First there was the rumor that teams were talking to the 7'2" Iranian center, Hamed Haddadi. Then there was the word that the NBA sent a memo to teams saying that they were forbidden from talking with him. Next came the memo that said that teams were cleared to talk to Haddadi. Finally word is out that the Memphis Grizzlies have signed the Iranian center who led all players in the Olympics in rebounds and blocks. He will be the first Iranian to play in the NBA.
The Hornets are still making moves. Of course, their biggest move was to lure James Posey away from the Celtics, but now reports out of New Orleans are that the Hornets have signed free agent forward/center Sean Marks. The 6'10" Marks is a 9 year veteran with career averages of 3.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 9.1 minutes per game while playing with four different teams—Toronto, Miami, San Antonio and Phoenix.
Mitch Kupchak went to Atlanta to check on his young center, Andrew Bynum. Bynum is running on the track, hitting the weights, and doing basketball drills, and he shows no signs of any lingering problems from his knee surgery. The Lakers expect him to be 100% by the opening of training camp in the end of September. Kupchak’s concern regarding Bynum’s health extends further than having him help the Lakers this season. It’s also a financial concern. The Lakers recently exercised a fourth-year contract option on Bynum, but his agent is seeking a maximum five-year, $80 million extension. Kupchak wants to wait and see how his young center plays after returning from the injury before committing that kind of money to him. Hearing that Bynum is looking for that kind of money makes me realize that Perk is not only a beast, he is also a bargain.
It looked as though Luol Deng wasn't going to be able to play for the British national team, which would have bee a big blow to the team. But, after weeks of negotiating, British basketball has come up with the insurance premium that will allow Deng to play with the British National team in this summer's European Championship qualifiers with. Deng was on a Transatlantic flight late Thursday, heading to London to work out the paperwork and prepare to join the team.
There is finally some news coming out of Boston. The Celtics young players, Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, Bill Walker, JR Giddens and Patrick O'Bryant are all in Boston working out in advance of next month's training camp. Walker has been working out in Boston for 2 months, shortly after his surgery right after the draft. At first, there was talk of stashing Walker in Europe, but his hard work and improvement this summer convinced Danny that he might be able to contribute this season. Even more impressive than his on court work, Scott Souza reports that Walker did most of the work on his contract himself. That takes me back to the stories of Larry Bird negotiating his own contracts and meeting with Red to hash them out. The more I hear about this kid, the more excited I get about him. Patrick O'Bryant is working hard with Clifford Ray and could surprise a lot of people this season.
In some good news for Blazers fans, Greg Oden participated in his first 5-on-5 full-court scrimmages since last September's microfracture knee surgery, and he did just fine. Team owner Paul Allen was in town to watch the scrimmages. Oden has not experienced any swelling, soreness or other setbacks. However, the team is making him sit out every other day in order to protect the knee. He should be more than ready for the start of training camp and at this point is the front runner for Rookie of the Year.
One of the reasons that the Suns were very anxious to get Goran Dragic into the fold and now picked up a 3rd point guard, is that Steve Kerr has a plan to get Steve Nash into the playoffs well rested. He plans to play Nash in only 70 games during the season. With Nash turning 34, they feel that the rigors of playing in 81 games and averaging over 34 mpg is wearing him down before the Suns even get into the playoffs. They are hoping that Dragic is good enough that they will be able to rest Nash and have him fresh down the stretch. Nice plan if it works but Nash isn't so sure it will.
And the summer injuries continue. Rockets forward Chuck Hayes underwent surgery on Thursday to repair a broken nose sustained during a workout Thursday afternoon and is expected to be held out of competitive workouts for four to six weeks. He may be cleared in time for training camp where he is expected to be battle for playing time with Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey. We could see another player with a Rip Hamilton style face mask this season.
Anyone who watched the Olympics couldn't help but be impressed with Spanish guard Rudy Fernandez. Fernandez averaged 13.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field at the Olympics and proved to be a high energy player who could wear out defenders charged with chasing him around the court. This season he will be added to an already exciting Blazer team. No wonder just about every team in the West is pulling for Darius Miles to make it with the Celtics and stick it to the Blazers who could have considerable cap room next summer along with an exciting cast of players already in the fold.
The Cavs' coaching staff is very high on rookie JJ Hickson. Ben Wallace has gone down hill in recent years and the Cavs are hoping that Hickson can play significant minutes at power forward. For almost four years, Drew Gooden was a staple at the four spot, but when the Cavs acquired Wallace, they moved him to the 4 because as the years of banging at the center spot have taken their toll, they felt he could be more effective at the power forward position. Hickson was explosive in the Las Vegas summer league but he may also be a year or two away from being a regular NBA player. Cleveland may have to throw him into the fire before he is ready unless Ben Wallace experiences a revival of sorts or unless the Pistons can pull off a trade as has been rumored all off season.