Although he played well in this year's NCAA tournament, Vander Blue was one of the more surprising names on 2013's early entrant list, considering he's widely viewed as a second-round pick at best. But Blue told reporters at this week's draft combine in Chicago that he's confident in his decision, and expects to surprise anyone who doesn't think he'll produce in the NBA.
"Nobody expected [former Marquette teammate] Jimmy [Butler] to be who he is today with the Bulls," said Blue, according to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times. "Nobody probably expects me to do any good in the NBA. But I know how to go about my business. I’m more than confident."
After discussing Blue's decision to declare for the draft and passing along a few of his quotes, Woelfel's latest column explores a few other topics of note. Here are the highlights:
After spending 17 years playing professional basketball in Europe, Pablo Prigioni has enjoyed his first taste of the NBA this season with the Knicks. Prigioni will be a free agent at season's end, but George Bass, who represents Prigioni, tells Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com that his client is interested in re-signing with the Knicks.
"Pablo really enjoyed himself here, and he has interest in playing again next year," Bass said. "He's fallen in love with New York, there's no doubt. The Knicks are just a first-class organization, so it's been good all the way around."
Here are a few more updates from around the Eastern Conference:
Brandon Jennings predicted that the Bucks would topple the Heat in six games but things didn't go that way exactly. Miami completed their sweep of Milwaukee tonight, winning 88-77 behind a 30 point performance from LeBron James. This figures to be an interesting offseason for the Bucks, and here's the latest as they look ahead to the summer..
This time last year, it seemed Bucks GM John Hammond's job was on the line as the team chased the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The team fell short last year, but Hammond kept his job, and now the Bucks are in line for that eighth seed in the East. In the meantime, Hammond has been busy, having changed coaches, signed a three-year extension, and traded for J.J. Redick. There's plenty more work ahead, as the team's top three guards could all hit free agency this summer, and a decision on an extension for Larry Sanders looms. HoopsWorld's Bill Ingram caught up with Hammond, who reflected on some of what he's done.
On the Redick trade:
"We were hoping to make the playoffs. We thought adding a piece like J.J. Redick could help solidify that opportunity for us and he has. He’s been a great addition to our team. We’re also happy to have Gustavo (Ayon) and Ish Smith. It might be easy to forget about Gustavo and his abilities. We like him as a player, but it was a difficult trade to make to say the least. To move a piece like Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb; we like both those players, both good young players, but we felt at that time it was the right thing for our organization."
"Jim’s done a nice job with the team and I think we’re all seeing these situations that have occurred. It’s not a rarity in the NBA to have something like this happen. It’s not normalcy, but it’s not rarity by any stretch, so it happens. Most of the times when these sort of things happen, the situation goes south and goes south very quickly, but Jim has done a great job of working with our guys and communicating with our guys and motivating them to play hard. He deserves a lot of credit."
On the development of Sanders, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate:
"You draft Larry with the 15th pick and you’re hoping that when you used a first-round pick on a player that they turn out to be a location guy or better yet a starter, and Larry has turned out to be a significant piece of our team and a part of our team. Obviously, he’s one of the better shot blockers in the NBA. It’s been great for Larry, but he’s just taking advantage of the opportunity, and I think his game still has a chance to change and grow, and he’ll continue to develop as a player."
The Southeast-leading Heat have clinched the NBA's best record of 2012/13, ensuring that they'll have homecourt advantage throughout the entire postseason. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, the Bobcats' latest losing streak has once again put them in position to secure the best odds for the No. 1 pick this June. A game and a half behind the Magic, Charlotte would have to win at least two of its final four games in order to give up the top spot in the draft lottery, as our reverse standings show. Here's the rest of the latest out of the Southeast:
J.J. Redick spent nearly six and a half seasons with the Magic before being dealt to the Bucks right before the trade deadline. According to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, Redick says that he never felt any ill-will toward the Magic organization during the process and completely understands why they traded him: "Based on Arron (Afflalo) being there and who’s in the draft this year and where the Magic are likely to pick, there’s no way they would commit anything to me long-term — not just me, but just anybody in my situation. From a business standpoint, from a cap-building and rebuilding standpoint, it wouldn’t make sense. I get that. That’s fine."
You can find more of what we've gathered up from the Association tonight below:
11:07am: Woelfel throws a bit of cold water on his own report, tweeting that Redick replied, "That's news to me," when asked about the Bucks' offer. I wouldn't expect Redick to discuss an offer if it had been made, but his response is still worth noting.
10:52am: Shortly after the Bucks traded for J.J. Redick last month, we heard from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that the team was expected to make a strong bid to re-sign him this summer. According to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times (via Twitter), Milwaukee's offer may be similar to the one Ersan Ilyasova received from the team last offseason -- five years and $40MM.
Woelfel hears from multiple NBA officials who say that the Bucks have already verbally offered those terms to Redick. Teams can't begin formal negotiations with free agents until July, so even if Redick was on board with those years and dollars, a verbal commitment to the Bucks wouldn't stop other clubs from pursuing him when the free agent period begins.
Wojanrowski previously reported that Arn Tellem, Redick's agent, will likely seek at least a four-year, $40MM contract for his client in free agency, although Redick "took issue" with that report, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. If there are teams willing to make that kind of commitment to the sharpshooter, the Bucks may need to make a slightly stronger bid, especially if their offer follows the same structure as Ilyasova's contract, which includes a non-guaranteed fifth season.
Redick, who is earning $6.19MM in his contract year, is having the best season of his seven-year career. The 28-year-old is on track to set career-highs in PPG (15.0), FG% (.454), APG (4.2), and PER (16.0), among other categories.
While J.J. Redick was the biggest name moved at last month's trade deadline, he doesn't figure to be among the top tier of free agents available this summer. Still, Redick should attract plenty of interest on the open market. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Bucks are expected to make a strong bid for Redick in free agency, with the team prepared to pay him like a starting shooting guard.
Redick, Monta Ellis, and Brandon Jennings will all become free agents this summer, assuming Ellis turns down his 2013/14 player option. In that case, the Bucks figure to re-sign either Jennings or Ellis, along with Redick, according to Wojnarowski, who says that if the former Blue Devil leaves the Bucks, "he'll have to take less money -- probably a lot."
With Redick's Bird Rights in hand, the Bucks are in good position to outbid rival suitors. The 28-year-old will attract offers larger than the mid-level exception, so only teams with cap space figure to be contenders for his services, unless Milwaukee is willing to work out a sign-and-trade.
For his part, Redick tells Wojnarowski he's had "a lot of fun" with the Bucks so far, and the fact that Milwaukee was so active in pursuing him last month is something he'll definitely consider when he weighs his options this summer.
"To be wanted here - to be wanted anywhere in the league - is something I'll never take for granted," Redick said.
Since being drafted by the Magic 11th overall in 2006, J.J. Redick had spent his entire career in Orlando, including an NBA Finals appearance in 2009. Now a member of the Bucks after last Thursday's trade, Redick spoke to Jeff Caplan of NBA.com about Orlando's post-Finals team, the Dwight Howard situation, and the deal that sent him to Milwaukee. Here are the highlights from Redick:
On how close the Magic were to becoming an Eastern Conference powerhouse after 2009:
"We were very close. I think the big decision was what to do with Hedo [Turkoglu]. We didn’t necessarily want to give him a five-year deal and he had options out there, two five-year deals in excess of $50 million with Portland and Toronto. He made his decision and it was a good decision for him. As a player you have to strike while the iron is hot and take advantage of your small window to make a living.
"We made the trade for Vince [Carter] and for whatever reason we just couldn’t get over the top and beat the Celtics the next year. The following season we had a bunch of injuries and sicknesses early on and got off to a little bit of a slow start, and we made two separate blockbuster trades. And, to me, that was the turning point. We never really got back to elite status after that."
On when the Howard situation started to have an effect on the Magic:
"Dating back to a year and a half, two years ago is when things started to get a little hectic in Orlando. It definitely changed the makeup of the organization and the franchise. And obviously, when you have a player of Dwight’s caliber you’re in contention to win a championship. When you lose a player like that there’s a strong possibility you’re going to have to rebuild and it might get a little ugly."
On Howard having not committed to re-signing with the Lakers:
"I think he’s non-commital, I guess, for a reason. I’m not sure what that reason is, but if he wanted to explore his free agency he could have done it last summer. I’m not sure why he opted in [last year] because he wanted out of Orlando. I’m not really sure."
On having been sent to the Bucks after weeks of rumors and speculation:
"There’s definitely a feeling of relief. My feeling on just being traded in general is it’s part of the business. I’m a guy who just believes in making the best out of any situation. You can’t always change or control your circumstances, but you can change your perspective and your attitude. So no matter where I went, if I had stayed in Orlando, I would have made the most of it."
Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today has a new column in which he touches on a variety of topics from around the NBA and elsewhere in the basketball world. Here are the highlights: