. Robert Sheeran should "be ashamed of himself" after how the Gonzalez dilemma was handled. The coach was fired on March 17th following an NIT loss to Texas Tech in an ugly game where Pirates forward Herb Pope was ejected for a low blow on a Texas Tech player. Gonzalez was replaced two weeks later by former Iona coach Kevin Willard.

While Gonzalez also mentioned in the interview that Seton Hall "had the right" to fire him, but is still disgruntled about the university upholding its decision to terminate him with cause. The ex-coach is also confident that he will be hired again somewhere, but hopes that Seton Hall will honor his contract before anything else is made official.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Farewell To A Legend: John Wooden 1910-2010

John Wooden may be remembered for coaching many all-time greats while at UCLA, but is remembered more for his impact on the game and life in general. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

If you asked any college basketball fan what their list of the top ten coaches of all-time looked like, you would get various answers. Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Bobby Knight, Jim Calhoun, and a slew of other names would be prevalent in each list. Consistent among each of them, however, would be the man who arguably defined success during his tenure at UCLA, guiding the Bruins to an unheard-of ten national championships in twelve seasons. A man whose players read like a Who's Who of basketball, some of whom are enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. A man who was not afraid to teach while simultaneously bringing out the best in his young students. Regardless of how many college hoops aficionados you asked for opinions on who the greatest coaches were, I'm sure each and every individual would reference the name of John Robert Wooden almost immediately. Last night, the "Wizard of Westwood," who gained notoriety for defining UCLA basketball and remaining a force within the game, passed away just four months shy of his hundredth birthday.

Wooden took UCLA to a 620-147 record in his 27 seasons there, and while building the Bruins into a powerhouse, recruited future Hall of Famers the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. Even though his ten titles are a record that will probably never be broken, Wooden the coach takes a backseat to Wooden the man, for it was what he did off the court and outside the arena that proved to be his epitaph.

Even after his retirement from UCLA in 1975, Wooden was always in touch with the game, and his presence touched people outside the basketball world, as even Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter has recalled being inspired by the hardwood icon. After learning of his passing last night, St. John's head coach Steve Lavin; one of Wooden's many successors at UCLA before moving on first to ESPN and then the Johnnies, offered this testimonial to one of the founding fathers of college basketball:

"Coach Wooden leaves all of us a lasting legacy from a lifetime devoted to goodness. Coach believed the court was his classroom and basketball was a metaphor for life. He was an eternal learner and teacher. He was the best friend and mentor one could hope for. It is difficult to imagine a college basketball season without John Wooden being with us."

All of us involved with the game can attest to Lavin's eulogy, especially the last part. Although he retired eleven years before I was born, I would not be able to picture life without Wooden, simply because he was even more of a ubiquitous presence outside the game as a former coach than he was on the sidelines at Pauley Pavilion.

Perhaps the best way to remember Wooden will come from one of the many motivational and inspirational quotations he made throughout his illustrious life:

"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable."

One can no doubt believe that Wooden's success did not come naturally, and even after retirement, he strove to be the best he could be. Our only regret is that he will no longer be around to help us achieve the same for ourselves.

Rest in peace, Coach.