NBA AM: Besiktas Targets Durant
Before it’s all said and done the Turkish club Besiktas just may become a household name thanks to the ongoing NBA lockout.
The team first made headlines by luring All-Star point guard Deron Williams overseas with a reported $5 million deal. Next, Besiktas set their sights on Atlanta Hawks reserve center Zaza Pachulia to join Williams in their revamped lineup before contract talks eventually stalled.
In one of the biggest headlines of the summer, the squad announced it had a 50/50 chance at also luring five-time NBA champion and future Hall of Fame guard Kobe Bryant to Turkey – which didn’t happen.
But there is seemingly no quit in Besiktas as the club has now set their radar on another elite NBA player in two-time scoring champion Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Durant’s agent Aaron Goodwin told ESPN he has already met with Besiktas team officials regarding the star player’s immediate future on the hardwood.
“The Turkish option is very intriguing,” Goodwin said in the interview. “We’re looking at other countries as well. Kevin hasn’t agreed to play anywhere yet, but we’re looking for the best fit.”
Goodwin also noted how persistent the Turkish option has been in pursuing his client.
“The Turkish teams have been real aggressive,” Goodwin said according to the report.
Durant has a career scoring average of 25.9 points per game in four seasons as a professional.
Last summer he led Team USA to a gold medal during the FIBA World Championships and followed it up by leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Western Conference Finals before succumbing to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks.
While Durant hasn’t publicly stated he’s willing to go overseas it’s obvious to anyone who has followed Durant’s career that it’s a distinct possibility given his true love for the game.
Durant famously wanted to play in summer league a couple of years ago against NBA hopefuls despite already being an established player on the rise. Earlier this summer he made an impromptu appearance at the famed Rucker Park in New York wowing the crowd with huge scoring performances seemingly unafraid at the prospect of injury.
While the talks are only in a preliminary juncture, you have to take note of Besiktas’ approach.
The Turkish club is driven in its pursuit to add another NBA headliner to its lineup, even after their signing of Allen Iverson last year didn’t net the expected results.
Solomon Alabi, Raptors Starting Center? When the Toronto Raptors selected Florida State product Solomon Alabi with the No. 50 overall pick in the 2010 draft most felt the big man was a long term developmental project or at best a career reserve.
Those thoughts were even more reinforced in Alabi’s rookie season when he appeared in just 12 contests totaling 59 minutes and recorded nearly more personal fouls (5) than points (6).
But since the season ended Alabi hasn’t stopped grinding and fine tuning his game.
More importantly he’s finally fully healthy after struggling with a knee injury suffered before the draft took place last year.
Despite the Raptors’ lottery selection of center Jonas Valanciunas in this year’s draft, Alabi’s goal is simple; to become a major contributor for Toronto this season.
Alabi looked impressive earlier this summer during Raptors’ minicamp and many believe he was easily one of the most impressive players there. From this standout performance it appears the coaching staff will give him an opportunity to see if he can produce at a high level.
“Honestly, I went out there [during minicamp] and the coaches told me if I’m good enough to play then they’ll play me,” Alabi told HOOPSWORLD. “For me to start [at center] with the Raptors is my ultimate goal and I’m working hard to make that happen. I have the opportunity now and I’m just going to do whatever it takes.”
Those ready to easily dismiss Alabi’s viability as a center prospect likely didn’t know about the young player’s knee surgery before the draft which sapped most of his mobility.
The injury and subsequent recovery period robbed his fluidity near the basket, forced him to play below the rim and made his movements robotic and stiff.
Now that he’s fully healthy the 23 year old has a new appreciation for the game thanks to the knee injury he suffered.
“It was tough,” Alabi told HOOPSWORLD on having to sit and watch. “It was really hard. But I just had to stay positive and continue working hard. I was excited that I had opportunity to be drafted. I’m not the first guy to have went through stuff like that. I’m healthy, so I’m trying to go extra hard right now – whatever drill I’m doing. Sitting down watching people play makes you want to play. So when you get healthy you just want to work hard and play to be in the same situation as all the people playing while you were sitting on the bench watching them.”
While most players use the summer to relax and rejuvenate not starting physical preparation for the upcoming season until early September, Alabi has been in the gym daily trying to make up for lost time. The time away from the game has made him hungrier.
“Right now I’m working so hard,” Alabi said. “[I'm] just working hard trying to be able to play next year for the Raptors. Right now I’m just taking the whole summer during this lockout offseason period trying to go hard every day and stay healthy.”
Most are projecting the Raptors to endure another sub .500 record during this current rebuilding stage, but the team’s young core has gained some notoriety for their tight knit bond off the floor, which management is hoping will help translate into more wins on the court.
Togetherness and youth, Alabi believes, will help the young Raptors as they gain experience and learn how to win at the pro level.
“For us to do great we have to be close,” Alabi said to HOOPSWORLD. “I think we have a pretty good connection and team chemistry together. We’re young and we’re ready to go. We’re ready to run. We’re ready to play.”
While Valanciunas is undoubtedly the center of the future for the Raptors judging by his top 5 draft selection and stellar international play this summer, he won’t arrive to the NBA until the 2013 season which leaves Toronto with a void at center if reports of moving Andrea Bargnani to power forward are true.
This leaves Alabi with a huge opportunity to establish himself as another key young piece in the Raptors’ rebuilding process.
A chance which may eventually lead to a spot in Toronto’s starting lineup at center – for one season at least.
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