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Thabo Sefolosha

Sefolosha returns to Hawks, hoping to move on after arrest

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ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Thabo Sefolosha stood along the baseline, a basketball under his right arm as he watched a drill on the first day of training camp for the Atlanta Hawks.

Just routine stuff.

But Sefolosha is relishing every moment of his return to the court, anything to help him move on from a disputed arrest by New York City police that he said led to a broken right leg and knocked him out of the playoffs.

“It’s been a long road,” he said. “It was definitely tough watching from the sideline in the playoffs, not being able to help the team.”

Sefolosha was a key contributor off the bench, a defensive stopper who helped the Hawks to a franchise-record 60 wins and the top seed in the East. Without him, Atlanta still managed to reach the conference final for the first time, but his absence on the perimeter became apparent as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers romped to a four-game sweep.

“Sometimes you look out there, and you feel like his arms and legs are everywhere,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Solid seems like a boring word, but he’s really a good, solid defender who does a lot of things within whatever scheme you’re doing.”

During the final week of the regular season, Sefolosha and then-teammate Pero Antic made a late-night stop at a Manhattan nightclub popular with athletes and celebrities. Police arrived after another NBA player, Chris Copeland, was stabbed during an altercation.

There was no indication the Atlanta players were with Copeland or had anything to do with the stabbing, but officers say they interfered with the crime scene. They were both arrested and, at some point, Sefolosha wound up with a broken fibula and torn ligaments.

The charges against Antic have since been dropped, but Sefolosha turned down a lenient plea-bargain that would have required him to do a single day of community service. His trial is scheduled for Monday in New York.

“I’m very confident,” Sefolosha said. “But at the same time it’s not something I’m used to. I really don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t want to talk too much about it, but I’m confident and I know in my heart that I (did not do) anything wrong.”

The burden of the case – and the possibility of a civil lawsuit against police – is a distraction Sefolosha would prefer not to have as he prepares for a new season and the chance to move into the Hawks’ starting lineup.

“It’s definitely on my mind,” he said. “It’s not the best time to be dealing with all this. But it’s got to be done. I’m trying to be strong for my family and my teammates and my team, and trying to do what’s right.”

Sefolosha seems the most logical candidate to take over at small forward for DeMarre Carroll, who left the Hawks for a $60 million contract with Toronto.

Yet there are questions about Sefolosha’s offensive skills.

“I think offensively he’s a little bit underrated as far as his decision-making and passing, his slashing and understanding timing,” Budenholzer said. “We’ve just got to continue to work with his shooting and get him to where he’s making shots and he’s comfortable there.”

While Sefolosha has been cleared to take part in all activities, he acknowledged that he’s not yet at 100 percent. His minutes will be limited in camp and during preseason games.

“It’s been only 5 1-2 months,” Sefolosha said,. “I’m still building strength and building confidence.”

The Hawks have other candidates. Kent Bazemore is a bit undersized for the position, but he played well in the playoffs after Carroll was slowed by an ankle injury. The Hawks also have newcomer Tim Hardaway Jr., acquired from the New York Knicks.

Kyle Korver, another Atlanta player coming back from an injury, has been getting a lot of one-on-one time with Sefolosha during the rehab process.

“I want Thabo to be on my team again,” Korver said. “He looks great. He’s shooting the ball really good. … I think he’s going to have a great year.”

Sefolosha is certainly ready to move on.

He wants to be known for what he does on the court, not for an incident that has been linked to other racially charged incidents involving police.

However, Sefolosha, a native of Switzerland who is black, did say it has opened his eyes “to some degree.”

“I’m the same person. I will continue to be the same person,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’m still in the middle of it. But hopefully it will be a thing of the past soon.”

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

Transition Buckets: Kenneth Faried is not Brian Shaw’s biggest fan

Kenneth Faried, Brian Shaw
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With the opening of NBA training camps, there are a lot of interesting tidbits of news and stories worth reading we don’t get to here at NBC’s PBT. And we’re bloggers — we have an instinctive love of the bullet point. So we’ve combined them into one post that can get you caught up some news and notes around the NBA quickly — ”Transition buckets.” Because they are quick hitters.

• The Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried remains on the trade block in Denver, but he’s looking to have a bounce-back season under new coach Mike Malone. Players love Malone. Former coach Brian Shaw…. let’s let Faried sum up that era, from the Denver Post.

“If you don’t have a coach that believes in you, then what’s the point of going out there and playing?” Faried said. “If your coach doesn’t have faith in you and puts you out in the fire against all these great players, you’re going to get torched.”

• The woman who was a teenager when she says she was sexually assaulted by former NBA star and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson a couple decades ago is speaking out.

• Claims of players losing/gaining weight heading into training camp usually have about as much meaning as a college hookup. However, Raptors’ point guard Kyle Lowry really has slimmed down, and that could make things interesting in Toronto.

• While we’re talking Raptors, they did exercise the third-year options on Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira (both are still under their rookie contracts).

• Doc Rivers was very open about how things went this summer and the lessons he learned, spilling that to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Regrets? He has a few. But too few to mention.

• If you want to see a video of LeBron James working out before training camp opens, follow this link.

Steve Nash plans to watch a lot of video with Stephen Curry. And it’s not the collected works of Stanley Kubrick.

• Meanwhile, other people were watching video of Nash.

• Despite all the offseason moves (such as adding DeMarre Carroll), it is the development of Jonas Valanciunas that will be key to the Raptors taking a step forward this season.

• The Birdman Chris Andersen wants to play another 20 years in the league. Or just a couple.

• In case you didn’t know, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a fiction book (along with Anna Waterhouse)called Mycroft Holmes. He is the older brother of Sherlock Holmes, who you may have heard of — Kareem is a huge Holmesian. For those of you who are audio book fans, the book just came out through Audible.

• You had to know the Atlanta Hawks’ Ashley Madison-inspired ad campaign would offend some people, here is the response from one quarter.

Quote of the Day: Butler not concerned with Rose’s contract comment

Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler
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“He can talk about unicorns and rainbows for all I care. Just help us win some basketball games.”

—Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, referring to Derrick Rose‘s contract comments. Courtesy Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com.

In case you were busy watching “Room 237” and missed it, Rose caused an unnecessary flap at Bulls media day Monday by talking about his coming free agency — in 2017.  It was vintage Rose, not thinking about the impact of what he would say or how it might be spun (especially by his detractors, of which there are plenty in Chicago).

It doesn’t bother Butler, however. He is likely more concerned about when Rose will come back from his fractured orbital bone.

 

Jabari Parker a full participant as Bucks open training camp

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Jabari Parker was a full participant when the Milwaukee Bucks opened training camp.

It was the official practice for the forward since his rookie season ended in December because of a left knee injury.

Coach Jason Kidd said Parker went through the whole practice on Tuesday. Parker said he was making progress, and he was encouraged by how practice went.

Parker and the team are proceeding cautiously. Parker played just 25 games last year before tearing his ACL on Dec. 15.

Getting Parker back on the floor should only help an up-and-coming squad that made a surprise run to the playoffs last season.

Along with Parker, the Bucks’ young core returned intact, including forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and shooting guard Khris Middleton.

Kevin Durant says he’s focused on defense this season

Kevin Durant
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When you’re a former MVP, the greatest shooter on the planet, and a guy who averaged 32 points a game your last full season, people think offense when they think of you. With good reason.

But Kevin Durant knows if the Thunder are going to compete for a title, it is their middle-of-the-pack defense from last season that has to improve. And Durant told Erik Horne of the Oklahoman he’s going to be the change he wants to see.

“I think that’s an underrated part of my game,” Durant said Tuesday. “I feel like I can guard 1 through 4. I can switch with bigs and point guards, and I can use my length a lot….

“Shotblocking I think is one of my strong suits as well. I just have to be totally focused every single possession on it, and I haven’t done a good job of that. But once I’m locked in and focused on what I have to do as a defender, I think I’m pretty good.”

Durant is an underrated defender — he’s right in that he’s good at using his length to disrupt on that end. The issue in the past has been focus, but during his MVP season he played well on that end. He’s also a good rebounder.

How new coach Billy Donovan will set up the Thunder defense is something to watch as the season gets rolling, but he’s got a lot of good chess pieces to work with. Things look a lot better when Serge Ibaka is patrolling the paint. The Thunder getting their defense into the top 10 will be one of the keys to them getting out of the West and contending for a title.

Oh, and Durant will score plenty, too. He’s a guy you may want to try to get on your fantasy team.