FOUR BITS: Tebow, softball, lacrosse, Speights

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow rarely takes much time off from football and is already continuing to work on his game this offseason. According to ESPNLosAngeles.com, which spoke with new UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone on Wednesday, Tebow has been in Southern California since last weekend working on his quarterbacking. “He just came out here to throw and work on a few things and see if we can just become a little more efficient in what he’s doing,” Mazzone said. “Throwing motion, footwork, everything I work on with all my quarterbacks.” Ensuring that while he helps Tebow he is simultaneously not going against Denver’s teachings, Mazzone (who has also worked with the former Heisman Trophy winner in each of the last two offseasons) expects to continue training with him for at least four more days if not longer. The goal is to work on Tebow’s passing efficiency as he completed less than 50 percent of his throws a year ago. “It’s kind of like a golfer who hit that bad drive,” he said of Tebow’s motion. “Every other guy in the foursome can tell you what you did wrong and all three opinions are different. We’re just going out and kind of going back to the basics and working on some fundamentals to try and become a little more efficient.”

2 » No. 1/3 Florida Gators softball (6-0) routed the Jacksonville Dolphins (2-4) in their home opener on Wednesday, run-ruling the visitors 10-2 in six innings. Freshman pitcher Lauren Haeger, starting for the first time in Gainesville, FL, struck out seven batters her a complete game four-hitter and did not allow a single earned run in her outing. Finding a power stroke early this season, junior designated hitter Kelsey Horton (2-3) hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the second for Florida’s first runs of the game and finished the contest with three RBIs. Junior first baseman Ensley Gammel (1-2, R, BB) added a two-RBI double in the fourth, junior catcher Brittany Schutte (2-3, RBI, 2 R, BB) continued her hot start from the plate, and sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-1, 2 BB) crossed the plate three times. UF will conclude their four-game home stand with a Friday-Sunday series against Michigan State.

3 » Also taking on Jacksonville in their home opener on Wednesday, No. 4 Gators lacrosse (1-1) toppled the Dolphins (0-1) with a 14-5 rout thanks to a pair of five-goal performances from freshman midfielder Nora Barry and junior attacker Gabi Wiegand. Barry, who also tied a school record with six draw controls, added three ground balls and four forced turnovers in the match. Junior M Brittany Dashiell had a goal and three assists and was the only other Florida player with more than two shots on the evening (three), while junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher played strong in the box, tallying six saves while allowing just five goals. UF heads on the road Sunday to face UMBC in Baltimore, MD before returning to Gainesville for three-straight home games.

4 » Wednesday was a good night for two former Gators basketball players. Posting season-highs in minutes, points, rebounds and shooting (on more than five attempts), Memphis Grizzlies center Marreese Speights played 38 minutes and earned a double-double of 20 points (on 10-of-13 shooting) with 18 boards and two blocks. He led Memphis to a 105-100 win over New Jersey and has now performed very efficiently in three of his last four games. Over 1,500 miles away, forward Chandler Parsons and the Houston Rockets topped Oklahoma City 96-95 partially due to the former Florida player’s efforts. Parsons scored 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and filled his stat line with seven rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals.

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Former Gators light up the NBA on Tuesday

Eight former Florida Gators basketballers competed in five of the seven NBA games played on Tuesday and most ended the night with praiseworthy performances.

Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee posted a team-high 29 points (on 13-of-20 shooting) with nine boards (four offensive) and three assists in a team-high 35 minutes as Golden State went on to upend Cleveland 105-95.

Similarly dominant, Denver Nuggets forward Corey Brewer played a team-high 34 minutes off the bench, scoring a team-best 22 points (on 8-of-14 shooting) with four rebounds, two steals and a block. Denver defeated Milwaukee 105-95.

The Miami Heat had two former Gators in action but guard Mike Miller, who dressed for the first time this year after being forced to miss the first 12 games of the season due to having offseason hernia surgery, was the most impressive. Miller went a perfect 6-for-6 from downtown for 18 points and added four rebounds in just 15 minutes.

Also coming off the bench for the Heat was PF Udonis Haslem, who registered four points and two boards. Like Haslem, San Antonio Spurs PF Matt Bonner was efficient with three points and six rebounds, but San Antonio Fell to Miami 120-98.

Still fighting through a hand ailment, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah had arguably his best game of the season, posting his third double-double of the year with 13 points (6-of-10 shooting) and 12 boards (six offensive) to go along with three dimes in 28 minutes. Chicago took down Phoenix 118-97.

Wrapping things up were former teammates going head-to-head as the Houston Rockets and surging rookie F Chandler Parsons defeated the Detroit Pistons and PF Vernon Macklin 97-80. Parsons once again earned the start and played 31 minutes (second-most on the team), scoring seven points and adding seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Macklin only saw one minute of on-court action.

And though the game occurred one day earlier, former Florida C Marreese Speights, now with the Memphis Grizzlies, had his most impressive showing of the season on Monday. Speights started and saw 34 minutes of action, scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 boards (four offensive) for his first double-double this year. Memphis wound up beating down Chicago 102-86.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Parsons, PGA, Caldwell

1 » In his season-ending meeting with the media, Denver Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway gave quarterback Tim Tebow his biggest endorsement thus far even if it was not completely what Tebow’s fans may have wanted. “Tim is the starting quarterback going into training camp,” Elway said Monday, according to the Denver Post, failing to go further than that designation. “He made great strides. He has earned the right to be the starter going into training camp next year.” Elway also admitted, as expected, that Denver will look to add some competition for Tebow at the quarterback position because the Broncos’ “passing game was not where we want it to be.” As he mentioned during the season, Elway plans to work with Tebow in a number of areas including in the film room and on his footwork, drops and timing with receivers. He expands on these comments in the video below:

2 » Continuing his stellar play this year Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons had yet another solid game Monday, again earning the start and scoring eight points (on 4-of-7 shooting) with eight boards (three offensive), four assists and two blocks in 29 minutes. He also had two impressive plays in the game including one put-back slam and another dunk over Washington’s 7’0″ center JaVale McGee, which you can see below:

In related NBA news, center Marreese Speights had his best performance with his brand new team the Memphis Grizzlies, registering a double-double of 16 points and 12 boards. Speights went head-to-head with Chicago Bulls C Joakim Noah, who has been struggling with a hand problem this season and had just two points and five rebounds. Memphis beat Chicago 102-86 on Monday.

3 » Former Gators golfer Matt Every, who led the 2012 Sony Open for two days, wound up finishing tied for sixth in the event…with fellow former Florida golfer Brian Gay and two other players. Every and Gay (-10) each ended the tournament three strokes back of the leader (Johnson Wagner, -13) and were two of three former Gators in the top-13 with Chris DiMarco finishing -8 over four rounds. As OGGOA mentioned over the weekend, Every recently opened up about a marijuana arrest. This video provides more on that and includes a discussion he had while leading after the second round.

4 » According to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, it is not likely that former Florida wide receiver Andre Caldwell will be back with the Cincinnati Bengals next season. Caldwell, who brought in 37 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns last season, is now a free agent and is unlikely to be retained by the team. Caldwell himself is probably looking for a better opportunity as well and may find that with the Jacksonville Jaguars as the Bengals’ former offensive coordinator, Bob Bratkowski, has taken that same position with the Jaguars.

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4 BITS: Tebow, Starks, Schottenheimer, Speights

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow set a number of football records on Sunday, but he also wound up making headlines in some off-the-field statistics, too. According to the Sports Business Journal, the Denver-Pittsburgh games registered a 25.9 overnight rating for CBS, which slates it as the largest-viewed AFC Wild Card game since 1988. Additionally, the final quarter-hour of the game (8-8:15 p.m.) pulled in a whopping 31.6 overnight rating. Tebow also made history on Twitter, setting a new sports tweets-per-second record with 9,420. CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell points out that Tebow’s tweets-per-second on Sunday shattered the previous sports record, which had the 2011 Women’s World Cup final game at 7,196 tweets/second. Other comparisons Rovell provided were Steve Jobs’s death (6,049 t/s), the Osama Bin Laden raid (5,106 t/s) and last year’s Super Bowl (4,064 t/s).

2 » Another happening from Sunday night’s game, albeit an unfortunate one, is that the injury to Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks knee appears to be a bad one. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Starks has an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament that is believed to be a tear. If he did indeed suffer a torn ACL, Starks will begin the 2012 season like he did this year – unemployed – and will have to try and work his way onto a NFL roster as he begins to heal. Starks was a free agent heading into the 2011 season but was signed by the Steelers as the team’s offensive line became decimated with injuries. Center Maurkice Pouncey, who was named to his second Pro Bowl this year and earned his first Associated Press All-Pro honor, missed Sunday’s game with a high-ankle sprain.

3 » Before NFL action began Sunday, a tweet from ESPN insider Adam Schefter got some Gators fans buzzing: “Brian Schottenheimer never withdrew his name from consideration for the Florida OC job.” Schottenheimer, the current offensive coordinator of the New York Jets, was previously thrown around as a name to consider for UF’s opening. However, the New York Daily News reported last week that he had withdrawn his name from consideration and was not a possibility for Florida. At the time there were no reports that the school had even reached out to him as a potential candidate. A former backup quarterback for Danny Wuerffel with the Gators under head coach Steve Spurrier, Schottenheimer has very little college coaching and recruiting experience (1999-2000). He has worked mostly as a NFL coach since 1997 and has been a quarterbacks coach since 2011, holding the role of offensive coordinator for New York since 2006.

4 » Maybe playing time really will do new Memphis Grizzlies center Marreese Speights well. Traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to Memphis on Jan. 4, Speights saw six minutes of action in his second game with his new team. However, the Grizzlies put Speights in for 29 minutes on Sunday and he responded with 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. It remains to be seen how Speights will perform the rest of the season, but he said last year that consistent minutes are what he needs to take his game to the next level.

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Speights heading to Memphis in three-team swap

Former Florida Gators center Marreese Speights, who has spent his entire three-year NBA career with the Philadelphia 76ers after the team selected him early out of school with the No. 16 overall pick in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft, will be playing his fourth year in a new city with a different team.

Speights was dealt Wednesday to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a three-team trade with Philadelphia and New Orleans, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein, who first reported the transaction. As part of the trade, guard Xavier Henry will go from Memphis to New Orleans and two second-round picks are being sent to Philadelphia as compensation.

Speights played a career-low minutes (11.5) with the 76ers last year after averaging 16.2 per game in his first two seasons. He has not seen the court in four games this year.

Following his team’s 4-1 series loss to Miami in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, Speights sat down for an interview with OGGOA and discussed his lack of playing time, citing that the inconsistency never allowed him to get into a rhythm.

“It was so inconsistent that I never knew how to prepare for the game because I never knew if I was going to get in or not,” he said. “It was hard for me to prepare myself this year. I might have a good game one game and then come back and play three minutes and then after that DNPs [“do not play” – a designation given by the coach] for three games and then come back and play 15 minutes. It was the whole year – inconsistent. I feel like if I can get in there, I’ll produce. That’s how I’ve been my whole career.”

A 49.2 percent career shooter, Speights has averaged 7.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in 205 NBA games (four starts). He posted 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds while shooting 62.4 percent in 24.3 minutes during his final year at Florida

Speights will join a Grizzlies team that reached the conference semifinals round of the playoffs last year as a No. 8 seed. Memphis defeated No. 1-seed San Antonio 4-1 in the first round before falling 4-3 to Oklahoma City in a seven-game series.

Considered one of the surprise teams in the Western Conference last season, the Grizzlies are primed to return to the playoffs in 2012. Speights will become the team’s primary reserve center playing behind rising star Marc Gasol but will also spend time backing up power forward Zach Randolph, who recently went down with a MCL tear.

Randolph’s previous backup, Darrell Arthur, is out for the season with a torn Achilles, and Randolph is expected to miss up to eight weeks himself, which provides Speights with a great opportunity for immediate playing time.

Photo Credits: Associated Press, Unknown

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NBA season begins with 10 Gators on rosters

The shortened 2011-12 NBA season is set to tip-off on Sunday with 10 former Florida Gators standouts on professional rosters. Some won National Championships while wearing the Orange & Blue, others went undrafted, but all want to prove that the Florida basketball program has and can produce legitimate NBA stars.

Al Horford, F/C, Atlanta Hawks
- 2010-11: Averaging career highs in points (15.3), field goal percentage (.557), assists (3.5) and minutes (35.1), Horford also contributed 9.3 rebounds and 1.0 block per game last year. He led his team to the second round of the playoffs for the third-straight season; nlike the previous two years, the Hawks were not swept but rather fell 4-2.
- 2011-12: The Godfather was named a captain in Atlanta one year ago and wound up earning his second-straight NBA All-Star nod as a reserve. The Hawks resigned him to a five-year, $60 million extension in Nov. 2010, and he enters this season as one of the team’s two best and most popular players.

Joakim Noah, C, Chicago Bulls
- 2010-11: Averaging a double-double with career highs in points (11.7), field goal percentage (.525), assists (2.2) and minutes (32.8), Noah was also good for 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steal per game. He only played in 48 games due to having two surgeries for ligament damage in his hand and a right thumb injury but helped lead Chicago to the conference finals where the Bulls lost 4-1 in five games.
- 2011-12: Noah was rewarded by Chicago for his hard work with a five-year, $60 million extension last offseason. His defense and shot blocking makes him an elite big man in the league and he will be a key piece for the Bulls this season as they hope to earn a spot in the NBA Finals.

David Lee, F/C, Golden State Warriors
- 2010-11: Falling just short of a double-double average aver accomplishing that feat in consecutive seasons with the New York Knicks, Lee contributed 16.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.0 steal per game in 36.1 minutes on average last season. He shot 50.7 percent from the floor and 78.7 percent from the line in 73 games after missing nine due to an elbow injury that got infected.
- 2011-12: Lee agreed to a six-year, $80 million contract with Golden State after being traded from New York before last season and shined as a efficient big man in an up-tempo offense. His numbers fell because he was not relied upon as heavily with the Warriors, but he should have ample opportunities to showcase his talent.

Read the rest of OGGOA’s 2011-12 NBA Preview…after the break!
Continue Reading » NBA season begins with 10 Gators on rosters

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Corey Brewer headed to Denver Nuggets in trade

For the third time in under 10 months, former Florida Gators guard/forward Corey Brewer will be playing for a different NBA franchise.

Signed to a three-year contract by the Dallas Mavericks after being waived by the New York Knicks last March, Brewer has been shipped to the Denver Nuggets along with Rudy Fernandez for a second-round pick and additional space under the salary cap, according to ESPN NBA correspondent Marc Stein.

“Man the NBA is a business I’ll miss you Dallas but can’t wait to get to Denver! Thanks mavs fans y’all ate great,” he wrote on his Twitter account Tuesday evening.

Brewer, who has $5.2 million remaining on his deal, was sent from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Knicks as part of the trade for Carmelo Anthony last year.

After New York released him – partially as a favor because the team was not planning on playing him – he was courted by nearly a dozen teams.

Dallas snatched him up and used him as a bench player during their run to the 2011 NBA title, though he only saw 22 minutes over six playoff games.

Brewer averaged 24.3 minutes per contest with the Timberwolves in 2011, posting averages of 8.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists. He did not step on the court once for the Knicks but averaged 5.3 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 11.4 minutes over 13 regular season games with the Mavericks.

Though Dallas was reportedly pleased with Brewer’s long-term potential, the opportunity to create space under the salary cap for the 2012 season was too much to pass up.

Denver coveted Brewer and Fernandez and had roster spots to fill due to both Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith signing offseason contracts with professional teams in China.

The Nuggets are also said to be interested in Philadelphia 76ers center Marreese Speights, who the team sees as a potential replacement in the middle of the paint should Nene choose to sign elsewhere this offseason.

Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

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C Speights: “If I can get in there, I’ll produce.”

Suffering an early exit from the 2011 NBA Playoffs, former Florida Gators center Marreese Speights and the Philadelphia 76ers are now thinking about next year after being defeated 4-1 by the No. 2-seed Miami Heat.

A reserve on the Florida basketball team that won the 2007 NCAA National Championship, Speights started one season for the Gators (his sophomore year) before declaring for the NBA Draft and eventually being selected by the 76ers with the No. 16 overall pick in the first round. He sat down with OGGOA to discuss his college experience, the tough decision he faced after his second season with the team and what team he thinks will end up taking home the NBA title this year when all is said and done.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Your first year at Florida was obviously an adjustment as there were still a bunch of the upperclassmen holding starting roles. How was it walking into a team with established guys like Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Chris Richard already getting major minutes?
MARREESE SPEIGHTS: “It was a learning experience because the guys in front of me had already won a championship before I got there. It was a learning experience for me. A year to get better and a year to learn college basketball.”

AS: That team went on to win the National Championship for the second-straight time that year. What was it like playing on such a big stage so early in your career?
MS: “It was a great feeling. It is an opportunity nobody really has. A lot of people don’t really have that opportunity, so it was a great accomplishment for me.”

AS: Before the next season began, head coach Billy Donovan left for the NBA to lead the Orlando Magic only to change his mind and come back a few days later. How hard was that situation to deal with as a player?
MS: “It was hard because at one point we didn’t have no coach. It was a few guys with no coach, and everybody was wondering what was going to happen. But he came back and everything was good.”

AS: Were any of the players worried that he might leave again?
MS: “You could tell he really liked Florida a lot, that’s why he came back. We knew that when he came back he was going to be here for a while. It wasn’t going to be one year; it was going to be long-term.”

AS: The next year you became a starter and took advantage of it. I know Coach Donovan expected that, even as well as you played, you would be back at least one more season. When you first declared for the draft, were you doing it just to check your stock or was it always your plan to leave?
MS: “I was doing it just to check my stock. I really wanted to come back, but I heard the good news and I thought I should take the opportunity while it was there. I had to. It was real hard to tell him that I was going to the draft because I knew if I came back the team would have gotten even better. I had the opportunity, so I had to take it.”

AS: The decision obviously worked out as you were taken in the middle of the first round by Philadelphia. What was that transition to the NBA like? You played a lot of minutes right from the start in your rookie season.
MS: “The transition was kind of cool. I had to get used to travelling, playing against players [I] watched growing up and stuff. But it was a good step.”

AS: You started your second NBA season with a bang but then went down with a MCL injury. How difficult was that for you to deal with?
MS: “It was kind of hard because it kept me out for a long time. It was something I wasn’t used to, so I started working harder to get back there.”

AS: This year your minutes were pretty inconsistent. Some games you played over 20 minutes and others you were only on the court for a few if at all. How tough is that to deal with as a player?
MS: “The first season, I knew I was going to come in and play consistent [minutes]. This year, it was so inconsistent that I never knew how to prepare for the game because I never knew if I was going to get in or not. It was hard for me to prepare myself this year. I might have a good game one game and then come back and play three minutes and then after that DNPs [“do not play” – a designation given by the coach] for three games and then come back and play 15 minutes. It was the whole year – inconsistent. I feel like if I can get in there, I’ll produce. That’s how I’ve been my whole career.”

AS: You played against every team remaining in the playoffs this year. Which has the best chance to win the whole thing?
MS: “Miami. They are really coming together and they’re going to win it. On the court, you can tell how good they really [are], even things you can’t see on TV. It’s just some of the things they do and stuff. The connection they’ve got so early.”

AS: Philadelphia is known as a very critical sports city. What has it been like playing there with the fans?
MS: “It’s a hard place to play at because, if you don’t give them what they want, they’re going to boo you. It’s kind of hard but, this year we were winning, so we got a lot of support. The fans show a lot of support.”

AS: How have your relationships with some of your former teammates and coaches changed and/or developed since you left?
MS: “I talk to Coach [Donovan] all the time. It’s a pretty good relationship. Vernon Macklin, me and him were practically teammates at Hargrave [Military Academy], so we’re really close. I’ve known him for like 5-6 years. I talk to all of them but mostly him. I talked to him [Wednesday] for like 20 minutes about preparing for the [draft] process.”

AS: Looking back on your career at Florida, aside from winning the title as a freshman, what is the one moment you will always remember – either on or off the court?
MS: “Other than the championship, I got a couple. There was a home game my freshman year when we played Alabama. I came down and scored like eight-straight points and we won that game [4-for-4 for eight points in five minutes in the first half]. Then the first-round tournament game against Jackson State. I had a good game there, too [7-for-10 for 16 points with six boards in 10 minutes].

» OGGOA INTERVIEWS:
LB Mike Peterson | PG Taurean Green | QB Tim Tebow | QB Danny Wuerffel | ESPN’s Erin Andrews | ESPN’s Erin Andrews II | DE Alex Brown | WR Percy Harvin | F/C Al Horford | WR David Nelson | QB Shane Matthews | TE Cornelius Ingram | DE Jermaine Cunningham | S Major Wright | LB Earl Everett | DE Justin Trattou | DT Terron Sanders | F/C Chris Richard | DE Lynden Trail

Photo Credits: Associated Press, Unknown

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