Former Gator Bradley Beal a free agency winner per CBS Sports

Bradley Beal just got paid, son.

There are not a whole lot of former Florida basketball players in the NBA currently but lately a few familiar names have made the news, including one-and-done guard [autotag]Bradley Beal[/autotag], who recently signed a massive contract extension with the Washington Wizards.

The third overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft — second-highest only to the legendary Neal Walk and tied with current Boston Celtic Al Horford —spent his first 10 years in the nation’s capital and cemented his standing there with a five-year, $251 million contract that will likely lock him in for the remainder of his career.

Or will it? CBS Sports’ staff writer Brad Botkin put together a look at the NBA’s free agency action after the opening day, including Beal’s monster extension. Botkin is not quite so sure the contract will tether the prolific scorer to the shores of the Potomac, as he explains in his excerpt on the former Gator below.

I still bet he gets traded before that contract expires, but by signing with Washington, which owns his Bird rights, he guaranteed himself a fifth guaranteed year, which will equate to about $57 million extra in his bank. That goes with him even if he does get traded. I’d bet good money that Beal winds up having his cake and eating it too, eventually ending up on a contender while also signing the biggest deal possible.

Beal is just a single season separated from a two-year stretch in which he averaged over 30 points a game in the NBA (30.5 ppg in 2019-20 and 31.3 ppg in 2020-21) — the first former Gators to achieve that feat. Unfortunately, he was outgunned by future Hall of Famers James Harden (34.3) in the former and Stephen Curry (32.0) in the latter season for the scoring title.

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Former Gator Bradley Beal could enter free agency for first time

Bradley Beal is rightfully looking to get paid.

Bradley Beal may have only played one season wearing the Orange and Blue but he will forever be a Gator, and he currently represents the best former Florida player active in the NBA. Drafted with the third overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft — second-highest only to the legendary Neal Walk and tied with current Boston Celtic [autotag]Al Horford[/autotag] — the prolific scoring guard spent the first decade of his professional career in D.C.

But that tenure in the nation’s capital might be coming to an end.

In an interview with Josh Robbins of The Athletic, Beal revealed he has made a decision on his future, but because his current contract has not yet expired he declined to provide any insight. All indicators point toward a dive into free agency for the first time in his 10-year career, but he expects plenty of turbulence ahead.

“My situation? Crazy probably,” he told the Associated Press.

According to Spotrac, Beal is set to make a guaranteed $36,422,136 in the final year of his contract extension with the Wizards if he exercises his player option. However, he appears to be hungering for more despite a career often marred by injuries while coming off a down year in which he averaged a team-high 23.2 points on 45.1% shooting but a career-low 30.0% from three over 40 games last season.

If he were to return to the Wizards — who own his Bird rights — Beal is eligible for a five-year maximum deal amounting to nearly $248 million, versus a four-year, $184 million cap on contracts with the rest of the NBA franchises.

The former Gator was recently cleared to resume basketball activities after his campaign was shortened by season-ending wrist surgery back in February, which has complicated his future options thus far. The shooting guard is just a year separated from a two-season stretch in which he became the first UF alumnus to average over 30 points a game in the NBA: 30.5 ppg in 2019-20 and 31.3 ppg in 2020-21. He was edged by future Hall of Famer Stephen Curry in the latter season for the scoring title.

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Al Horford lands in “trust” tier of CBS Sports’ NBA Finals player rankings

CBS Sports thinks Al Horford is a player the Celtics can trust on the court. They are not wrong.

The 2022 NBA Finals have arrived with the Boston Celtics matched up against the Golden State Warriors in a battle for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Ahead of the opening game, CBS Sports’ Sam Quinn took a look at both teams’ rosters and ranked each player from one to 30, breaking them up into five tiers along the way. That tiering system is comprised of — from lowest to highest — out of the picture, rotate, use, play and trust. Gator great [autotag]Al Horford[/autotag] earned a spot in the top 10 among the “trust” tier at No. 8, with this short blurb offered by Quinn.

Horford’s game is all subtlety. He can be the best player on the floor without scoring a single point.

Funny enough, the exact opposite played out on Thursday night when the former Florida forward dropped a team-high 26 points, including a 6-for-8 effort from behind the stripe, in his NBA Finals debut to lead the Celtics over the Warriors. Amazingly, his six three-pointers edged out LeBron James for the oldest player to have made at least five in the Finals.

With two NCAA Championships already on his mantle, another trophy would fit in quite nicely for a player still chugging away in the twilight of his career. An MVP award would look even nicer.

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Watch: Former Gator Al Horford drops 26 in Finals debut

15 years later and Al Horford looks just as good as he did winning back-to-back chips in the Orange and Blue.

On the eve of his 36th birthday, former Gator [autotag]Al Horford[/autotag] is playing some of his best basketball with the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. That’s high praise for someone who once led Florida to back-to-back national championships, but Horford’s performance in Game 1 of the Finals against Golden State deserves that kind of attention.

Horford scored a team-high 26 points, shooting 6-of-8 from beyond the arc in the comeback win for Boston. The six three-pointers are a record for a Finals debut, and his 11 points in the final quarter of the game allowed the Celtics to come back from a 15-point deficit in the second half against the Warriors. Ever the team player, Horford gave credit to his teammates for his success.

“It was the way that we were moving the ball on offense, just being in those positions,” Horford said, according to Celtics.com. “I felt like the guys kept finding me time after time.”

Celtics fans showered Horford with love after the performance and birthday wishes began to flood in on social media as the clock turned over on the East Coast. Those of us in the Sunshine State will always remember Horford best for his three years in the Orange and Blue, but he might go down in history for this game.

Heck, he even beat out LeBron as the oldest player in NBA history to sink more than five threes in a Finals game.

Getting a win in the Bay Area to start the series off is big too. If Boston goes on to win it all quickly, it will be hard to look back at Horford’s performance as the difference-maker in the series.

The Celtics are back on Sunday against the Warriors at the Chase Center before heading to the Garden for a pair.

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Former Gator great Al Horford to play in the NBA finals

The Gators have a representative in this year’s NBA Finals.

The Boston Celtics have advanced to the NBA Finals, meaning that former Gators center [autotag]Al Horford[/autotag] will have a shot at a championship ring. This is a big moment for the 35-year-old; during the 15 years he’s been a professional, none of Horford’s other teams have advanced to the championship round of the NBA Playoffs.

This season, Horford played in 69 games for the Celtics, starting each one while averaging double-digit scoring and 7.7 rebounds per game. The consistency of Horford’s performance throughout his lengthy career is impressive, as is his ability to keep it up as one of the old men of the NBA.

Horford’s Celtics entered the NBA playoffs as the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They carried a record of 51-31 from the regular season, their successes hinging on a stunning defense that placed second in net rating among NBA teams. Horford himself contributed 1.3 blocks per game to that defense, tying his best block numbers since 2015-16.

During the 17 games of this year’s playoffs, the former Gator has hit a bit of a hot streak. Averaging nearly a double-double – 11.9 points and 9.6 rebounds – he’s also carrying his weight defensively. In the series-clinching Game 7 against the Miami Heat, Horford lead the team in plus-minus with plus-10 despite only scoring 5 points.

There are some who believe that the length and consistently good quality of Horford’s career give him a borderline Hall of Fame case, and he has an opportunity to bolster that case in this year’s NBA Finals. Regardless of whether it’s fair, Hall of Fame voters have shown time and time again that they love to reward championship winners for their former teams’ accomplishments. Adding a ring to his resumé may be enough to push his candidacy over the edge when it comes time for him to be considered for the honor.

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Former Gator Joakim Noah retires with Bulls on one-day contract

Joakim Noah helped lead Florida to two consecutive national championships before heading to the NBA.

After 13 seasons playing in the National Basketball Association, former Gator Joakim Noah is retiring from professional basketball.

Noah signed a ceremonial contract with the Chicago Bulls on Thursday to retire with the team he spent most of his career with. Known as a player who would simply outwork everyone else on the court, Noah’s authenticity resonated with the city of Chicago just as it did in Gainesville during the Gators’ two championship runs with him. The team put together a tribute video featuring former teammates and coaches of Noah and released it on social media to announce the official retirement.

Noah came to Florida as a four-star recruit, ranked No. 73 in the nation back in 2004. After a few years of development and David Lee’s departure to the NBA, Noah found himself in a position to become a key player for Florida. It took a challenge from Billy Donovan to whip Noah into shape, according to EPSN, but he became known for his grit from that point on. Back-to-back championship boosted Noah’s draft stock enough to get him drafted ninth overall.

The rest, as they say, is history. Noah had some memorable years with Derrick Rose in Chicago before injuries derailed the team, and he was voted an All-Star in 2012 and 2013. After leaving Chicago, Noah’s career began to trend downward as he battled injuries regularly. New York and Memphis didn’t work out and his final season was spent with the Los Angeles Clippers, although he only played in five games.

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Grading former Gator Tre Mann’s NBA debut with Oklahoma City

The former Florida guard impressed against the Utah Jazz in his first game.

Florida’s first NBA draft pick in eight years (and first-round pick in nine years) took the court for the first time in a game that counts on Wednesday night. Guard Tre Mann, the 18th pick in the 2021 NBA draft, made his professional debut with the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Utah Jazz and had a solid game to start his pro career.

Despite seeing rotational action off the bench and playing just 15 minutes, he scored nine points in his first game and went 4 of 7 from the field. He also hit a pull-up jumper off a high pick and roll just before the first-quarter buzzer with his foot on the line, making it a long two.

Mann also had an assist, a steal and a block in his debut.

That’s about all you could hope for from a project player who was expected to see a minor role on the team this season, and for his effort, he earned a “B” grade from Thunder Wire.

It was a decent opener for Mann. His minutes might fluctuate with the need to get Ty Jerome some action — on Wednesday, Jerome was a DNP — but the rookie earned time moving forward.

Jerome was a solid rotational guard for the Thunder last year, averaging 10.1 points and 3.6 assists, and he and Theo Maladon are Mann’s biggest competitors for reps right now. But the raw first-round rookie should be able to see a significant role in the rotation as the season progresses.

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NBA star and former Gator Bradley Beal says he isn’t vaccinated

The former Gator and current Washington Wizard said that he remains unvaccinated for personal reasons.

Former Florida and current Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal could face the ire of the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol this season, as the three-time all-star announced that he still hasn’t received the vaccine against the virus for personal reasons.

“I don’t feel pressure [to get vaccinated],” Beal said on Monday, per ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “I don’t think you can pressure anybody into making a decision about their body or what they put into their body. We can have this discussion about a lot of different topics besides vaccines too. You can’t necessarily force anybody or kind of say it’s time for a vaccine. I think you kind of let people come into their own about it. If they do their research when they feel comfortable, they do it.

“I definitely think about it, for sure,” he said. “With the guidelines that the league makes and everything, the protocols they’re doing, it kind of makes it difficult on us to where they kind of force us in a way to want to get it. At the end of the day, I talk it over with my family and we make a decision what’s best for us.”

The NBA has instituted strict limitations on players who choose to remain unvaccinated, such as regular testing, quarantining when in close contact with someone with the virus, limiting access to team facilities, keeping them separated from vaccinated players in the facilities they are allowed to enter and dictating what they can and can’t do doing their free time.

However, the real doozy is the fact that players who have to miss games for COVID-19 may have to forfeit their salary from those games. Ultimately, the NBA wants to have as many players vaccinated as possible, and its strategy seems to be working so far. According to the league, around 90% of players are currently vaccinated, though Beal is a member of a group of prominent holdouts.

“We can talk all day about it,” Beal said. “Everybody is going to have their own opinion. Everybody is going to have their own timing and comfort of when they feel like they want to meet those criteria needs or feel like they want to get the vaccine.”

Beal was originally supposed to go to Tokyo this summer to compete on the men’s national team at the Olympics, but he had to enter the health and safety protocol before the trip and was scratched from the roster.

While Beal hasn’t ruled out getting the vaccine at some point, it seems likely that he will begin the season as one of the few players who are still unvaccinated.

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Anonymous college basketball coach is a fan of the Tre Mann pick

Former Florida point guard Tre Mann is heading to Oklahoma City, and an anonymous college basketball coach is a big fan of the pick.

Florida point guard Tre Mann ended a drought of Gators first-round picks in the NBA draft that dated back to 2012. Mann’s selection by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 18th overall pick also made him UF’s first drafted player, period, since Erik Murphy in 2013.

With most projections showing Mann in the early-mid 20s, he heard his name called a bit earlier than most expected. And though his skill set may not exactly translate to a starting-caliber guard, he has enough versatility for one anonymous college basketball coach to be a big fan of the signing, per a report from ESPN.

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“He could be a really, really good pick,” the coach said. “He has Kyrie Irving-esque handle. I know that’s blasphemous, but it’s his finishing package, his handle, his creativity.”

Mann’s ball-handling is definitely a major reason why he was so successful slashing toward the basket last season, and though he’s considered a potential combo guard, he may see most of his reps at point for that reason.

He was one of seven SEC players to go in the first round, and the only one of those seven that wasn’t a one-and-done. It’s clear the league is gaining in stature, and coaching is likely a major reason why.

“It’s a testament to the players, but it starts from the leadership up top,” one SEC coach said. “Athletic departments making basketball a priority. The SEC is seen as a football conference, but you look up and down the league, whether it’s [Rick] Barnes, [Eric] Musselman, [John] Calipari, Nate Oats — the coaching in the league, you can put up against any league in the country. The combination of leadership and coaching is a huge, huge part of why the league has been able to take such a big jump.”

Mann wasn’t the only Florida player selected on Thursday night. He was joined by Scottie Lewis, who was taken with the 56th pick in the second round by the Charlotte Hornets. His selection came as a bit of a surprise, as many thought he would go undrafted.

In Oklahoma City, he likely won’t outcompete Kemba Walker and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for starting reps, at least not any time soon. However, the depth behind those two consists of Theo Maledon, Luguentz Dort and 2021 sixth overall pick Josh Giddey. Mann may struggle to see time as a rookie, but he could eventually develop a role off the bench with the Thunder.

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Report: Brooklyn Nets won’t make qualifying offer to Chiozza

The former UF point guard will become an unrestricted free agent after Brooklyn decided not to make a qualifying offer on him.

Former Florida point guard Chris Chiozza has likely seen his time in Brooklyn come to an end. The Nets chose not to make a qualifying offer to Chiozza, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, making him an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Chiozza went undrafted in 2018, and he played his first two seasons with the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards, though he only played in a combined 17 games for the two teams and saw most of his action in the G League. Chiozza signed a two-way contract for the Nets and their G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets, in 2020, making his first two NBA starts in the bubble.

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With Brooklyn over the last two seasons, Chiozza appeared in 40 games averaging 5.1 points and three assists. Now that his time on the Nets is drawing to a close, Chiozza could likely end up signing another two-way contract, though he will hope to remain out of the G League and in the NBA.

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