Timberwolves fan/tallest man in U.S. gets life-changing $25K custom Reeboks

19 Oct

Back in April, Alex Conover of the Minnesota Timberwolves' official website wrote about a trip to the Target Center taken by a unique visitor: Igor Vovkovinskiy of Rochester, Minn. who at 7 feet, 8 inches tall is the tallest person in the United States. Due to his great size, it had been years since Vovkovinskiy — who was born in the Ukraine but whose family came to Minnesota in 1989 so that he could undergo treatment at the Mayo Clinic for the pituitary gigantism that was accelerating his growth, has lived in the area since and became a Wolves fan as he grew up — had been able to fit in a regular spectator seat at the arena, so the team's front office organized accommodations for Vovkovinskiy in a special suite for a home game against the Golden State Warriors.

It was a neat human interest story about a team going the extra mile for a fan, made notable by the unique stature of that particular supporter ... which, as you might expect, has made stuff like finding shoes that fit a lifelong struggle:

"I tried basketball," said Vovkovinskiy, "But after 5th or 6th grade, nobody could make shoes for me. I had to stop playing."

Vovkovinskiy has undergone 16 foot surgeries, resulting in a total of three years of bedrest. His current shoes, although functional, are terribly inadequate for his needs.

"This is basically it," said Vovkovinskiy, pointing to his worn-down, black leather shoes. "They have no support, no grip. On the ice, these things are basically suicide. They're flat, and they don't have any curve. It's incredibly hard to walk on them."

On Thursday, Vovkovinskiy received what could be a life-changing gift: several pairs of custom-made sneakers, molded specifically for his size 24 10E feet, that will enable him to walk in the world comfortably for the first time in years. The shoes — which feature the Tryzub Cross, a Ukrainian symbol, and say "IGOR" on the back and soles — reportedly cost $25,000, were designed, produced and delivered to Vovkovinskiy by Reebok, which covered the whole bill.

From Mike Dougherty of the Rochester Post-Bulletin:

"Wow!" he said [as he tried on the shoes.] "It feels so good, like I'm walking on pillows or mattresses." [...]

"I'm going to be able to go to the store for groceries or the hardware store if I need to fix something at my mom's house," he said.

Thursday's delivery came at the end of a process that began more than five months ago, around the time of Vovkovinskiy's Target Center visit. He'd been looking for solutions to his footwear problems for years, since his condition began affecting the size of his feet to the point where he required surgeries, the recovery from which necessitated bed rest, which he told Rodrique Ngowi of The Associated Press has left him largely homebound for years:

"Living the last six years has been a nightmare basically," he said.

Shoes that fit will get him outside and make a huge difference, he said.

"Basically, I'm a prisoner of my own house, even though I am medically cleared to walk," Vovkovinskiy said. "Where am I going to go with shoes that are painful?"

Over the years, multiple doctors told Vovkovinskiy "it'd be a lot cheaper to make shoes that'd fit his body than to keep having surgeries," but despite the physicians' input, insurance companies repeatedly denied his requests for financial help in covering the cost of custom-made shoes — $16,000, to be exact.

Seeking a solution, Vovkovinskiy started a Facebook fundraising campaign to try to get enough cash together for the shoes; after word of his plight spread via social media, news reports and television coverage, donations flooded in, giving him double the necessary amount and even resulting in footwear maker Reebok offering to offer to set him up for free. They flew him from Minnesota to their Canton, Mass., offices in May, scanned his unique feet and created custom molds for the sneakers, then covered the cost of producing the one-of-a-kind items.

"For so long it hurt to have shoes on," Vovkovinskiy told Dougherty of the Post-Bulletin. "Every day I was in pain. I want to be active again and walk. I can barely walk two blocks now. Before, I could walk two miles."

Now that he'll be able to get out of the house more easily and travel comfortably, maybe he'll be able to show off his prized possession from the Reebok haul:

Maybe his favorite pair will be the Minnesota Timberwolves color pair. Vovkovinskiy said he might save those to wear to a T-Wolves game.

That might not be a bad idea. I hear Minnesota's looking for another big man these days.

Hat-tip to the New York Daily News, by way of The Other Paper.

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LeBron James dismisses talk of Lakers’ potential 2014 interest, which makes sense, since it’s 2012

19 Oct

Less than two weeks away from beginning the defense of his first NBA championship in a marquee season-opening matchup with the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat forward LeBron James is answering questions about where he might theoretically play in two years, because Internet.

ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst — a reporter who has covered James since his time at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School — wrote a story published Thursday in which he quoted several anonymous league executives who say the feeling around the NBA is that the Los Angeles Lakers, fresh off reloading with center Dwight Howard and point guard Steve Nash in an effort to compete with James' champion Heat (provided, of course, they can get past the Oklahoma City Thunder), are lining things up with an eye toward eventually draping the King in forum blue and gold. The quick-and-dirty of it: LeBron can opt out of his contract after the 2013-14 season; the contracts of every Laker not named Nash (and, presumably, an extended Howard) expire after the 2013-14 season; the Lakers, loving stars and having money, would then pitch LeBron on coming to Hollywood.

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There are problems with this, as BDL editor Kelly Dwyer detailed Thursday, including the fact that the Lakers would have to totally sever ties with Bryant to shed his $30 million cap hold. Still, though, it's possible in theory and would be sensible in practice, and someone wrote about it, so it becomes a topic of conversation. ESPN.com's Michael Wallace conversed with LeBron about it, and James — shockingly! — dismissed the idle chatter as just that:

Responding to an ESPN.com report on Thursday that teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers already are plotting for the next time he potentially can become a free agent, James said his only focus is on helping the Heat defend their title.

"I'm here, and this is what it's all about," James said after the Heat's 105-78 preseason win over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday. "I'm preparing for this season, preparing to defend our title and that's it. This is where ... I'm here now." [...]

"That story, I don't know where it came from, but I understand why it came up because of who I am — it's going to happen," James told reporters after Miami's first preseason home game. "But I'm not going to worry about it. I've got to continue to stay focused with these guys and make sure we're ready for any challenges that come." [...]

"It's not frustrating," James said. "Guys are making stories every day. It doesn't matter to me. I'm true to my teammates. I'm here and this is what it's all about — us building and trying to get better as a team. Anyone can write a story. If you have ESPN, then it becomes credible. So do what you've got to do."

In the interest of fairness, I'd like to point out, as KD did in his analysis of the suggestion, that the guy who wrote this particular story isn't just "anyone" — it's Windhorst, a plugged-in reporter in his 10th year on the NBA beat with league-wide sources and connections, which is a bit different than the ever-popular (though now, thankfully, less so) straw man of "some dude in his mom's basement" just throwing something ridiculous against the wall to see if it sticks and if it'll generate attention. The end result, of course, is about the same — the conjuring of a hypothetical, theoretical story that bounces around like a speedball, evoking reaction and commentary and rending of garments, whether you take it seriously or not — but the generating point isn't. Rather than just a rabid fan's "NBA 2K13" roster machinations or fantasy lineup maneuverings, there are, presumably, actual people on the other side of those anonymous quotes.

That said, as Mike Prada noted at SB Nation on Thursday, those anonymous sources whom Windhorst quotes work for "opposing teams that are making their own long-range free agency plans," so it's not like we're getting a from-the-horse's-mouth scoop here (or even a "source with knowledge of the Lakers' thinking," or any of the other myriad ways of couching something an agent says). The grand takeaway is little more than, "Other teams think the Lakers plan ahead and try to get really good players," which I guess, if nothing else, shows that other teams have been paying attention these past few decades.

Also, as Prada and Dwyer and a bunch of other folks pointed out, the underlying thesis behind this discussion — the suggestion that a team would have interest in signing the best player in a free-agent class during an offseason in which they have salary cap space — constitutes roughly this level of news bulletin:

So, yeah, maybe we can just put a pin in this whole thing for two years. Until, y'know, we actually have a sense of what the Lakers' salary cap structure looks like, which other teams' rosters make them interesting enough to be in play and if LeBron coming off a run of three straight titles is still pretty OK with hanging out in South Beach for a few more years. Dwyane Wade would like that, anyway, according to Wallace:

"They [media] can leave my teammate alone, man," Wade said. "Get on with that. He's going to be here. We're straight. So they can go and mess with somebody else."

On the plus side, we now know have it on the record that LeBron is "here, and that's what it's all about," and that the Heat are "straight." Glad we could establish that.

Tags: cap, course, , , , , sense
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Jeremy Evans is now the majority owner of Ronny Turiaf (VIDEO)

18 Oct

"What I can't stand about the NBA game is how teams keep drafting guys based on potential," your Big 10-loving friend says. "Sure, a guy might jump really high, but why should I care about some random guy who, I don't know, barely averaged double figures in the Sun Belt or whatever?"

Your Big 10-loving friend sits still for a moment, then quietly nods.

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of NBA.com]

Those of us who look at numbers a bunch already knew Jeremy Evans could block shots — he swatted 8.8 percent of the field-goal attempts opponents took while he was on the floor last year — and pretty much everyone already knew the Utah Jazz small forward could dunk. But something about seeing him do both in the same sequence, on the same play and to the same man — who, unfortunately, was Los Angeles Clippers center Ronny Turiaf, whom we love beyond the telling of it — feels very surprising.

I doubt it's going to earn the third-year forward out of Western Kentucky much more playing time this season in a stacked Jazz frontcourt, but after seeing him actually make a play like this in a game — closing out on a midrange shooter, using that super-long wingspan to block the shot, corralling the loose ball, taking it the length of the floor and cramming on top of a shot-blocker, all in one fluid motion — kind of makes you feel like he might be someone worth keeping an eye on going forward in a way that winning the Slam Dunk Contest never did.

After all, despite barely getting off the bench for Utah during his first two seasons in the league, the Jazz re-upped Evans for three years and $5.5 million this summer. Maybe this is an indication that they knew something we don't. It was a pleasant surprise on a preseason Wednesday night ... unless, of course, your name is Ronny Turiaf.

If the video above's not rocking for you, feel free to check it out elsewhere, thanks to our friends at the National Basketball Association.

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Dallas Mavericks reinstate Delonte West, finally bringing end to interminable suspension

17 Oct

I think we all remember where we were when we found out that veteran combo guard Delonte West had been suspended indefinitely by the Dallas Mavericks for conduct detrimental to the team following a postgame outburst in the Dallas locker room. I sure know I do.

There was a bit of a chill in the air as I checked my email after sunrise in the Northeast and read the news, though it's my understanding that it was comparatively warmer in the Western United States. Baseball's postseason was in full swing, a tense presidential campaign had captured the nation's headlines and the astronomy world was abuzz at the discovery of a new planet illuminated by four suns. Ah, I remember it like it was yesterday.

That is, of course, because it was yesterday.

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of NBA.com]

And on Wednesday morning, just one day after Mavs coach Rick Carlisle declined to identify a timeframe for West's indefinite suspension, the Associated Press reports that the saga is over:

President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said the ban was lifted after the eight-year veteran met with Nelson and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle on Tuesday.

After Monday night's preseason win over Houston, Carlisle told reporters West was suspended without offering any details.

What a long, strange trip it's been. I'm sure you feel like a changed person for having gone through all this, dear reader; I know I do.

It's good to know the resolution of the incident, but the wire report is disappointingly light on detail. Luckily, Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is here to flesh things out a bit:

West spoke about the meeting at this morning's shootaround.

"We're on the same page," West said. "We're a real family over here.

"Uncle Ricky handled the situation. We went and had a talk and we went right back to the bar-b-cue."

For his part, Carlisle came out and started his interview with the media by asking: "How are all my nephews doing?"

I'd like to note for the record that if Delonte refers to Carlisle as anything other than "Uncle Ricky" or Carlisle greets media members as anything other than "all my nephews" from here on out, I will be extremely disappointed in them both and saddened at their inability to recognize things that are important in this world.

One thing both seemed to find important is discretion — neither Carlisle nor West discussed specifics on the incident leading to the suspension, though the coach referenced "an outstanding issue" they needed to talk about and how West "needed to refocus, and he's in the process of doing that."

"It's going to be work, it's going to be daily work for him to do that and I've got to help him and our organization is going to help him, too," Carlisle said, according to Price.

As we noted Tuesday, West struggles with bipolar disorder, although it's unclear if that's the "outstanding issue" to which Carlisle referred or if it played any role in the locker-room outburst.

For now, though, it sounds like the incident's water under the bridge or over the dam (wherever you'd prefer to put your water). Carlisle told the media that West will be in uniform and available to play when Dallas hosts the Phoenix Suns in a preseason matchup at American Airlines Center on Wednesday night, and if West sounded disappointed in anyone, it was not Uncle Ricky:

"I don't know why anybody didn't come see me while I was in lockdown," West said [to the media]. "Y'all are my friends now.

"Y'all didn't come visit and put nothing on my commissary or nothing. That's all right."

Hey, Delonte, if you expect the writers to put something on your commissary, the least you could do is let them know when you and Uncle Ricky are going for barbecue. We've all got to eat, you know?

Tags: , , outburst, , Uncle, , yesterday
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Kevin Love rewards Nikola Pekovic’s block with awesome no-look lefty dime in Wolves preseason win (VIDEO)

17 Oct

See, now, that's just smart team leadership. When your center engulfs an opponent's shot, forces a turnover, starts a break and runs the floor, it's just good policy to repay his effort with a feed ... especially when he is a muscular, gangstrous giant like Nikola Pekovic, who will grind your bones to make his bread if you get on his bad side. If you can do it with a ridiculous mid-air one-touch redirect, as Kevin Love does here with Andrei Kirilenko's just off-target lead pass, then so much the better ... especially during a preseason game, when fans who pay for the privilege of watching the principled opposition of Maccabi Haifa should be entertained as much as possible. And hey, who needs to sleep properly on their right arm when you can do this with your left?

Great work all around, Minnesota Timberwolves. I know your chemistry's still a work in progress, but that work sure seemed like it was progressing nicely on Tuesday night.

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of NBA.com]

Love had 24 points, eight rebounds and two assists, including this honey of a setup, in 31 minutes of play to lead Minnesota to a 114-81 win over the visiting Israeli club. Pekovic finished with 10 points and nine rebounds in 26 minutes.

If the video above's not rocking for you, feel free to check it out elsewhere, via nbainfos.

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Kevin Love missed a Timberwolves preseason game after injuring his elbow while sleeping

16 Oct

It's not altogether rare for established stars to take it easy during the preseason, sitting in the interest of keeping legs fresh for the start of the season (a strat occasionally employed by Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs) or preferring to exercise caution lest minor tweaks turn into nagging injuries. So when Kevin Love missed Saturday's preseason contest between his Minnesota Timberwolves and the Chicago Bulls, a game his squad won by seven, due to what was reported as a sore right elbow, it seemed like a garden-variety veteran skip.

What made it interesting, though, is how the 24-year-old Olympic gold medalist suffered the dinged-up wing. For more on the story, check out the rundown up top from our friends at the Yahoo! Sports Minute, and read on for the report by Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of NBA.com]

Love didn't bang it or hyperextend it while playing only the first quarter Friday in Indianapolis. No, he instead slept with his right arm extended off his bed all night Friday and when he awoke Saturday morning, he said he could barely lift a basketball.

"I couldn't shoot it 10 feet," he said. [...]

Love [...] had no strength in that arm. Maybe he needs to get a bed like the one [Al Jefferson], his former teammate, recently ordered in Salt Lake City: A 10-foot-by-12-foot one that cost more than $23,000.

"My bed's big enough," Love said. "Just a fluke thing. I'm pretty sure it's just a 24-hour deal."

Come Monday afternoon, though, Zgoda tweeted from Wolves practice that Love said his elbow was still bothering him. Apparently, Love's talent for diagnosis lags far behind his gift for "getting" teammates.

Wolves fans needn't worry much, though — the All-Star power forward did return to practice on Monday, and said he plans to play in Minny's next preseason contest, a Tuesday night friendly against Israeli club Maccabi Haifa. Now, all he needs to do is follow the advice of noted sleep scientist Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones and switch up his sleep posture to a more arm-friendly position and such issues should be summarily nipped in the bud come the start of the regular season, allowing Love to get that right elbow tucked in and prepared even more field-goal (1059) and 3-point (282) attempts than the career-high marks he set last year. I'm partial to the Freefaller, m'self, but hey: to each his own.

Gentle, cautious elbow bash to SLAM.

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Dallas Mavericks suspend guard Delonte West indefinitely, according to report

16 Oct

With former MVP and offensive linchpin Dirk Nowitzki reportedly considering surgery as he continues to struggle through swelling in his right knee, the last thing in the world the Dallas Mavericks need right now is another problem to deal with as they prepare for their regular-season opener at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 30. Unfortunately for Mavericks fans, the bad news kept coming on Tuesday morning, as Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas reports:

Dallas Mavericks guard Delonte West has been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.

Carlisle did not specify a timetable for West's suspension.

Sources told ESPNDallas.com that West's suspension stems at least in part from an outburst in the locker room after the Mavs' 123-104 preseason win Monday over the Houston Rockets. He had 2 points, 2 assists and 1 rebound in 16 minutes during the win.

West tweeted later Monday: "Sorry moma..." and "I showed off on ur birthday again..."

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of NBA.com]

Those tweets appear to have been deleted from West's Twitter account.

The suspension is the latest of several disciplinary incidents in which the hard-nosed 29-year-old combo guard has been involved over the course of his eight-year NBA career. The NBA suspended West, then a free agent, for 10 games during the summer of 2010 after pleading guilty to weapons charges on which he was arrested in September 2009. Last season, West was fined by the league for sticking his finger in the ear of Utah Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward during an April game, an incident that Carlisle called "unacceptable" at the time, stressing the importance of West channeling his commendable competitiveness into positive performance rather than destructive, distracting incidents.

West's behavioral aberrations have, in the past, at times been attributed in part to his struggles with bipolar disorder, although it's unclear if that played any role in this alleged "outburst," the nature of which remains vague.

West missed 21 games last year with a fractured right index finger, but was a valuable member of the Mavs' backcourt rotation when available, averaging 9.6 points, 3.2 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 24.1 minutes per game in 44 appearances (including 33 starts) for Carlisle. After returning to the team on a one-year, veteran's minimum contract this offseason, West figured to serve as a key backup at both guard spots behind the newly imported O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison.

West's ball-handling and play-making were expected to be especially important at the point, now that fellow combo-guard backup Rodrigue Beaubois has been sidelined by a sprained left ankle. The suspension could mean more time on the ball for rookie Jared Cunningham, whom the Mavs chose out of Oregon State with the 24th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

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Deron Williams zings A.J. Price after scuffle late in Nets’ preseason win over Wizards (VIDEO)

16 Oct

The Brooklyn Nets made their Barclays Center debut in a Monday night matchup with the Washington Wizards, and while the preseason affair didn't boast the star power of Jay-Z's recent run of blockbuster building-christening concerts, it did feature two things near and dear to hoops fans' hearts: a good ol' fashioned NBA fight (which is to say, an aimless bit of shoving in which no legitimate punches were thrown) and a night-ending, hierarchy-affirming zing.

In the game's closing minute, with the Nets up eight and the outcome well in hand, Wizards amnesty victim-turned-Nets big man Andray Blatche (who had 16 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two assists off the Brooklyn bench) bodied up Wizards point guard A.J. Price on a drive, stripping him of the ball and tossing an outlet to Brooklyn's star triggerman, Deron Williams. Price, thinking he'd been fouled on the play, raced back on defense and promptly took the body on D-Will, leading to some shoving, scuffling and the exchange of unkind words. Both players received technical fouls and Williams hit two free throws on the personal foul call, as the Nets finished off a 98-88 win.

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of NBA.com]

After the game, Price — who was born in the Amityville section of Long Island, N.Y., about an hour's drive away from Barclays Center — chalked the shoving match up to the heightened passions of a competitive contest.

"In the heat of the moment, guys say things all the time and one thing led to another, but all in all, it's part of the game," the UConn product said, according to Tim Bontemps of the New York Post.

Williams, unsurprisingly, had a slightly different — and absolutely withering — take. From Mike Mazzeo at ESPN New York:

Williams said Price [...] kept saying, 'I'm home. I'm home.'"

"I hate when people just start talking for no reason," Williams said. "That's pretty much what he did.

"Maybe he had some boys in the crowd he wanted to impress while he can with the little minutes he's going to get this year.

To be fair, Price might see more than "little minutes" for the Wizards, thanks to John Wall's unfortunate left knee injury. Still, in the interest of clarity: Price has played 2,315 combined regular- and postseason minutes during his three-year NBA career; Williams played 1,999 last year alone, and he missed 11 games. Price is on a one-year, veteran-minimum contract competing for minutes with Shelvin Mack and Jannero Pargo; Williams is on a five-year, $98.8 million maximum contract, the master of all he surveys in Barclays Center and likely competing for a playoff berth. With all due respect (no, seriously, we mean it) to the Nets' part-owner, that's the kind of comment that makes your soul burn slow.

So, now that we know how Williams responded after the game, what did he say to Price at the time? From Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski:

Williams rolled his eyes, laughed and blurted back to Price something that Nets general manager Billy King had worked so relentlessly to hear Williams declare within Barclays: "This is my home now."

And Nets fans wouldn't have it any other way. Say goodnight, A.J.

Video via nbainfos.

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Ivan Johnson shatters backboard during Hawks practice, reacts to it in very Ivan Johnson way (VIDEO)

15 Oct

After a six-point preseason loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night, the Atlanta Hawks traveled to the gym at Butler University in Indianapolis on Monday morning, eager to correct some mistakes and continue preparing for the regular season. But before the clock struck noon on the East Coast, according to the team's Twitter feed (and, subsequently, Hawks teammates Mike Scott, Al Horford, James Anderson and Anthony Tolliver, as well as Hawks player development instructor Nick Van Exel), practice was called on account of extreme violence against plexiglas. Behold:

The perpetrator of this glass-shattering (which we'd have to imagine the folks at Butler aren't super thrilled about)? None other than Ivan Johnson, Atlanta's diamond-grill-rockin', non-NBA-watchin', rough-and-tumble-shot-destroyin', Celtics-fan-bird-flippin' power forward, who appeared pretty much out of nowhere last season and became an Internet fan favorite due in large part to his combination of physicality and plain-spoken awesomeness.

After the shattered backboard gave us the physicality, it was time for the plain-spoken awesomeness. Ivan, naturally, did not disappoint:

"Ehh, it's just the way I work out. I work out hard," a totally nonplussed Johnson said when asked what happened. "In everything we do."

The glass-breaking was a first for Johnson, whose years-long journey — from Pac-10 prospect to Division II beast, from banned in Korea to D-League standout, from grinding it out in China to an NBA call-up — has been the stuff of legend. (He does note, however, that he has "knocked some screws out before.")

So Ivan, given the rarity of the event and the accomplishment of dunking with enough ferocity to end practice, feel like commemorating the occasion with a photo?

"No," he said with a dismissive laugh. "Probably not. It's nothing."

Of course it isn't. Please continue being awesome, Ivan Johnson. As if you could ever do anything else.

Video via the Hawks' official YouTube channel. Hat-tip on the breakage to NBA.com's John Schuhmann.

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of NBA.com]

Tags: backboard, , , , physicality, ,
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76-year-old professor tries out for Warriors’ D-League affiliate: ‘You know, what the hell’ (VIDEO)

15 Oct

As NBA teams continue their training camps in preparation for their season's late October tipoff, many of their D-League affiliates are conducting open tryouts in the hope of adding talent to add to their rosters before their season begins on the Friday after Thanksgiving. While such tryouts are often intended to unearth overlooked diamonds in the rough and give young players a chance to compete, D-League teams have famously brought older veterans into the fold, including Ricky Davis, Greg Ostertag and Antoine Walker, whose ill-fated comeback with the Idaho Stampede ended this past April.

At a Sunday tryout for the newly minted Santa Cruz Warriors, the Golden State Warriors affiliate formerly based in North Dakota and named the Dakota Wizards, though, a player took the floor who makes Walker, Ostertag, Davis and every other player in D-League history look like spring chickens. The 68 players who showed up at Aptos High School in Aptos, Calif., to compete for a D-League training camp invite included members of the Washington Generals (as in "the guys who play the Harlem Globetrotters"), Bay Area rapper/noted curser and uncurser of Kevin Durant/Based God Lil B ... and a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz who was born before Batman was. From Julie Jag at the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

Seventy-six-year-old Don Wiberg hadn't played basketball in 20 years, having traded it in for beach volleyball, when he stepped on the court Sunday. He admits he couldn't make his high school team and that he played one year at Cal Tech before deciding he was better at water polo.

Still, he couldn't resist the S.C. Warriors' claim that it would welcome anyone over 18 who was willing to pay the $100-125 entry fee.

"It's on my bucket list," he said. "You know, what the hell."

If you can afford the entry fee, a portion of the proceeds from which will reportedly be donated to Aptos High and Santa Cruz City Schools, then "What the hell," indeed! Don't take yourself out of the running before the race even starts — let the front office decide whether it primarily values youth and athleticism or if it prefers the steady hand of veteran leadership. For proof that it's often the latter, just take a look at the New York Knicks' roster. (In fact, I'm surprised Glen Grunwald hasn't already inked Wiberg to a three-year deal.)

Plus, you can never overestimate the value of decades of educational experience when helping your teammates understand how coach wants you to defend the pick and roll, and I know big-club coach Mark Jackson would love having someone to discuss Kalman filtering and adaptive optics for large telescopes with, at long last.

Given Wiberg's age and skill set, it seems unlikely that he will make the Santa Cruz squad; while the Warriors can bring as many as five tryout players to training camp in November, as Wiberg told an interviewer, "I can't say that I can run, jump or shoot, because I can't," and those are basically the primary skills that you need to play professional basketball. Regardless, we congratulate him for accomplishing a lifelong goal and commend him vigorously, because if this was the last thing that he really wanted to do, he must have been living a pretty amazing and fulfilling life these past 76 years.

Our recommendation: If you're in the greater Santa Cruz area and you're looking for "a decent passer [who will] get in there and mix it up" for your rec league team, you should definitely give Professor Wiberg a call. He's got D-League experience (technically), he seems like he'd be a lot of fun to play with and he'll probably even help you with your science homework. Win/win/win.

Video via the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Hat-tip to SLAM.

Tags: Aptos, , D-League, , , , Sentinel
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