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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Scottie Lewis selected by the Charlotte Hornets in the NBA draft

Scottie Lewis was taken in the second round of the NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets. It’s the first time to Florida players have been drafted since 2011.

Many didn’t think Scottie Lewis would hear his name called during the 2021 NBA draft, but his wait finally came to an end with just five picks to go. The former Florida guard was selected with the 56th pick in the second round by the Charlotte Hornets.

After his former college teammate, Tre Mann, was taken in the first round with the 18th pick by Oklahoma City (ending a nine-year first-round drought and eight-year draft drought overall for UF), Lewis’ selection meant Florida’s first NBA draft with multiple players selected since Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin were both picked back in 2011.

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There was a time when Lewis was considered a lottery pick as a top-10 recruit. But his two seasons at Florida were disappointing, and he decided to cut his losses and bolt to the NBA after the season. Here’s the analysis of the pick from ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

At one point projected as a lottery pick, Scottie Lewis had a disappointing two seasons at Florida, struggling to put the ball in the basket with any type of consistency, especially from beyond the arc. Regardless, he has strong potential defensively with his 7-foot wingspan and outstanding intensity level. He’ll likely see time in the G League working on his ball-handling, passing and shooting but does have some upside to tap into at 21 years old.

He’ll need to develop a much more cohesive offensive game to see playing time at the NBA level. But his stellar defensive acumen could help him see opportunities, even if they come at the G League level. The Hornets definitely took a flyer on Lewis and will hope his play can finally match his talent at some point.

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Pat Dooley’s Book of Lists – Volume 20: The 10 greatest Gator NBA players

Here’s a look at the 10 greatest former Gators who played in the NBA according to longtime UF sports journalist Pat Dooley.

Former longtime Gainesville Sun sportswriter Pat Dooley contributes on a weekly basis to Gators Wire with “Pat Dooley’s Book of Lists,” chronicling his thoughts on the past, present and future of Gators sports. Look for more frequent contributions during football season.

The NBA draft is coming up Thursday and it has been very, very good to the Gators over the last two decades. Not Kentucky good, but when you consider that 21 players were drafted before Billy Donovan walked through that door and 19 players recruited by Donovan (that includes transfers) were drafted, well, you see why a massive picture of Billy D still towers over the lobby of the practice facility.

Unfortunately for Mike White, Florida is now on a seven-year run of getting shut out in the draft. That will almost certainly end this year with Tre Mann being touted as a high first-round pick (probably late in the first) and Scottie Lewis with an outside shot at being a second-round pick.

The draft is a lot more fickle than it was BB (Before Billy) with only two rounds and so many more foreign players in the mix. Back in 1968, David Miller was selected in the 12th round.

That sounds like a long day of drafting practice players.

Certainly, there have been plenty of Gator players who went on to have excellent careers (not to mention lucrative careers overseas).

Here are the 10 best Gator NBA players:

Former Florida star Bradley Beal makes USA Basketball Olympic Roster

Beal will make history this summer when he becomes the first former Gators men’s basketball player to make the Olympic team.

Former Florida one-and-done Bradley Beal will help the red, white and blue chase another gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics this summer, as he made the 12-man USA basketball roster. This will be his first time competing with the U.S. senior men’s national team.

Beal finished his latest season with the Washington Wizards just shy of grabbing the award for the league’s top scorer with 31.3 points per game. Because of his stellar play, he earned a spot on the All-NBA third team. He also led his team to the NBA playoffs, where the Philadelphia 76ers knocked the Wizards out in five games.

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In his career so far, he has been named an All-Star on three separate occasions, most recently this season. As a college player at UF, he finished his only season in the Orange and Blue as an All-SEC performer.

Beal will make history this summer when he becomes the first former Gators men’s basketball player to make the Olympic team.

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Bradley Beal committed to represent Team USA at the Olympics

The former Florida and current Washington Wizards guard is one of eight players that have committed to join Team USA for the Tokyo Games.

Former Florida and current Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal will make his Olympic debut next month in Tokyo. The 27-year-old is one of eight players that has committed to be a part of the three-time defending gold medal-winning United States basketball squad.

In addition to the six players joining Beal that the above tweet lists, Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden also committed to play for Team USA in the Olympics.

Beal is coming off a season in which he reached his career-high in points per game with 31.3. He also averaged 4.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds, and he was a member of the All-Star team for the third time in his career. The Wizards made the playoffs, but despite Beal averaging 30 points and 6.4 rebounds during the postseason (both career marks), Washington was bounced in five games by the Philadelphia 76ers.

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Though this will be his first time representing Team USA at the Olympics, it’s not the first time Beal has participated in international competition. While in high school, he was a member of the U.S. national team at the FIBA Americas Championship in 2009 and at the World Championship the following year.

Beal was a candidate to make the national team both at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 and the Basketball World Cup in China two years ago, but he withdrew from consideration for the former due to injury concerns and the latter for family reasons.

Now, Beal will make his debut on the international stage as a part of the team that will surely be heavily favored to take home the gold medal for the fourth games in a row.

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Should Bradley Beal ask for a trade out of Washington?

Bradley Beal and his team face another early exit from the playoffs. After nine seasons, is it time for Beal to ask for a trade from D.C.?

There are only a handful of NBA stars who have stuck with one team for the duration of their career in this current era of basketball.

Former Florida one-and-done star Bradley Beal has spent nine seasons with the Washington Wizards where they’ve been stuck in mediocrity. Washington has only made the playoffs five times where it has failed to escape the first two rounds of the postseason.

Sports Illustrated NBA writer Howard Beck wrote a column about how much longer Beal can take playing for one of the bottom dwellers in the NBA who is currently facing another first-round exit.

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Beck and other NBA front-office executives believe it’s time that Beal embraces change while he remains in the prime of his career. The former Gators shooting guard has proven he’s one of the best scorers in the league, averaging 30 points per game the last two seasons.

I agree with Beck and the executives he spoke with that it’s time for Beal to ask for a trade. He has been snubbed for individual awards due to his team’s poor play and hasn’t sniffed playoff success. I also think it would work out well for both sides in the long run.

For Beal, he can join a contender with another or a pair of superstars next season like when James Harden was traded from the Rockets to the Nets. He has been great to Washington and his loyalty to the Wizards should be greatly appreciated.

Washington would benefit from trading him because it can finally escape this wash, rinse and repeat cycle of making the playoffs and then being eliminated shortly thereafter. Trading for former Houston point guard Russell Westbrook helped satisfy Beal, but Westbrook turns 33 in November and his level of play has started to decline.

If the Wizards hit the reset button, they can get draft capital and a host of young players in return for Beal because he’s under contract until 2022-2023. For example, the Thunder got five first-round picks, two pick swaps and a budding all-star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for Paul George.

They can also have a better chance of earning a higher draft pick to build around Rui Hachimura, their top pick in 2019.

Both parties would have a greater chance of achieving their goals if Beal asked for a trade out of Washington.

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