Greg Ostertag On NBA Comeback: I Just Want To Play

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RENO, Nev. — Greg Ostertag was the first big-name veteran to sign with the NBA Development League when he decided to embark on a comeback with the Texas Legends a few weeks ago. The longtime Utah Jazz center wasn’t impressive in his initial appearances, but the consensus was that as long as he was able to show improvement at this week’s NBA Development League Showcase, the 38-year-old has a chance to make it back to the big leagues.

The 7-foot-2 center played less than 11 minutes in Tuesday’s 94-86 victory over the Tulsa 66ers on Tuesday afternoon in front of a bevy of NBA scouts at Reno’s D-League Showcase, but he made them count with eight points and three rebounds while serving as a solid back-up center to Dallas Mavericks’ assisgnee Sean Williams.  The Texas native knows that’s exactly what he needed to do in order to work further toward his goal — a goal that was just re-hatched last month.

“I’d been out for five years and I missed it. The first year I didn’t miss it much, but as retirement went on I started missing it more. I tried to come back a couple times and it didn’t work out so I thought I’d give it one more shot,” Ostertag told Pro Basketball Talk following Tuesday’s game. “I’d been thinking about it while they were working on the NBA lockout so when they got the lockout done I made a call to my agent and asked what he thought the chances were. He said ‘let’s give it a shot, we’ll try to get you on a D-League team’ and here I am.”

Admittedly, the comeback didn’t start off as swimmingly as one could hope as Ostertag struggled in his first game, but it’s understandable that it wasn’t easy for a guy to return to form with two weeks of conditioning following a five-year absence.

“In my first game, I was back for two weeks and then thrown into a game for 17 minutes. I played as hard as I could for 17 minutes, but we didn’t have a whole lot of practice time to get extra conditioning or some practice in,” Ostertag said. “Part of it’s been because I’ve been sore and these knees are aching so when I do get off the court, I want to let my body rest.”

He showed Tuesday that his conditioning is improving, though, while admitting it’s still a process.

“I’m getting there, man. I’ve only had two weeks of being back in basketball,” Ostertag said. “These teams know what I’m capable of doing, it’s just a matter of being in shape enough to get out there and do what I’m capable of doing to get out on the floor and be productive.”

Productivity is relative, of course, but Ostertag believes his knowledge and ability to fill the role he filled during his entire NBA career will benefit him when NBA teams begin looking at back-up big men over the coming weeks.

“I’ll be ready for whatever. I just want to play. Teams know what I can bring to the table – putbacks, clogging the paint, rebounding and that’s it,” Ostertag said. “It’s more just a matter of getting into shape enough to go out and play 10 minutes or 20 minutes or whatever an NBA team wants me to play.”

As long as an NBA team wants him to play, regardless of minutes, he’ll be happy. Which NBA team wouldn’t want to make Greg Ostertag happy?

Jeremy Lin says “at times it kind of sucks” being only Asian-American in NBA

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When Jeremy Lin landed in Toronto — after being bought out and waived by the Hawks, clearing the way for him to sign with the Raptors for the playoff push — the number of cameras and reporters in the Raptors locker room instantly ballooned. Lin remains one of the most popular players worldwide in the NBA, he’s a social media phenom, and there are cameras there to track his every move and send it around the world, particularly back to Asia.

Lin isn’t in the NBA because he’s famous and sells tickets — he’s a quality guard who can help a team, there’s a reason the contending Raptors picked him up — but he inhabits the role of both player and groundbreaker.

Lin talked about that (and Asians in popular culture) with Cary Chow of the Undefeated in an interesting Q&A at The Undefeated, where he said being the only Asian-American in the NBA is not easy.

At times it kind of sucks. At other times it’s amazing. Amazing because you get to challenge everyone’s viewpoints and perspectives. I’m rooting for so many more Asians to come in. Last year, when I was with Brooklyn and we had Ding [Yanyuhang] on the summer league team, I was like, ‘Dude, please make the team. We’d have so much fun together during the season.’

On the feeling that he has to represent an entire race.

Yeah. At first it was something I ran from and really struggled with. Now I embrace it way more and am more equipped to handle it. I’m not perfect, but I kind of know who I want to be at this point in my career, so I keep trucking along and doing things the right way and stay above all the distractions.

Lin has handled his fame deftly over the years. He has challenges and opportunities not open to other players, and that’s the balancing act. It takes someone smart, but also grounded and balanced to pull it all off. The Raptors got all that, along with the extra cameras around the team.

Mostly, though, the Raptors got a player who is going to help them make a deep playoff run.

 

Rudy Gobert re-energized ahead of Jazz at Thunder

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Rudy Gobert didn’t hide his disappointment at not making the NBA All-Star Game for the first time despite averaging 15.2 points and 12.9 rebounds while leading the league in field-goal percentage.

But coming off the 10-day break, the Utah Jazz center says he’s re-energized heading into Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Just recharge, completely — mentally, physically,” Gobert said. “For me, I was able to get a little bit of sun and feel a lot better when I get back.

“The next two months, I feel like, will be a lot better.”

The Jazz, who have won 13 of their last 16 games, come out of the break sixth in the Western Conference but with one of the NBA’s easiest schedules down the stretch.

Utah plays just eight of its final 25 games against teams that are above .500.

One of those, though, is Friday night’s game in Oklahoma City, which sits third in the West after winning 11 of 13 before the break.

The Thunder, on the other hand, have one of the league’s most challenging schedules moving forward. Oklahoma City plays 17 of its remaining 25 games against teams above .500 including each of the first five out of the break.

The Thunder have won the first two meetings between the teams, including a 122-113 win on Dec. 10 in Oklahoma City.

An Oklahoma City win would clinch the season series for the Thunder after Utah eliminated Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs last season.

The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook has a streak of 10 consecutive triple-doubles. During that stretch, he’s averaged 21.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 13.5 assists.

Utah is hopeful backup point guard Dante Exum, who has missed the last 17 games with a left ankle sprain, will be able to return against the Thunder.

“I think when he’s playing well, he can have a big impact for us and having him back soon is going to help us a lot,” Gobert said.

The Thunder could have forward Markieff Morris available for the first time. Morris signed with Oklahoma City over the All-Star break after being waived by New Orleans following his trade from Washington on Feb. 7.

Morris was averaging 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Wizards this season before suffering a neck injury in late December that has kept him out since. Morris was cleared to play two weeks ago.

“We got a big piece in Markieff that we’re excited for, and we’re going to be ready for the second half after this break,” Oklahoma City’s Paul George said.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said, “We’ll see,” when asked Thursday if Morris would play against the Jazz.

The Thunder also figure to have both starting forward Jerami Grant and backup point guard Dennis Schroder back after each missed the last two games before the break, Grant with an ankle injury and Schroder after the birth of his child.

Friday’s game is the start of a back-to-back for both teams, with the Jazz hosting Dallas on Saturday and Oklahoma City hosting Sacramento.

 

Raptors fans welcome DeMar DeRozan back with loud, standing ovation

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DeMar DeRozan was the greatest Raptor ever. He was an All-Star, he presided over the best seasons in franchise history, and he’s the one guy who re-signed and stood up for a city that has an inferiority complex around its basketball team.

Toronto fans understood the trade that brought Kawhi Leonard to the team — it’s an upgrade on the court — but their love for DeRozan is real.

They showed that on Friday night when DeRozan returned to Toronto for the first time as a member of the Spurs — he got a raucous ovation upon his introduction.

Early in the game he gave them a taste of what he did for them for years, getting the and-1 bucket on the drive.

Marcus Smart hits halfcourt shot at practice, celebrates with a back flip

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The celebration is more impressive than the shot.

After a tough loss to Milwaukee on Thursday, the Celtics traveled to Chicago to take on the Bulls on Saturday. Friday they had a practice in the Northwestern University facility.

It’s there Marcus Smart drains a halfcourt shot. Impressive. But not nearly as impressive as the backflip celebration.

I did not know Smart had that in him.