Posts Tagged ‘Tony Mitchell’

Orlando Pro Summer League tips off


VIDEO: The Summer League season begins Saturday in Orlando

It’s an annual coming-out party for NBA rookies, other young pros looking to hone their skills and move up the pecking order and a handful of older veterans seeking another crack at the big time. In this case, it’s also the long-awaited pro debut of Nerlens Noel.

The Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League tips off Saturday (9 a.m., NBA TV) with familiar names from the draft and plenty of other hopefuls hustling for an invitation to training camps in October.

Eight first-round picks from the 2014 draft — led by No. 4 Aaron Gordon of the Magic, No. 6 Marcus Smart of the Celtics and No. 10 Elfrid Payton of the Magic — will take part in the seven days of competition that will take place on the practice court at Orlando’s Amway Center.

Another major headliner will be Noel, the No. 6 pick in the 2013 draft, who sat out all of last season while recovering from knee surgery. He’ll finally get to scratch that itch to play. Sixers fans might get their first glimpse into bright future.

The games are not open to the public and will only be attended by media and league personnel. All games will be shown on NBA TV.

The 10 teams will each play five games, concluding with a championship day that will be based on standings. A point system will establish the standings leading up to the final day, with eight points awarded each game based on: four points for winning the game and one point for winning a quarter (in the event of a tied quarter, each team will receive 0.5 points). In the event of ties in seeding heading into championship day, three tiebreakers will be in place: 1) total point differential; 2) total points allowed; 3) coin flip.

Here’s a quick look at roster highlights for each of the 10 teams that will participate:

Boston Celtics — It’s the second year of the rebuilding program under coach Brad Stevens. The Celtics are hoping to get a big boost from their pair of first-round draft choices Marcus Smart and James Young. It’s not certain if Young will play after he suffered a strained neck in a car accident several weeks before the Draft. He’s been held out of early workouts at the Celtics’ training facility. Last year’s first-round pick Kelly Olynyk — the MVP of the Summer League last season — will return to Orlando, joined by fellow Celtics veterans Chris Babb, Chris Johnson and Phil Pressey.

Brooklyn Nets — Last year’s summer appearance by the Nets was most notable for the coaching debut of Jason Kidd, who proceeded to answer a cell phone call on the sidelines of his very first game. Kidd has been replaced by Lionel Hollins, who did a masterful job giving the Grizzlies credibility as a playoff contender. The Nets were without first-round draft picks as a result of the Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce trades last year. But on draft night they dealt cash for second-round picks Markel Brown, Xavier Thames and Cory Jefferson. Also playing for the Nets will be Mason Plumlee, who made a big impression a year ago and went on to become the All-Rookie first team center last season.

Detroit Pistons – It’s the beginning of a new era in Detroit with Stan Van Gundy’s arrival as both head coach and club president. Second-year Pistons players Kentavious-Caldwell Pope, Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell will each be looking to tighten up their games to impress the new boss. Andre Drummond and Kyle Singler will practice with the team, but will not participate in games. The NBA D-League 2014 Defensive Player of the Year DeAndre Liggins will be on the roster, along with undrafted free agents Tristan Spurlock, Mustafa Shakur, Jordan Heath and Markel Starks.

Houston Rockets — It’s been a long time since the Rockets made Maarty Leunen a second-round pick out of Oregon in the 2008 draft, but the long-range bomber will be in Orlando to take his shot. Leunen has the shooting skill the Rockets seek, hitting 42 percent on 3-pointers the past three seasons in the Italian League. He’ll join up with last year’s rookies, Isaiah Canaan and Robert Covington, who both got their feet wet last season with the Rockets. The 6-foot-9 power forward Covington was named the 2014 NBA D-League rookie of the year . The Rockets’ top draft pick Clint Cappela will not play, but second-round choice, Arizona guard Nick Johnson, will be on the court in Orlando.

Indiana Pacers – There’s not the usual summertime electricity in the air when you walk away from the draft without a single player. The Pacers’ roster will be anchored by last year’s holdovers Donald Sloan and Solomon Hill, who’ll be seeking to earn another season on the roster. Jake Odum was a four-year starter at Larry Bird’s alma mater Indiana State and will try to push Sloan for the third point guard spot. A back injury has scratched 10-year NBA veteran Roger Mason Jr. from his scheduled appearance with the Pacers.

Memphis Grizzlies — Second-year shooting guard Jamaal Franklin will head up the Grizzlies’ entry. Franklin saw time in 21 games for the Grizzlies last season. He’ll be joined by 2014 draft pick Jordan Adams (No. 22 overall) and Jarnell Stokes (No. 35). Adams was rated a terrific scorer and good offensive rebounder ahead of the draft, but some scouts labeled him unathletic. This is his first chance to prove them wrong. The roster, led by assistant coach Shawn Respert for the first three games and assistant Jason March for the last two, will feature three native Memphians, including Stokes, former University of Memphis guard Joe Jackson and former Ole Miss guard Terrico White.

Miami Heat – Gee, no pressure at all when LeBron James tweets that you were the best point guard in the draft. Assuming The King returns to Miami, everyone will be looking to see if Shabazz Napier can bring enough talent to South Beach to help make a difference for the point-guard poor Heat. Miami brass made its play for the guy who led UConn to another NCAA championship on draft night, swinging a deal with the Bobcats to get their man at No. 24. Seven-footer Justin Hamilton played seven games with the Heat last season. Point guard Larry Drew set the UCLA single season record for assists in 2013, but went undrafted and played last season for the Sioux City Skyforce in the NBA D-League.

Oklahoma City Thunder – The Thunder surprised many with their first round picks Mitch McGary (21) and Josh Huestis (29), mostly because they seemed to duplicate picks from a year earlier in Steven Adams and Andre Roberson. Plenty scouts were high on the big man McGary, and Huestis put his stamp on last season when he locked up and shut down No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins. Adams and Roberson are back for another summer league run and will be joined by Jeremy Lamb and Grant Jerrett.

Orlando Magic — The hometown team will bring in a pair of top 10 talents from this year’s draft. The power forward Gordon has size and strength and a defensive nose. This is where he’ll start trying to add a jumper to his game that could vault him to the elite level in a couple of years. The Magic wanted Payton enough to give up a future first round pick for him at No. 10, and together with Victor Oladipo could give them an outstanding backcourt for years. Last year’s top pick Oladipo will be back on the summer league roster along with Stephen Curry’s brother Seth, who is still trying to carve out a place in the NBA. Matt Bouldin won the D-League championship with the Ft. Wayne Mad Ants last season.

Philadelphia 76ers – He’s been champing at the bit to get out on the court wearing a Sixers jersey in game conditions for more than a year, so don’t be surprised if Nerlens Noel jumps through the ceiling when he finally gets on the floor. The No. 6 pick in the 2013 Draft was rehabbed very conservatively, so now he’ll get to show off the all-around skills that had him listed as the No. 1 pick until his knee injury. Joel Embiid, the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft, will of course sit out following foot surgery. Last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams will be sidelined after surgery to repair a torn labrum. The Sixers roster will include the 32nd pick K.J. McDaniels, Jeremi Grant (No. 39), Vasilije Micic (No. 52) and Jordan McRae (No. 58). Also suiting up will be Pierre Jackson, who set the single-game D-League scoring record with 58 points last season.

Sleeper Picks With Best Chance To Impact


VIDEO: Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng talks about his summer league experience

HANG TIME WEST – The rookie drafted late in the first round, 20th or lower, who will have the biggest impact? Gorgui Dieng of the Timberwolves. Twenty-five or lower? Archie Goodwin in Phoenix, ahead of Reggie Bullock, who won’t play much this season in the crowded Clippers’ rotation, but can shoot and defend, will have a solid career and become a very good return on the investment.

But among second-rounders in the league this season, the real futures market, there are several possibilities who will do more than survive cuts based on updated rosters since the draft in June and summer league in July.  With or without stops in the NBA Development League, they will actually last and contribute.

1. Jeff Withey, Pelicans: Withey will get a chance on a team lacking true centers. Four years at Kansas says he will be ready as the No. 39 pick. Anthony Davis, a power forward-center, is about to take off after battling injuries as a rookie, and Withey could become a valuable career backup who is mature and will defend and rebound.

2. Tony Mitchell, Pistons: Once considered a lottery possibility before falling to No. 37 when he played with such poor energy last season at North Texas, the original appeal remains. Mitchell is a stud athlete at power forward with a high ceiling. The Pistons can put him on the Andre Drummond Plan that worked well, bringing Mitchell along slowly behind Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith in the big-man rotation.

3. Isaiah Canaan, Rockets: Minutes will be very tough to find in Houston in 2013-14 -– probably more like impossible –- with Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley and Aaron Brooks at point guard, but it’s still easy to see Canaan having a long career as a backup after going No. 34. He is a smart and tough leader who would have been able to run an NBA offense last season while at Murray State.

4. Nate Wolters, Bucks: The 38th pick will begin the season behind Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour at point guard, a tough climb. But Wolters is a very good ball handler, has a high basketball IQ that allows him to get to the rim despite a lack of athleticism, and is 6-4. If he can keep up on defense, a real question, he will be in the league.

5. Ricky Ledo, Mavericks: Ledo will probably have a very small role, if that, and spend most of 2013-14 in the D-League. Long term, though, he is intriguing, a shooting guard with size (6-7) who can create for himself and deliver the ball to others. That’s worth the No. 43 pick.

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 8 Recap

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LAS VEGAS – Friday was moving day, as in moving on out for the 14 teams that filled out the consolation bracket of the first-ever Summer League tournament. The day featured seven games in two arenas spanning more than eight hours of basketball.

Eight teams will get back to action in Saturday’s quarterfinals in the Championship bracket with the semifinals on Sunday and the inaugural championship game on Monday night (9 p.m. ET, NBA TV).

Here’s a look at who did what in their final appearance of the summer.

Non-rookie of the day: Austin Rivers, the 10th overall pick a year ago by New Orleans and who now must wonder where his playing time will come in a backcourt that includes Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans left coach Monty Williams with something to remember, scoring 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting, plus three assists in 32:29.

Other notables: Atlanta’s Mike Scott, the 43rd pick a year ago who played in 40 games last season for the Hawks, had a huge day with 25 points, 10 rebounds and two assists. He made all 12 of his free-throw attempts. Denver’s Luke Harangody had 17 points, and Memphis’ Donte Green scored 16 points. Mavs point guard Justin Dentmon, who has toiled overseas and in the D-League with a few 10-day NBA contracts sprinkled in, lit it up late in a loss to Chicago for 23 points while hitting. Trail Blazers guard Terrel Harris finished strong with 25 points on 11-for-19 shooting and six rebounds.

Rookie of the day: We have a tie in this category. Sacramento’s Ben McLemore put on a show with a spectacular 19-point third quarter that helped the Kings get their lone win of the summer over the Hawks. He was 10-for-21 from the floor and had nine rebounds. Spurs forward Hollis Thompson, who played in the  D-League last season coming out of Georgetown, pushed San Antonio to a final-day, 90-80 victory over Milwaukee with a box-score-stuffing stat line: 21 points (8-12 FG, 2-2 3FG, 3-3 FT), four rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal in just 28 minutes.

Other notables: McLemore’s teammate Ray McCallum, a second-round pick, continues to impress with his quickness and smarts. He delivered 12 points and 11 assists (we also must mention Kings forward David Lighty going 8-for-9 from the field for 16 points). Bucks point guard Nate Wolters scored 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting and added five rebounds and three assists in the 90-80 loss to the Spurs. The Knicks got a huge lift from their bench in a 91-80 win over the Clippers. Terrence Jennings, who has played overseas and in the D-League, had 14 points and nine rebounds while D-League rookie of the year Tony Mitchell out of Alabama had 15 points and four rebounds. Bulls second-round pick Erik Murphy, who suffered a broken nose earlier in the week, paced Chicago past Dallas with 19 points (7-for-10 shooting, 3-for-5 on 3s) and 13 rebounds. Teammate Tony Snell, the 20th pick out of New Mexico, had 20 points, seven boards and three dimes.

Coming Up: The quarterfinals of the championship bracket gets started at 4 p.m. ET when the 18th-seeded Heat take on the seventh-seeded Cavaliers. Then it’s No. 3 Phoenix taking on  No. 6 Toronto, the No. 4 D-League Select team against No. 5 Charlotte and finally No. 1 Golden State against No. 8 Los Angeles Lakers.

Billups Agrees To 2-Year Deal With Detroit



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Brandon Knight is going to finishing school for NBA point guards without ever leaving the Detroit Pistons’ practice facility.

No one should be happier to hear the news that former Pistons star Chauncey Billups, The Finals MVP in 2004, is returning to Detroit on a two-year, $5 million deal, as first reported by Yahoo! Sports.

Billups, a five-time All-Star, was the ringleader of a Pistons crew that was dominant in the Eastern Conference for a five-season stretch from 2004-08. After being traded from Detroit to Denver, he helped guide his hometown Nuggets to the 2009 Western Conference finals alongside Carmelo Anthony. Last season, he helped Chris Paul and Blake Griffin lead the Los Angeles Clippers to the best season in franchise history and their first Pacific Division title.

His return to Detroit, though, represents a homecoming of a different kind. Billups made his name with the Pistons, going from a journeyman existence early in his career to one of the most well-respected players in the entire league.

Pistons boss Joe Dumars has already added Rasheed Wallace, who also starred on those teams with Billups, to the coaching staff. And Billups will not only play a vital role in the backcourt rotation, but perhaps his greatest value will be as a mentor to Knight, a talented young point guard who will learn plenty from a player like Billups.

He’s nearly a decade removed from his greatest moments with the Pistons, but he proved last season that he’s still got plenty left in his tank. He returned from a torn Achilles (suffered in February of 2012) to play in 22 games this season, averaging 8.4 points and 2.2 assists while playing 19 minutes a night.

The Pistons signed Josh Smith to a four-year, $54 million deal Wednesday, solidifying a frontcourt rotation that also includes budding young stars Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond as well as Kyle Singler, Jonas Jerebko and second-round pick Tony Mitchell.

What wasn’t clear until now is what they were going to do to fortify the backcourt rotation after veteran point guard Jose Calderon left for Dallas via free agency. Adding Billups softens that blow and gives the Pistons a significant upgrade in the leadership department.

Coach Don’t Lie: ‘Sheed On Pistons’ Bench

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Does anybody know the NBA record for technical fouls by an assistant coach in a season?

Might be time to look it up, because it seems that Rasheed Wallace will be making his debut among the carriers of the clipboards as he joins new head coach Maurice Cheeks on the Pistons’ bench. Nothing is official yet, but Wallace was on the bench Monday for the Pistons’ game against the Celtics in the Orlando Pro Summer League.

“What Rasheed brings is knowledge of the game,” said Cheeks. “How to do things. When to do things. Where to do things. That’s important for any NBA team, but it’s going to be especially important for us this season because we’ve got so many young players.”

As they say, coach don’t lie.

Greg Monroe (23), Tony Mitchell (21) and Andre Drummond (19) are all front court players under 24 years old and the most likely targets for tutoring by Wallace, the 6-foot-11 Wallace. But even the Pistons’ top draft picking, shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will benefit just from being around Wallace, according to Cheeks.

“This is a guy who has been around the league for a long time, played for a lot of different teams, in a lot of different situations,” Cheeks said. “He can pass along what to do in a game to help you win one game and what to do in a locker room to help you win a lot of games down the line.”

Wallace’s 17-year career took him through Washington, Portland, Atlanta, Detroit, Boston and New York, where he retired for a second time at the end of last season following an aborted comeback attempt with the Knicks. He averaged 14.4 points and 6.7 rebounds and his addition was the final piece to the puzzle that produced the Pistons 2004 championship, when they stunned Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in The Finals.

Of course, Wallace is known as much for his outbursts of temper, which led to more than 300 career technical fouls, including an NBA record 41 during the 2000-01 season. Most famous was his expletive-filled rant following Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Boston and the Dec. 12, 2012 game against Phoenix when he drew two technicals and was ejected in less than 90 seconds. He got the second for saying his trademark “Ball don’t lie,” when Goran Dragic missed a free throw.

Cheeks was the one who reached out to the 39-year-old Wallace about the possibility of starting a coaching career.

“I think he can be a very valuable part of what we’re trying to do next season,” Cheeks said.

Not to mention drawing all the attention on the bench away from the head coach when the T’s start to fly.

“I’m letting him take all those bullets,” Cheeks said laughing. “Rasheed’s used to it.”

Coach (Rasheed Wallace) Don’t Lie?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Jason Kidd isn’t the only former New York Knicks veteran to trade in his locker room stall for a spot in the coach’s locker room. In what has to qualify as the best news perhaps of the entire offseason, HT fave Rasheed Wallace will soon be announced as a member of the Detroit Pistons’ coaching staff under Mo Cheeks.

Wallace is in Orlando for summer league action with the Pistons and was spotted in the gym at the Amway Center this afternoon with a polo shirt on with the Pistons’ logo on the upper left side. Wallace helped the Pistons become an Eastern Conference power and won a ring in 2004 and made another trip to The Finals in 2005.

He’s expected to work with the Pistons’ young frontcourt core of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Tony Mitchell, hopefully imparting some of the same wisdom he did for guys like Jermaine O’Neal and Zach Randolph when they youngsters in Portland playing behind a then-All-Star Wallace. Both O’Neal and Randolph went on to become All-Stars after being tutored by Wallace, who saw his season and likely his playing career come to an end this season in New York when a stress fracture sidelined him.

Wallace’s presence could be a huge boost for Pistons’ free-agent pickup Josh Smith, who has agreed to a four-year, $56 million deal with the team that cannot be signed until Wednesday. For all of the hype about Wallace’s technical fouls and run-ins with officials over the course of his career, he’s been lauded by many who have played with him as the ideal teammate and one of the smartest players to come through the league in his era.

Orlando Summer League Tips Off Sunday

HANG TIME, Texas — You’ve got rookies often trying to wildly impress, second-year players who have a better understanding of what is expected and a few veterans who are hoping to get another taste of the big time.

The Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League tips off Sunday with some familiar names from the 2013 Draft and plenty of other hopefuls trying to crack an NBA roster.

NBA Summer LeagueNine first-round picks — led by No. 2 Victor Oladipo, No. 8 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and No. 9 Trey Burke – will take part in the six days of competition that will take place on the Magic’s practice court at Orlando’s Amway Center. The games are not open to the public and will only be attended by media and league personnel. All games will be shown on NBA TV.

A new format will be added this summer with two extra teams and one extra day added to the schedule. Under the new format, each team will play five games over the six-day event, concluding with a championship day. Standings will be based on a seven-point system for each game — three points for a win and one point for winning each quarter.

Here’s a quick look at roster highlights of the 10 teams that will participate:

Boston Celtics — It’s a whole new ballgame for the Celtics’ rebuilding program and there would seem to be plenty of room for new faces to earn a ticket to Boston now that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers are all gone. New coach Brad Stevens will be on hand to observe, but leading the team will be assistant coach Jay Larranaga. First-round pick Kelly Olynyk, obtained by trade from Dallas, will be the biggest name on the roster, though last year’s draftee Fab Melo is physically bigger. Avery Bradley is being given a rest from duty and Jared Sullinger is still recovering from back surgery.

Brooklyn Nets – The remade and reloaded Nets will have first round pick Mason Plumlee suiting up for the first time along with a pair of last season’s veterans Tornike Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor. But all eyes during the week will surely on the rookie on the sidelines. After a 19-year playing career that will surely send him to the Hall of Fame, Jason Kidd is taking no time off and going right to the bench. It will be most interesting to see if Kidd is as good in this transition as he was on the court.

Detroit Pistons — Andre Drummond arrived in Orlando a year ago with something to prove to the doubters and then went back to Detroit and showed that he was not merely a summer fling. Drummond will return, but is not expected to play the full slate of five games. The Pistons will have their entire rookie class of 2013 — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva. New coach Maurice Cheeks may have his work cut out resurrecting the Pistons at the NBA level, but the summer roster is quite capable.

Houston Rockets — After all their maneuvering and salary cap gymnastics to try to land free agent Dwight Howard, the Rockets did not have a first-round pick this year, but may have gotten first-round quality in point guard Isaiah Canaan. Terrence Jones, a No. 1 from a year ago, will be on the team and continuing to show that he’s a keeper and this Houston bunch is also loaded with Patrick Beverley and Greg Smith.

Indiana Pacers – It seems like much longer than just four years ago that Jonny Flynn was the No. 6 pick in the 2009 draft and maybe that’s because he’s mostly been on the outside everywhere he’s gone, trying to justify that selection and prove that he belongs. Now he’s back from playing in Australia and trying to get that third guard spot with the Pacers, who are also bringing in Donald Sloane. This year’s first round pick Solomon Hill will join holdovers Miles Plumlee, Orlando Johnson and Ben Hansbrough from last season’s roster.

Miami Heat — After winning back-to-back NBA titles, the Heat aren’t taking the summer off. In fact, they’re working overtime, the only franchise to be fielding teams at both Orlando and Las Vegas. Miami didn’t have a first-round pick — remember, it was traded for that LeBron fellow. The rosters will be led by last season holdover center Jarvis Varnado and second-round pick James Ennis, a swingman out of Long Beach State. A couple of high profile college guards, Larry Drew II of UCLA and Myck Kabongo of Texas will play for the Heat. Joining the team in Orlando only are Cedric Jackson, Ian Clark, Dewayne Dedmon and D.J. Stephens.

Oklahoma City Thunder — While three rookies Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Grant Jerrett will be on hand for their Thunder debuts, most eyes of the coaching staff and back in OKC will be on holdovers from the main roster Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones. Jackson dazzled with his play in Orlando last summer, giving the first hint that he’d be ready to step into the point guard job when Russell Westbrook went down.

Orlando Magic — When it looked like everybody was losing their minds at the top of the draft a week ago, Magic GM Rob Hennigan kept his eye on the prize and simply chose his man Victor Oladipo. Is he a point guard or a shooting guard? Or is he just ready to do anything the Magic ask in the backcourt? Forward Romero Osby, a second round pick, has a lot of folks saying he’s a sleeper. Second-year men Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson are also on the roster.

Philadelphia 76ers —
While many Sixers fans are still reeling from the draft night trade that shipped out the young All-Star and favorite Jrue Holiday, this will be everyone’s first chance to see how his successor measures up.  Michael Carter-Williams will be given the keys to the offense in Philly when the season starts in October, so consider this his going out to take the test for his driver’s license. Nerlens Noel, the prize that came in the trade for Holiday, will not play as he’s still rehabbing his knee injury.  But Justin Holiday, Jrue’s brother, will be back to see if he can stick with the Sixers again.

Utah Jazz – Top draft pick Trey Burke said on draft night that he hopes to be the Jazz’ starting point guard on opening night next season. So he’ll start to press his case by running the summer show. Rookie center Rudy Gobert hopes to get in a few runs maybe by the end of the show in Orlando. He’s currently trying to work out a buyout of his contract with his French team and will need FIBA clearance. Center Enes Kanter is still recovering from shoulder surgery and neither Gordon Hayward or Derrick Favors will play, because they’re both part of the Team USA camp in August. Jazz fans will get to see a Stockton back in uniform. Hall of Famer John Stockton’s son Michael is a free agent signee.

Noel Anticipating Christmas Return

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CHICAGO – Potential No. 1 pick Nerlens Noel said his recovery from a torn knee ligament is going better than anticipated but that he expects to make his NBA debut sometime around Christmas, an assessment that should end speculation about whether he could be ready for the start of the season.

The Kentucky power forward/center is rivaled by only Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore as the clear favorites to be chosen first overall in the June 27 NBA Draft. Noel has an edge in their head-to-head matchup but McLemore is a realistic option based on team need once the lottery order is set Tuesday. But Noel has the unique risk for a possible No. 1 of coming off knee surgery in March, late enough that he not only is unable to work out for clubs but also will force him to miss summer league and training camp.

His report on the current rehabilitation in Birmingham, Ala., offers the prognosis of a successful recovery yet also the reality he will probably miss at least the first two months of his rookie season. Noel said the timetable is based on what he calls ‘very encouraging’ feedback on the recovery efforts along with the initial estimate of needing six to eight months to get back on the court.

“I have no doubt that I will be 100 percent, [and] even better than before, especially with everything I’m doing now,” he said. “I’m strengthening everything – upper body, lower body. I’m sure I’ll be better than 100 percent when I get back.

“It’s [going] better than I expected. I expected to be moving at a fast rate, and I definitely am. I’ll be looking to make a comeback as soon as possible. I just want to make sure my knee is in a good state.”

While it is impossible to get a definitive read on the knee, there is the other update on his conditioning and prep work for the draft: Noel measured at 4.2 percent body fat earlier this week as part of all prospects from U.S. colleges going through physicals, a very good outcome for anyone but particularly a player who isn’t able to go through the same training regimen. He measured 6-foot-10 without shoes and 6-11 ¾ with shoes, and 206 pounds.

“There’s no risk at all,” Noel said of a being chosen first with the uncertainty of a knee injury. “I definitely have the mindset that I’m going to come back from this…. When I get back, I’m going to be the hardest worker I can be and do what I have to do to be the player I want to be and do good things for the team I get drafted by.”

Other news, notes and observations as the second and final day in the gym at the pre-draft combine concluded Friday afternoon:

  • Rudy Gobert, on the bubble for the lottery, scored points with teams by participating in drills when it has become common for most prospects with a good shot for the middle of the first round to skip the basketball portion of the event to protect draft stock. Front offices are annually frustrated by players ducking the competition. Gobert, a center from France, did not duck. “It shows that somebody’s aware,” one executive said. “The knock on him is that he doesn’t want to compete. Whether he listened to an agent or a coach or decided on his own, it’s a good sign that he’s here.”
  • Gobert looked stunned to learn there were doubts about his drive. But he did say he liked the idea of sending the message that he wants to face the top competition to get better after so far spending his entire career in Europe. Gobert also has the “Wow” factor with a wing span of 7-8 ½ and a standing reach of 9-7 in addition to standing 7-2 in shoes, meaning he can at least come close to touching the rim without jumping. His wingspan has been an obvious attribute for a long time, with people often asking him to stand and stretch his arms, just to get a look. One executive, seeing Gobert in person for the first time, said it’s a sight just to watch Gobert’s reach while standing next to another player. Teams want to fall in love with this guy. He had a disappointing 2012-13 in Europe, but with his potential plus the physical, Gobert easily moves into the lottery if he does anything in the individual workouts. He was No. 16 in the last NBA.com ranking.
  • Jeff Withey, center from Kansas, is aware teams like him around the middle of the first round for defense and rebounding, and has been working to improve his mid-range and post game since the end of the season. The result was some positive feedback off drills in the gym.
  • Steven Adams, was the big man who impressed the most in that area, showing a mid-range game that didn’t get noticed in one season at Pittsburgh. That Adams is expanding his game is especially noteworthy as a relatively inexperienced player, and very inexperienced at a high level of competition, after learning the game in his native New Zealand. He is an aggressive, fluid 7-footer.
  • Dennis Schroeder, the German point guard making a late charge up draft boards, has singled out Utah and Milwaukee as preferred destinations on draft night. The disclosure is particularly relevant because the interest may be mutual and both will probably be picking in the right range, with the Jazz at 14 barring a long-shot climb into the top three on lottery night and the Bucks at 15. As Schroeder himself pointed out, the Jazz have the position need as Mo Williams heads into free agency (with a good chance they’d have the need even if Williams wasn’t). When asked what he considered the best place to start his NBA career, he mentioned Utah first. Milwaukee is a possibility with Brandon Jennings about to become a free agent. That draft-night decision by the Bucks, if Schroeder is available at 15, will be as much about weighing their future with Jennings as weighing Schroeder. And if they draft one and re-sign the other, it creates trade chips. Schroeder said he has scheduled a work out with the Rockets as well as the Jazz and Bucks. Houston picks 18, though. At this rate, he’ll be long gone.
  • McLemore-Shabazz Muhammad was once shaping up as the best matchup once individual workouts got underway for the top prospects following the lottery. No more. Now it’s Schroeder-Trey Burke, even if Michael Carter-Williams, not Schroeder, remains the second-best prospect among point guards. The warp speed of Schroeder, the tournament-tested experience of Burke, the drive of both – that’s a great show.
  • One GM, on Tony Mitchell, once a possibility for the lottery but now trying to hold on to a spot in the first round after a difficult season at North Texas: “He’s the best athlete here. It’s not even close. He’s a freak of nature.”