Tuesday, October 03, 2006

NBA Training Camps Open For Former Bruins

By Bruin Basketball Report

NBA training camps opened across the country this week with a number of former UCLA Bruin stars competing for playing time and spots on their team's final roster.

When camps end at the end of October, NBA teams must trim rosters to just fifteen players. Of those roster players, twelve will be designated as active roster players while the remaining three will be deemed inactive roster players. If an inactive roster player has two or less years of NBA experience, he may be sent down to play at the team's affiliate NBDL team.

BBR gives a rundown of all former Bruins players currently participating in NBA training camps this year

Baron Davis, Golden State Warriors, Guard: Davis has been injury-plagued the past four seasons playing in barely 60% of his team's games. However when he opens training camp this week with the Warriors, he will weigh 15 pounds less than he did last season as he prepares to gain back his status as an elite point-guard in the NBA.

Under former Coach Mike Montgomery, Davis never appeared comfortable in the offensive scheme and the two often feuded. But with the hiring of new Head Coach Don Nelson, who begins his second coaching stint with the Warriors, Davis is a rejuvenated veteran.

"Playing against teams he's (Nelson) coached, I'd always be like, 'Wow, I wish we played like that,''' Davis said. "It's a challenge because it's a style that I've never played."

Look for a healthy Baron Davis and the Warriors to be much improved this season and to make the playoffs under Don Nelson.

Earl Watson, Seattle Sonics, Guard: Seattle fans cheered when the organization re-acquired the popular Watson at midseason last year. He promptly led the Sonics to a late-season resurgence averaging 11.4 points and 5.4 assists in the final 24 games.

Yet, Watson's return has not been without turmoil. Sonics point-guard Luke Ridnour reportedly was unhappy with his playing time due to Watson's arrival and has refused to discuss a contract extension until the Sonics clarify his role and future with the team.

Subsequently, Sonics' Head Coach Bob Hill recently announced the starting point-guard job is up for grabs at training camp. "I like Luke starting and getting us into games, because he's very good at that, and I like Earl coming in behind him because he speeds the game up and there's more unpredictability when Earl comes into the game," Hill said. "But I'm not married to that, because Luke needs to play better defense. We'll just have to see."

Dan Gadzuric, Milwaukee Bucks, Center: With Jamaal Magloire dealt away to the Portland Trailblazers, Gadzuric's role on the Bucks is once again clear.

With Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva starting at two frontcourt spots, Gadzuric will be looked upon to give the Bucks quality minutes off the bench.

Two seasons ago, the Bucks had signed Gadzuric to a "gad"zilla sized contract worth $36 million dollars to be a backup big man, and it appears Gadzuric is headed for a long, serviceable career in that role for years to come.

Trevor Ariza, Orlando Magic, Forward: After escaping the insane asylum known as Madison Square Garden last season, Ariza might be in a place where he can finally realize his basketball potential. After the Orlando Magic acquired Ariza in the Steve Francis trade, the Magic coaches fell in love with his wide array of skills on the court.

This summer the Magic gave up on DeShawn Stevenson and instead pursued and signed Ariza, a restricted free-agent. With Grant Hill playing limited minutes next season, Ariza is expected to be a big part of the Magic's present and future plans.

Magic Head Coach Brian Hill especially likes Ariza's defense and feels he can become the team's defensive stopper this season. If he can start to consistently hit the mid-range jump shot, which he worked hard to improve over the summer, Ariza may earn big minutes on a playoff team this season.

Darrick Martin, Toronto Raptors, Guard: The Toronto Raptors recently signed free-agent guard Darrick Martin to a one-year minimum veteran contract deal. He is expected to make the final roster when the team breaks camp at the end of the month.

Martin's primary role will likely be to serve as a mentor to young point-guards T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon. He is close friends with Raptors Head Coach Sam Mitchell who is comfortable with him as his extension in the locker room, on the bench, and on the court.

It will be Martin's 12th year in the NBA, the longest tenure of any current Bruin playing in the NBA next season.

Jason Kapono, Miami Heat, Forward: The sharp-shooting Kapono earned an NBA championship ring with the Miami Heat last season.

The team feels Kapono is a valuable piece on the team. Head Coach Pat Riley said "I don't think there's a better 3-point shooter in the game."

Despite only logging 2 minutes in the entire postseason, the Heat picked up Kapono's $1.1 million team option shortly after the Finals. Hopefully, Kapono will see more minutes in the postseason this year during the Heats run through the playoffs.

Jordan Farmar, Los Angeles Lakers, Guard: The rookie point guard impressed many around the league with his summer league performances in Long Beach.

Although Farmar has a guaranteed rookie contract with the Lakers, he may struggle to find playing time early in the season. Going into the Lakers training camp, Farmar is set behind both Smush Parker and Sasha Vujacic on the Laker depth chart at point-guard.

Look for the Lakers to either waive a veteran or make a multi-player trade in order to free up an active roster spot for Farmar. Although the NBDL is not completely out of the question, Farmar's refined game and maturity should earn him a spot on the Laker bench and perhaps a place in the rotation later on in the season.

Ryan Hollins, Charlotte Bobcats, Center: The 7'0 Hollins signed a contract with the Bobcats earlier this summer, but at this point, its unclear whether if he makes it onto the team's active twelve man roster or goes to the NBDL.

Unfortunately, Hollins injured his ankle early in summer league and was unable to further develop his game or showcase his skills to the team - thus making the Bobcats training camp an important time for Hollins. With 16 guaranteed contracts on the team, one contracted player will either be cut or traded before camp ends.

"I can't wait to get out there and go up against those guys," said Hollins. "You know, bang with them and pretty much learn and soak up all the knowledge and experience from playing." Hollins was also recently drafted by the Continental Basketball League (CBA) during their annual draft last week.

Matt Barnes, Golden State Warriors, Forward: In three NBA season, Barnes has played with four different teams. Will there be a fifth? Quite possibly, Barnes signed with the Golden State Warriors on Monday to tryout at the team's training camp. Last year, he split time between the Knicks and Sixers.

Barnes has found a place in the league the past three years with his athleticism and defense. He averaged 3.1 points and 2.2 rebounds last season.

Dijon Thompson, Golden State Warriors, Guard-Forward: While rehabilitating from a knee injury suffered last year, Thompson was cut by the Phoenix Suns over the summer. He split time between the NBDL and Suns last season. He played 10 games in Phoenix.

With a load of talent at the two-guard spot, the Warriors are likely evaluating Thompson as a small forward, and thus he'll be competing with fellow Bruin, Matt Barnes, for one of the backup spots on the team.

Cedric Bozeman, Atlanta Hawks, Guard-Forward: Bozeman recently signed a free-agent contract with the Atlanta Hawks to play in the team's training camp.

Atlanta coaching staff likes Bozeman's versatility to play both small forward and point-guard. However, he may have a difficult time cracking the roster since the team is already loaded at both spots with guaranteed-contract players. Bozeman was also drafted by the CBA in their draft last week.


(photo credit: AP)


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