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May 20, 2011

Irving, the future Aussie?

If Team USA, with a wealth of point guard options, doesn’t end up using Kyrie Irving, he just might play international ball for Australia.

          Irving, in a Friday interview at the NBA draft combine, said he holds dual citizenship in Australia. He lived there through the age of two while his father played pro basketball in the country.

          Irving said he’d give “strong consideration’’ to playing for Australia, even though he’s never been back there and has no ties to the country.

          And what about his college coach’s intense ties to Team USA?

          “Honestly, I don’t think it would sit well with him,’’ Irving said of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 20, 2011 at 03:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

Irving, Williams at 10% body fat

The NBA releases the weights, heights and other measures they take at this pre-draft combine in Chicago. One of the more interesting categories is always body fat, since it's a gauge of how well these guys have stayed in shape.

Here's a surprise: Duke's Kyrie Irving and Arizona's Derrick Williams -- the frontrunners to be the first two selections June 23 -- were among just seven draft prospects with body fat at or above 10 percent.

Irving was at 10.2 percent and Williams at 10.8. Duke's Kyle Singler was also up there, at 10 percent.

NBA scouts and coaches generally say players should never top 8 percent body fat, at least in-season.

Of course, 10 percent isn't nearly as bad as Georgia forward Trey Thompkins, who showed up with 15.5 percent body fat.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 20, 2011 at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

May 19, 2011

On Williams' self-indulgence

Arizona forward Derrick Williams sure does like himself.

          There’s nothing wrong with self-confidence. I’ve never met a successful NBA player who lacks for it. In fact, Charlotte Bobcats point guard D.J. Augustin’s biggest problem was his lack of that quality.

          But there’s a distinct difference between self-confidence and arrogance. Williams was preening Thursday at the NBA Draft Combine, sounding like the beauty queen so in love with her own looks that her favorite possession is the mirror.

Michael Jordan had a big ego. Magic Johnson had a big ego. Larry Bird had a huge ego. None of those three would have acted the way Williams did around the media Thursday, particularly before they were drafted.

          Williams sounds resentful that the consensus says Duke point guard Kyrie Irving should be the No. 1 pick. He seems to think it’s his birthright to be the top pick, and anything short of that is a rip-off. It’s never good when you come off like a pro wrestler demanding a steel-cage match.

          This is going to bother teams with high picks (and, in the end, does it really matter whether you're the first or second pick?) More importantly, it’s going to get Williams’ butt kicked somewhere down the line. I’ve seen how this works in the NBA.

The gentlest resolution will be Williams getting dressed down by some veteran teammate. Somebody will make fun of his clothes, Williams will get all snippy, and he’ll be humiliated by his elders. It will be classic hazing.

Or it will be something uglier. Did you see the way Andrew Bynum slammed J.J. Barea in that playoff game? Bynum has nothing personal against Barea, he was just sick of the Mavs beating up on the Lakers.

If Williams keeps telling everyone how wonderful he is, somebody is going to target him. And that opponent won’t be subtle.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 19, 2011 at 10:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

NCAAs sent Irving to pros

Former Duke point guard Kyrie Irving -- the frontrunner to be the NBA's top pick -- just said he'd be playing for Duke next season had he not played in those NCAA tournament games in March.

Irving said there was no chance he'd have turned pro, based on the eight early-season games he played as a freshman before suffering a severe turf toe-type injury.

Irving said there were just too many questions about his health, before he returned to the court, to have felt comfortable turning pro.

Irving looks like the Cleveland Cavaliers' logical move at the top of the draft. He's participating only in physical exams here, not any of the workouts that are part of the NBA's annual pre-draft combine.

Irving said he has a pact with his father to still graduate from Duke in the next five years.

Much more from Irving in Friday's Observer. 

Posted by Observer Sports on May 19, 2011 at 12:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

May 17, 2011

Key term: Lottery protection

“Lottery protection’’ is a term so commonplace to NBA deal-making that it’s become perfunctory and generic.

          Tuesday demonstrated why. Cleveland and Utah have two of the first three picks of this NBA draft because they made savvy deals, with the Los Angeles Clippers and New Jersey Nets, that included no lottery protection.

          That doesn’t mean the Clippers and Nets screwed up. The Clippers got out from under Baron Davis’s massive contract. The Nets got point guard Deron Williams, arguably one of the 10 most desirable players if you were rebuilding a franchise.

          Cleveland and Utah managed to pry those picks from the Clips and Nets without any protection. That’s very rare. It’s partially about perception; teams don’t need the headache of explaining to their fan bases, months and sometimes years later, why they forfeited a top-three rookie.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 17, 2011 at 10:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

May 15, 2011

Heat didn't look so hot

Hey, did you see that? A complete butt-kicking by the Chicago Bulls.

Never has one game decided a series. In fact, the Bulls only did what they were supposed to do – win a home game. But this is why the Bulls are the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and the Miami Heat isn’t.

          They’re a team. They play fantastic team defense. They complement their best player, Derrick Rose, beautifully. I voted Rose NBA MVP, but I think on some level the Bulls’ MVP is Joakim Noah for all the ways he makes life easier for his teammates.

          The Heat is a collection of great talent. The Bulls are a great team. Big difference, but that’s been trivialized in the fantasy-league world.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 15, 2011 at 10:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

May 13, 2011

Higgins, on traits he values

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, I did a long interview with Charlotte Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins Thursday, to help prepare a package of stories in Sunday’s Observer on the team’s draft preparations.

          One of my editors, Mike Persinger, suggested a simple question that I thought drew an interesting answer. I asked Rod what traits he values most when evaluating draft prospects.

“First, I want to see if a player’s skills match his NBA position,’’ Higgins replied.

“And intangibles are also very important: How passionate is he about basketball? Anybody would want to play in the NBA, for the lifestyle, the money, the fame. So you want to see some love of the craft.’’

          That’s a good point -- too many of these guys are in it just for the money and the perks.

There were some things about Larry Johnson that were exasperating here with the Hornets, but the thing I respected most about Johnson was his genuine love of the game – if the NBA was still being played in armories, paying players $20 a game, Johnson would have played. Not sure many of these others would.

One more thing from Higgins, that didn’t make my Sunday package: I asked him, with three picks in the top 39, how many players he planned to work out.

Higgins didn’t reply with a number because he wants to audition as many draft-worthy players as will come to Charlotte. Last spring, when the Bobcats had no draft picks, they still worked out over 40 players.

So you’ll see dozens pass through town, starting the week after next.

Lots more on the draft in Sunday’s Observer.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 13, 2011 at 03:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

May 12, 2011

Higgins confident on Henderson's recovery timeline

I spent much of this afternoon with Charlotte Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins, for a story in Sunday's Observer on the team's draft preparations.

I asked Higgins if he had any concerns about Gerald Henderson recovering from recent hip surgery. Higgins said he spoke with Henderson by phone Wednesday. That conversation, plus the medical reports he got, leave Higgins' confident Henderson will be ready for the start of training camp.

"He's in good spirits and highly motivated to get back,'' Higgins said of Henderson, who had the procedure in Vail, Colo., Tuesday. "We anticipate him being ready for the start'' of camp.

Henderson will be on crutches the next eight weeks. His recovery time is projected at four to six months.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 12, 2011 at 04:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

May 11, 2011

Ex-Hornet Traylor dead at 34

I just heard ex-Charlotte Hornet Robert "Tractor'' Traylor has died, at 34, of an apparent heart attack in Puerto Rico..

Traylor was Shaq in dimensions without being Shaq in ability. I think the first time I saw him was at a national sports festival. Even at 16, he consumed the lane on a basketball court, yet he was surprisingly nimble in a football lineman way.

Traylor will unavoidably be remembered as a piece in one of the most one-sided trades in NBA history. He was drafted sixth overall by the Dallas Mavericks in 1998, then his rights were immediately traded to Milwaukee for the rights to Dirk Nowitzki and Pat Garrity.

Think about that: The Bucks traded away future Hall of Famer Nowitzki for Traylor, and actually compensated the Mavericks by throwing in Garrity.


Posted by Observer Sports on May 11, 2011 at 02:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Henderson prognosis good

Charlotte Bobcats head athletic trainer Steve Stricker was in Colorado Tuesday for Gerald Henderson’s hip surgery. Stricker’s assessment, via Bobcats media relations:

          “There were no surprises – it’s exactly what they thought they’d see. Henderson has the same prognosis. They’re confident this will definitely alleviate his knee pain.’’

          Henderson had surgery late Tuesday in Vail, to repair a labrum in his left hip. A labrum is a ring of cartilage that supports the ball-and-socket mechanism in hips and shoulders.

          Doctors at the Steadman Clinic diagnosed that a congenital condition in Henderson’s hip was significantly contributing to tendonitis in Henderson’s knee.

          Henderson will be on crutches for about eight weeks and out of action four to six months. He began rehabilitation Wednesday morning.

Posted by Observer Sports on May 11, 2011 at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)