After weeks of trying to make up their mind on whether to sign Petteri Koponen, the decision has been made. Koponen signed a four-year-contract with Italian team Virtus Bologna. This means that Koponen will not play with the Blazers next summer. He has played on their summer league team for the last two summers and they were considering signing him for this upcoming season, but as with so many others, Koponen will be going to Europe. His contract does have a good buyout clause so that if he wants to go to the NBA, it won't be prohibitive. In Bologna, Koponen will fight for playing time with former NBA point guard Earl Boykins.
The Milwaukee Bucks can breathe again. In Australia's game against the US, Bogut heard a pop in his ankle and after the game, some Australian team officials were quite concerned about the injury. The Australian coach had said that the injury didn't look good. But Bogut underwent an MRI in China yesterday and the results showed that the injury was only minor. I am sure visions of Pau Gasol's broken foot were gong through the minds of the Bucks' powers that be. Glad to hear that he is ok.
It took some red tape from the US government, but Iranian center Hamed Ehadadi has been cleared to sign with NBA teams. The NBA sent out an email on Wednesday to all 30 teams that they were free to enter into negotiations with the 7-foot-2 Iranian Olympian, as well as one of his teammates on Iran’s national team: guard Mohammadsamad Nik Khahbahrami. Signing Khadadi would be ok for the Celtics, but they better stay away from the guard if they don't want to give Tommy a heart attack trying to pronounce it. Even with the clearance, the NBA ordered its teams Wednesday to contact the league office before signing either player to a contract. Rumor is that the Grizzlies are the most likely to sign Khadadi.
Former Maverick and Clipper power forward, Nick Fazekas, is working out for the Spurs and has several teams interested in him. The Clippers originally gave him a qualifying offer, but later renounced his rights, making him an unrestricted free agent. If he doesn't get any offers from the NBA, he would consider playing in Europe next season. It seems as though someone would take a chance on a young 6'11" power forward who averaged 4.1 points (on 57.1 shooting) and 3.9 rebounds in 12 minutes per game last season.
The Bulls recently re-signed Demetris Nichols,a 6'8" SG who played 11 games for the team last season, to a one-year, partially-guaranteed contract. Nichols was the team's second-leading scorer at the Orlando summer league, averaging 13.6 points. The Nichols signing brings the Bulls to 12 players under contract for next season. Ben Gordon's status with the team is still in question. He said last week that he felt he had played his last game as a Bull. But, there is nothing out there in the rumor mill to suggest that there are any sign and trade deals imminent or that he has any intent to go to Europe. The most likely scenario is still that he will take the Bulls' qualifying offer and try again next year.
Free agent center Jamaal Magloire visited the Heat on Thursday and Center D.J. Mbenga has a workout scheduled for Monday. Mbenga averaged 1.4 points and 1.3 rebounds in 26 games with the Lakers last season and has said that he will likely choose between the Lakers and the Heat for this season. With Mark Blount as their main option at center, the Heat need all the help they can get. In discussing the opportunity in Miami, Mbenga's agents said that he is the perfect fit in size and the opposite style of Mark Blount. I guess that means he can hold onto the ball and actually tries to rebound. Veteran center Lorenzen Wright met with the Heat earlier this week and so they will choose between Wright, Mbenga and Magloire for their back up center spot.
With the signing of Dorrell Wright, the Heat have 13 players under contract. They are planning to sign one of the centers they are working out and that will put them at 14. Chris Quinn has a qualifying offer that he can sign at any time and that makes 15. Alonzo Mourning is working out and plans to resign with the team and return by December. That puts them at 16. They also have a qualifying offer out to Kasib Powell and that will give them 17 players with guaranteed contracts. They will have to make some cuts or find a 3 for 1 trade somewhere. They may opt not to re-sign Mourning as well. He would make a nice late season pick up for the Celtics just as PJ Brown was last season, assuming he comes back healthy.
As I write this, Spain and Lithuania are playing for a chance to advance to the gold medal game. When this game is over, the USA will face Argentina to try to exact a measure of revenge and face either Spain or Lithuania for gold. With the scare that the Bucks got from the injury to Bogut and memories of Gasol's broken foot a couple of years ago, teams are anxiously watching their players as they compete in the Olympics. Many players were discouraged by their teams from participating in the Olympics because even without an injury playing for much of the summer has to take a lot out of a player for the following season. Dwyane Wade has said that the grueling training schedule, exhibition tour and every-other-day schedule of games in Beijing has been energizing and that it won't affect his energy in the regular NBA season, even though it will be just over a month from the time the Olympics end until he has to report to training camp. I can't help but feel that he may feel differently about 70 games into the season.
Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce, hiding behind sunglasses and a big hat while playing blackjack at $500 a hand in the high roller salon at Wynn Las Vegas on Tuesday and Wednesday.Also in the house: Antoine Walker of the Memphis Grizzlies, with friends.
So, Pierce is still out and about celebrating. Last year at this time he was in Boston with KG and Ray Allen along with most of the young players working on their games with a common goal of winning a championship. There have been reports of the Timberwolves and Nets all working out together to get a jump on the season. Yes, the Celtics won a championship, but they can't rest on their laurels if they expect to win again. Too many teams have improved considerably and they will all be aiming for the Celtics. They have only 2 months till the season starts and it is about time they get back to work and start thinking about next season instead of celebrating last season. I will be very surprised if the Celtics are as dominant this season because they don't have the hunger they had last season and it seems that the other teams they will face are the hungry ones. I wonder if Antoine is celebrating his trade to the Grizzlies?