When drafting a project big man in the first round — someone like Florida State’s Solomon Alabi — the key question has to be work ethic. Is he going to be happy just to make the NBA and luxuriate in the perks that come with the job, or does he genuinely want to get better?
David Thorpe, Executive Director of the Pro Training Center and ESPN analyst, worked out Alabi and in an interview at Raptors Republic gave him about the highest work ethic honor you could — comparing him to Joakim Noah.
Noah is the same player in practice you see on the court in games, and that kind of relentless effort makes a team work harder ad play better.
“I think Alabi, like Noah, has the chance to be that kind of guy,” Thorpe said.
The NBCSports.com mock draft has Alabi going at No. 25 to the Hawks (who could certainly use a shot-blocking center). He may have moved up since the NBA Draft Combine and some reportedly impressive workouts, maybe going as high as 19 to Boston.
Alabi had a good athlete, he measured taller than anyone in the combine — 7’1″ with a 7’5″ wingspan. However, he is not fast, he was the slowest player at the combine, and finished dead last in the lane agility drill.
Yet the scouts love him. In part because he has a good offensive game, Thorpe saying he has a consistent jumper out to 18 feet. He could come in and be a bench big you can run the pick-and-pop with and get some defense.
Alabi is very raw with his offensive moves in the post. And the native Nigerian only started playing basketball at 15, so there are questions about how high his ceiling really is.
But an energy guy who is a legit center who can block shots and has a midrange game? And comes with incredible energy? This may be a project worth taking on.
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers are closer to being at full strength.
Forwards Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson, and Rodney Hood all returned from injuries on Friday night as Cleveland, which has been riddled with injuries all season, hosted the Phoenix Suns. Acting coach Larry Drew said none of the players will start and all will be on minutes’ restrictions.
Drew, who is filling in while coach Tyronn Lue is on leave to address his own health, plans to keep his starting lineup intact and ease the returning players into the rotation.
LeBron James, Jose Calderon, George Hill, Jeff Green and Kevin Love were scheduled to started against Phoenix, which has lost nine in a row. Drew said he and Lue will talk again Saturday about lineup changes for the upcoming trip to Brooklyn, Miami and Charlotte.
“I really didn’t want to disrupt the starting five that we have out there right now and those guys will be playing limited minutes, so I wanted to get them slowly back and acclimated to what we’re doing,” Drew said. “There’s a chance that there could be some early substitutions to get the guys in there. I’m not ruling that out, but right now I just kind of want to stay with the flow, stay with what we’ve done the last couple of ballgames and then we’ll probably after tonight we’ll see as far as where we stand as far as starters are concerned.”
Thompson missed nine games with a sprained right ankle, Nance Jr. was out four with a hamstring issue and Hood was out the past three games with a bad back.
Drew said he did not know if Lue will accompany the team on its trip.
But while the Cavs are healthier than they’ve been in weeks, the team is still missing Kyle Korver, who is with his family in Iowa following the death of his brother, and rookie Cedi Osman, who is sidelined with a left hip flexor strain.
MILWAUKEE (AP) — All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss the Milwaukee Bucks’ home game Friday night against the Chicago Bulls with a sprained right ankle.
The Bucks ruled out Antetokounmpo earlier Friday.
Antetokounmpo got hurt in the second quarter of a 127-120 loss on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Clippers when he appeared to trip over teammate Shabazz Muhammad under the Bucks’ basket.
Antetokounmpo is fourth in the league in scoring at 27.3 points a game.
For the last two decades, there was less drama around the San Antonio Spurs than the recent Russian election. The Lakers were the soap opera, the Spurs and Tim Duncan just kept winning titles.
Not this season. Kawhi Leonard has missed all but nine games, his teammates are asking when he’s going to return, Tony Parker — who is playing — says his quad tendon injury was far worse, and the Spurs organization is springing leaks like the Titanic.
What does all that mean? I get into it in this latest PBT Extra.
Short term, Leonard’s return or non-return will have a serious impact on the Western Conference playoffs.
Long term, after the Spurs offer Leonard the designated player max extension this summer (as is expected), everything will get back to normal.
In 2011, the Knicks amnestied Chauncey Billups. Unlike traditional waivers, amnesty waivers didn’t require claiming teams to pay Billups’ full salary. They could bid a partial amount – New York on the hook for the rest – and the highest bid would get Billups.
So, it was practically a forgone conclusion someone would claim Billups. The only questions were which team and for how much?
But Billups didn’t want to go to the highest bidder. He wanted to become a free agent and choose his destination – even though his contract and the Collective Bargaining Agreement put him on a different course.
So, Billups – a consummate professional throughout his career – threatened to become a problem. Adrian Wojnarowski at the time:
I remember talking to Chauncey on a Saturday morning one day. He was very determined that no team would put a waiver claim in on him, because he was headed to Miami. He was going to go play with the Heat. He had his bags packed. But he needed a team not to claim him. And he and I were just talking about this. I read this quote back to him recently, and we were laughing.
He went on this two-, three-minute rant about that basically, “I’m just going to be a complete asshole wherever I go if you claim me.” And so, he went on this rant. And he read that, and he kept going. And finally he stopped. I don’t even remember if I asked him a question. He just started when I called him. And at the end, there was like this pause. And he goes, “Do you think anyone is going to buy it?”
The Clippers submitted the highest bid for Billups, and he quickly got on board. Even though they traded for Chris Paul at point guard shortly after, Billups of course was a model teammate and veteran leader. Late in his career, he couldn’t stay healthy enough to contribute much on the court. But the Clippers still valued his presence. He even re-signed with them the following summer.
This was such a readable bluff – which says plenty about Billups’ character.