In The Scrum With Masai Ujiri

Following the Raptors’ pre-draft workouts this morning, their assistant general manager, Masai Ujiri, took some time to talk with the media about what he saw during the workouts, his history with Solomon Albi, the work he has done involving basketball development in Africa and a host of other topics.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

In The Scrum With Luke Harangody

Fresh off of his workout for the Washington Wizards coaches and front office, former Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody met with the media.  He discussed the chip he has on his shoulder during his workouts this summer, how his game has improved, and what it would be like to play for the Wizards.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Catching Up With Ben Uzoh

Every once in a while I get humbled as a writer.

This past week I went to the Air Canada Centre for pre-draft workouts looking forward to chatting with Devin Ebanks, Gani Lawal and Latavious Williams.

You know, the “big name” players attending the workout.

However, while doing some research some aspects of Ben Uzoh’s playing career grabbed my attention and piqued my interest and he became one of the players I hoped to chat with.

After the workouts ended one of the Raptos PR guys introduced me to Uzoh and what transpired was one of the more rewarding chats I’ve had with a player over the past few seasons. He was articulate, he had a great gameplan for how he would be playing professional basketball next season and he didn’t throw out a bunch of empty cliches.

Besides being a great chat, it also served as a great reminder that as a writer and journalist I need to keep digging a little deeper to find the good stories instead of chasing what might get the attention of the majority of basketball fans.

I hope you enjoy my chat with Uzoh as much as I did.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Catching Up With Gani Lawal

This afternoon I was able to chat with Gani Lawal about his friendship with Al-Farouq Aminu, how going through this process last year helped him this season, what it was like playing alongside Derrick Favors this season and a host of other topics.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Catching Up With Devin Ebanks

Hoops Addict was able to chat with Devin Ebanks following his pre-draft workout in Toronto about what it was like playing for Bob Huggins, what he learned while going through the ups and downs he had last season, what he’s learning about his game during these workouts and a host of other topics.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

In The Scrum With Latavious Williams

Latavious Williams talked with the media following a pre-draft workout in Toronto about his adjustment from playing high school basketball to the D-League, why his stats jumped in the last part of the D-League season, why he ranked near the top of the D-League in rebounds per minute and a host of other topics.?

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Here is a video version of the chat via Raptors.com:

Revisiting The 1996 NBA Draft

With the 2010 Draft Lottery leading to mock drafts popping up all across the World Wide Web, it offers up a chance to look back at the 1996 Draft that spawned so many of this year’s postseason stars. Widely regarded as one of the best drafts of all-time (1985 and 2003 would beg to differ, mind you), it has produced 10 All-Stars, including Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Ray Allen and Derek Fisher.

The 1996 Draft marked a period when the trend of jumping from high school to the NBA was gaining steam, as Kevin Garnett had opened the preps-to-pros door one year earlier. Still wary of tabbing a raw high schooler with a high draft pick, many teams shied away from Lower Merion High’s Bryant in favour of “safer” picks. Then-Nets head coach John Calipari admitted he was intrigued by Bryant’s ceiling, but felt Kerry Kittles, whom he selected at No. 8, was more of a sure thing.

The Lakers took advantage of that mindset and acquired his draft rights from the Charlotte Hornets (who had grabbed him at No. 13) for another sure thing in Vlade Divac. Divac would find some success in two seasons in Charlotte and even more as a member of the Sacramento Kings, but Kobe has spent much of his NBA career among the NBA elite and continues to do so as he tries to lead L.A. to a defence of their 2009 title.

While never the game-changer that Bryant has been, Fisher has been a steady, reliable presence at the point and a key contributor to four Laker titles. He was selected 11 picks after Kobe, available to be taken by L.A. at the No. 24 spot. Even though he had a stellar career at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), he was an under-the-radar type who had quietly excelled at a small school in a mid-major conference. In Fisher, the Lakers saw a mature player with a high basketball IQ.

Fourteen years later, Bryant and Fisher are firmly in the middle of L.A.’s deep play-off run as they hold a 2-0 lead against the Suns. But they know that the series is far from over, as Phoenix has displayed a feisty side that stems directly from Nash, the team’s anchor.

Much like Fisher, Nash enjoyed a successful college career leading a small, lesser-known program. After leading Santa Clara University to three West Coast Conference championships, he became the first Bronco to have his jersey retired by the school. Also like Fisher, although he was drafted by his current team in 1996, he is in his second stint with the franchise.

Nash’s first stint in Phoenix, upon being selected 15th over-all to boos from Suns fans hoping for a more marquee name, was marred by struggles acclimating to the pro game and a dearth of opportunities behind star guards like Kevin Johnson, Sam Cassell and Jason Kidd. Of course, after a six-year tenure in Dallas, Nash’s second stint in the desert has been much more fruitful and he has all but cemented himself as a future Hall-of-Famer. Now, at 36 years old, he continues to lead the Suns’ high-tempo offence while playing some of the best basketball of his career.

Another ageless wonder from the ’96 draft can be found hitting crucial threes for the Celtics in the Eastern Conference final. Selected fifth over-all by Minnesota in 1996, Allen found himself in Milwaukee after a draft-day trade for No. 4 Stephon Marbury.

Always a great player lost on mediocre teams with the Bucks and then the Sonics (although he did lead Milwaukee to the 2001 Eastern Conference final), the sharpshooter got his chance to shine on a contender when he was dealt to Boston in 2007. Forming one-third of the “Big Three” with Garnett and Paul Pierce, Allen won his first NBA title in 2008. Perhaps even more remarkable is this year’s run, where he and his Celtics teammates were written off as over the hill prior to the postseason but stunned Cleveland and find themselves two games away from the NBA Finals.

Some have drawn comparisons between the ’96 class and this year’s draftees in terms of sheer depth of talent. John Wall appears to be a can’t-miss, just as Allen Iverson was 14 years ago. But the real similarity could lie in the ability to find game changers well past the No. 1 pick.

That being said, it’s all speculation until we find Wall, Evan Turner and Derrick Favors vying for the 2024 NBA title.

In The Scrum With Flip Saunders

There were many times when I sat and waited in the media room for Washington Wizards head coach Flip Saunders, and I just knew he’d be angry.  Whether it was a series of blown assignments, a complete lack of effort from his team, or just a flat out bad game, Coach Saunders was anything but festive after a loss and unfortunately there were plenty of them–56 to be be exact

But today, as Saunders strode into the media room, there was definitely a pep in  his gait, as he cracked jokes with the PR staff.  The stress of going 26-56 had been replaced by the pure joy of winning the number one pick in the 2010 NBA draft.  Instead of being bombarded with questions about Arenas and guns, Blatche and his attitude or injuries and D-league players, Saunders was able to strictly focus on the future.

During this press conference, Saunders discussed his reaction upon hearing the Wizards had the top pick, what he is looking for in the draft, the status of Arenas, and what other moves the Wizards may make prior to the draft.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The Wizards Win The Lottery

To say it hasn’t been an easy year for the Washington Wizards would be an understatement of epic proportions.

From the death of owner Abe Pollin, to the gun-in-the-locker-room situation with Gilbert Arenas, to the trades of Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, its been quite a rough seven-month stretch for the Wizards.  And I did not even mention their dismal 26-56 record.

But a little white ping pong ball may have changed that string of bad luck.

With Irene Pollin (the wife of the late Abe Pollin) and new owner Ted Leonsis in attendance, the Wizards won the NBA draft lottery, and were awarded the number one pick in the 2010 draft.   They were able to win the lottery, despite only having a 10.3 percent chance of winning, after finishing with the fifth worst record in the NBA.

The last time the Wizards had the number one pick in 2001, they chose Kwame Brown, who in four pedestrian seasons, averaged just seven points and four rebounds.  He was traded to the Lakers in 2005 as part of the trade that brought Butler to Washington.

The consensus number one player in this draft is  John Wall, who averaged 16 points and 6.5 assists as a freshman at Kentucky.  Evan Turner out of Ohio State, who averaged 20 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists during his junior year and won national player of the year, is considered to be the second best player.

In addition to the number one pick, the Wizards own Cleveland’s first round selection (30th overall) as a result of the Jamison trade and  their own second round pick (35th overall).

Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld has said many times during the season and again in the offseason, that Gilbert Arenas, will return to the team next season, and the selection of either Wall or Turner would only enhance that backcourt.  Shaun Livingston was the starting point guard for the Wizards at the conclusion of the 2009-2010 season, but his return to the team is uncertain.

Please stay tuned to Hoops Addict for audio, video and stories related to the upcoming draft, which will be held on June 24th.

In The Scrum With Omar Samhan

When the Wizards PR staff announced that Omar Samhan would be coming out of the locker room to meet with media, my fellow colleague Mike Prada (of Bullets Forever) made a keen observation.  “This should be a fun one,” Prada said.

Prada was right, and Samhan did not disappoint.

Fresh off of his workout with the Washington Wizards, Samhan talked about how this workout was an improvement over his last one, which parts of his game need work, the importance of social media, and much much more.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Bryan Colangelo Press Conference

Bryan Colangelo met with the media tonight to talk about DeMar DeRozan’s impressive private workouts, he explained how the team had been tracking him since he played in the McDonald’s All-American game, how his defensive abilities will help him earn some minutes this season and a host of other topics.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Live Coverage Of The NBA Draft From Toronto And Washington

On Thursday evening we’re trying something new as we’ll be covering the NBA Draft live from Toronto and Washington.

I have to admit I’m pretty excited about the fact we’ll be giving basketball fans exclusive audio and video from both of these locations as the NBA Draft unfolds. Rashad Mobley will be posting audio clips from Washington while I’ll be in Toronto and I’ll throw up some audio or video when Bryan Colangelo and Jay Triano talk with the media. This night won’t just be for Raptors and Wizards fans as we will be relaying any inside scoops we’re hearing as well as our commentary on how the draft is unfolding.

While my ego loves that I’ll be the center of attention, one of my favorite parts of the night is you’ll be able to follow along at home while adding your own commentary. We’re trying out a program called Cover It Live which allows you to read our running commentary while also adding your own comments and feedback to picks, trades and what you’re reading from us. If things work out well tonight then this is a tool we’ll start using next season when we’re covering games in Toronto and Washington.

Please join us at 6:30 pm EST as we kick off the festivities.

NBA Mock Draft – June 24, 2009

As we all know, the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft can make for an overwhelming flurry of inside scoops, conspiracy theories and rumors from all around the internet; this year was no different.

Fortunately, Hoops Addict has been keeping tabs on all the top college prospects and had writers in attendance at NBA pre-draft workouts in Toronto and Washington this month to put it all in perspective. While there is a lot up in the air, this is our best attempt to get through all the speculation and give you some insight into how the first round will shake out.

1. Los Angeles Clippers – Blake Griffin PF/C
20 years old, 6’10”, 251 lbs.
Oklahoma, Sophomore

2. Memphis Grizzlies - Hasheem Thabeet C
22 years old, 7’3″, 265 lbs.
Connecticut, Junior

3. Oklahoma City Thunder – James Harden SG – Audio: In The Scrum With James Harden
19 years old, 6’5″, 218 lbs.
Arizona State, Sophomore

4. Sacramento Kings – Ricky Rubio  PG
18 years old, 6’4″, 180lbs.
DKV Joventut

5. Minnesota Timberwolves – DeMar DeRozan SG/SF
19 years old, 6’7″, 207 lbs.
USC, Freshman

6. Minnesota Timberwolves – Tyreke Evans PG/SG
19 years old, 6’5″, 195 lbs.
Memphis, Freshman

7. Golden State Warriors - Jrue Holiday PG/SG – Video: In The Scrum With Jrue Holiday
18 years old, 6’3″, 185 lbs.
UCLA, Freshman

8. New York Knicks – Stephen Curry PG/SG – Audio: In The Scrum With Stephen Curry
21 years old, 6’3″, 185 lbs.
Davidson, Junior

9. Toronto Raptors – Jonny Flynn PG – Video: In The Scrum With Jonny Flynn
20 years old; 6’0″; 172 lbs.
Syracuse, Sophomore

10. Milwaukee Bucks – Jordan Hill PF
21 years old, 6’10”, 235 lbs.
Arizona, Junior

11. New Jersey Nets – Brandon Jennings PG – Audio: In The Scrum With Brandon Jennings
19 years old, 6’1″, 170 lbs.
Lottomatica Roma, International

12. Charlotte Bobcats – Terrence Williams SG – Audio: In The Scrum With Terrence Williams
21 years old, 6’6″, 220 lbs.
Louisville, Senior

13. Indiana Pacers – James Johnson SF/PF – Video: Exclusive Interview with James Johnson
22 years old, 6’8″, 235 lbs.
Wake Forest, Sophomore

14. Phoenix Suns – Austin Daye SF/PF – Video: Exclusive Interview With Austin Daye
20 years old; 6’10″; 190 lbs.
Gonzaga, Sophomore

15. Detroit Pistons - Earl Clark SF – Video: In The Scrum With Earl Clark
21 years old; 6’9″; 220 lbs.
Louisville, Junior

16. Chicago Bulls – Gerald Henderson SG
21 years old, 6’5″, 215 lbs.
Duke, Junior

17. Philadelphia 76ers - Ty Lawson PG – Video: In The Scrum With Ty Lawson
21 years old, 6’0″, 195 lbs.
North Carolina, Junior

18. Minnesota Timberwolves - B.J. Mullens  C
20 years old; 7’0″; 260 lbs.
Ohio State, Freshman

19. Atlanta Hawks - Eric Maynor PG
21 years old, 6’2″, 165 lbs.
VCU, Senior

20. Utah Jazz - Tyler Hansbrough PF
23 years old, 6’9″, 230 lbs.
North Carolina, Senior

21. New Orleans Hornets – DeJuan Blair PF
19 years old, 6’7″, 265 lbs.
Pittsburgh, Sophomore

22. Dallas Mavericks – Jeff Teague PG
20 years old, 6’2″, 180 lbs.
Wake Forest, Sophomore

23. Sacramento Kings – Derrick Brown SFVideo: Exclusive Interview With Derrick Brown
21 years old; 6’7″; 225 lbs.
Xavier, Junior

24. Portland TrailBlazers – Chase Budinger SG/SF
21 years old; 6’7″; 218 lbs.
Arizona, Junior

25. Oklahoma City Thunder – Toney Douglas PG/SG
23 years old; 6’1″; 196 lbs.
Florida State, Senior

26. Chicago Bulls – Patrick Mills PG
20 years old, 6’0″, 175 lbs.
Saint Mary’s, Sophomore

27. Memphis Grizzlies – Darren Collison PG
21 years old, 6’1″, 165 lbs.
UCLA, Senior

28. Minnesota Timberwolves – Omri Casspi SF/PF
20 years old; 6’8″; 220 lbs.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, International

29. Los Angeles Lakers – Sam Young SF
23 years old, 6’6″, 210 lbs.
Pittsburgh, Senior

30. Cleveland Cavaliers - Wayne Ellington SG
21 years old, 6’5″, 190 lbs.
North Carolina, Junior

In the Scrum with Tyrese Rice

Former Boston College point guard Tyrese Rice talked with the media after his  pre-draft workout for the Washington Wizards on Monday.  During the brief interview session he talked about the possibility of playing near his hometown of Chesterfield, Virginia; where he may go in the draft; the numerous teams he’s worked out for, and who has impressed him the most during his workouts.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

In The Scrum With Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry talked with the media after a pre-draft workout in Washington earlier this week about how playing point guard last season helped him prepare for playing in the NBA, how valuable his college coach was to his development, he confessed who his favorite team was when he was growing up, his desire to achieve his degree and a host of other topics.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.