ABC: Mike Miller’s Greatest Gift (Video)

Ending what was undoubtedly a stressful episode for the family, Miami Heat and former Florida Gators guard/forward Mike Miller and his wife Jennifer were able to bring their newborn daughter, Jaelyn, home from a South Florida hospital last Saturday.

Jaylen had spent just under two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit because doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. Even with Jaylen on his mind, Miller has been playing a big role for Miami, which is up 2-1 in the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

In an interesting twist to the story, Miller and his wife actually donated $1 million to a children’s hospital in his South Dakota hometown in 2007. There is a wing of the hospital called the Mike and Jennifer Miller Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. ABC told this story in a piece that ran at halftime of Sunday night’s game.

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Chandler Parsons – Path to the 2011 NBA Draft: First week of workouts begins in Miami

Through the 2011 NBA Draft, Florida Gators forward and 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Chandler Parsons will be keeping fans up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry exclusively here at OGGOA.

Hanging out in his hotel room in Miami, FL across from the AmericanAirlines Arena, Parsons got in touch with us Tuesday just before game one of the 2011 NBA Finals got underway. Too tired to go out after yet another flight, Parsons was resting up for his Wednesday workout with the Miami Heat and a number of other trips he will be taking over the next three weeks. He will be all over the country throughout the next month but will continue checking in with us each week.

After the Minnesota workout, I spent a couple days in Chicago – I always go back there to get ready with the same guys – [trainer] Josh Oppenheimer and [strength coach] Ryan Thompson. We basically just trained and went over the same things: sharpened up my shot, getting a lot of shots up, keeping my conditioning up. Nothing crazy.

The training part of things kind of slows down now, especially with my schedule coming up. Basically I’m just staying in the gym, going to bed early and eating right.

I had my workout with the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, so I left for Texas on Thursday. It went really well. Out of all my workouts so far, I think that was the best. I shot the ball really well, competed really well. It was me, DeAndre Liggins from Kentucky and Nikola Vucevic from Southern Cal against Marcus Morris (of Kansas), Iman Shelpert from Georgia Tech and Jimmy Butler from Marquette. We won every game, went 5-0 in the three-on-three games and [I] really shot the ball well. I had the best shooting numbers there and just really thought I played all-around great that workout.

Each workout is very similar in the stuff we do, but some teams keep you longer and others do more stuff. You basically stretch, play a lot of one-on-one, two-on-two and three-on-three – a lot of competitive stuff. In San Antonio, we played three-on-three but you can’t dribble, then three-on-three with one dribble, then three-on-three unlimited dribbles. There’s a lot of spot shooting, on-the-move shooting and things like that.

My Oklahoma City [workout] was only 45 minutes, but the San Antonio one was double that. It’s fun because you’re competing and you’re playing; it’s not boring drills, you’re actually going out there and playing. So it is fun, but some last longer than others.

After that, my agent told me I had the weekend off until the Miami Heat workout on Wednesday, so I went back to Gainesville and worked out with the coaching staff there until it was time to head south.

The next two weeks for me are going to be brutal [with six workouts in 10 days]. From now until the 10th, I won’t stop traveling. It’s definitely going to be tough but, like I’ve said before, this is what I’ve been working for…it’s a situation that I want to be in, so it’s definitely fun and exciting at the same time.

OGGOA FAN QUESTION OF THE WEEK

NICOLE S.: Through all of the workouts and events you have been participating in while getting ready for the NBA Draft, have you met anyone that has made you awe-struck or thought back to watching them on television growing up?
PARSONS: There’s been a few. When I walked into the hotel room in Chicago to check in [for the NBA Combine], I turn around and Larry Bird is behind me in line. Six other Indiana Pacers are signed with the same agency as I am, so my agent knows them real well. I got to meet him and talk to him. That was really cool; he’s obviously one of the best players ever. That was a “wow.” To even hear him say my name and hear him say “good job” and stuff was cool. I’m working out with the wings and Scottie Pippen is right there on the sideline, Mike D’Antoni is right there on the sideline. When I met with the [Boston] Celtics, Danny Ainge was in there. My agent just called me before I got here and told me Pat Riley will 100 percent be at my workout [Wednesday].

Go Gators,

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FOUR BITS: Tyus, Parsons, NBA Finals, Dunker

1 » Florida Gators forward Alex Tyus may not have been invited to the 2011 NBA Combine, but teams have taken an interest in him. According to Tyus, who has been writing diaries for TheHoopsReport.com, he will be working out for Oklahoma City on Wednesday and will be traveling to New Jersey and Phoenix next week to see if he can earn a second-round selection or a spot on one of their summer league teams.

2 » Gators F and OGGOA blogger Chandler Parsons, who will be checking in with us late Tuesday from Miami, FL, was part of a Prospect Profile video produced by NBA.com. Parsons discusses growing up around basketball with his family, his ability to play in the NBA and more in the feature, which can be viewed here.

3 » Florida, as is probably known now by most fans, boasts more former players in the 2011 NBA Finals than any other school with F Corey Brewer on the Dallas Mavericks and both power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller on the Miami Heat. The Finals, which will air live on ABC, begin with game one Tuesday at 9 p.m.

4 » The Wall Street Journal published a column Tuesday looking into how much high school football players believe they should be paid (in addition to a scholarship) to play college football. One of the players the paper interviewed, Gators four-star offensive lineman commit Jessamen Dunker (Boynton Beach, FL) “says he’d like to see schools offer ‘a little pocket change’ to the tune of $5,000 a semester.” Of the six players the WSJ spoke to, one said no additional money was necessarily while the rest provided figures ranging from $2,000-10,000 per year.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Johnson, Heat, Macklin

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s new memoir, Through My Eyes was released Tuesday, but the number of fans who camped outside (yes, spent the night) waiting for him at a Books-A-Million absolutely stunned the Heisman Trophy winner. “It’s extremely humbling,” he told The Florida Times-Union. “I take it as a huge responsibility that people care that much about me and [I] really try to make it worth it for them, really try to make them feel special for doing it.” Tebow also spoke with the paper a little bit about the content of the book, which OGGOA should receive from the publisher for review on Tuesday. “It wasn’t just about football stories,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s more about inspiring kids to go out there and try to live their dream, and go after it and live with passion. That’s a lot of what it’s about, so hopefully, people will take it that way.”

2 » Back in Gainesville, FL after suffering a minor concussion during the No. 2 Florida Gators baseball team’s elimination game in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, AL, sophomore left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson is doing his best to recover quickly and get back on the field. Speaking with Florida Today, Johnson’s father said his son “is fine” and underwent a number of tests on Monday to evaluate his post-concussion symptoms. He is considered day-to-day for the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which begins on Thursday. The paper reports

He had base line testing while playing for a U.S. all-star team last summer so doctors are able to do comparisons, to make sure he returns to normal before playing again. UF is also consulting with noted Pittsburgh neuropsychologist Michael Collins.

3 » Discussing with Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller their time playing for Florida, the Palm Beach Post’s Ethan Skolnick got the duo to open up about how head coach Billy Donovan ended up helping them form a bond. It all started when he called both players into his office. “Coach Donovan, was like, ‘You know, if the season started today, I couldn’t play neither one of you guys,'” Haslem told Skolnick. “That wasn’t the exact words he used. You got to get your, um, ‘S’ together. Because I just thought I was doing the best academic job in the world, and obviously I wasn’t. And neither was [Miller]. I don’t know what his excuse was. But, at that point, Mike and I bonded from there.”

Haslem even had Miller’s back when an incident occurred with an unnamed football player. “I had a football player that, um, that didn’t really like me,” Miller said with a smile. “For unknown reasons. And UD put an end to that.” Haslem remembered, “Yeah, I just let the guy know, if you got a problem with Mike, you got a problem with me. The guy never bothered Mike again.”

4 » Talk surrounding the 2011 NBA Draft from a Gators perspective has mostly focused on forward Chandler Parsons, who could be picked anywhere from the teens to the mid-second round. Parsons, who has been going around the country doing private workouts after successfully competing in the NBA Combine and select group camp in Minnesota, is not the only former Florida player eligible to be selected. Center Vernon Macklin, according to the Indianapolis Star, is one of six former college players working out for the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Macklin is projected to be a late second-round pick or go undrafted.

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Chandler Parsons – Path to the 2011 NBA Draft: Participating in combine workouts, interviews

Through the 2011 NBA Draft, Florida Gators forward and 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Chandler Parsons will be keeping fans up-to-date on his Path to the Draft via a weekly blog entry exclusively here at OGGOA.

In Minneapolis, MN as one of a select group of 24 prospects invited to compete in a private group workout for all 30 NBA general managers, Parsons got in touch with us Monday to submit his second entry while relaxing after having conducted interviews with two more interested teams. He will be all over the country throughout the next month but will continue checking in with us each week.

I had already begun working out in Chicago the last time we spoke, but on Wednesday morning I checked into the Westin hotel right in downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue. I was training there a couple days before it started, so I had been there before all the other players got there.

You get there and check in and you really don’t do much that first day. You get your check for the week, get into your room and get settled. The next morning [Thursday], I got up at 5:45 a.m. and had a drug test at 6 a.m. Then they ran us through all the testing: height, weight, wingspan, size of your hands, shoes off, shoes on, different tests for tuberculosis. They took five tubes of blood. They basically did every single medical test possible there. That was the first morning and then basically we ate breakfast and then headed to the gym for the first part of the combine.

They had it split up into guards, small forwards, power forwards and centers; obviously I was in the small forward group. There was a lot of shooting, dribble pull-ups and series of shots without defense – coming off pick-and-rolls, coming off the trail, coming off curl screens, just getting a lot of shots up with basically every GM and coach there – everyone from [Chicago Bulls team ambassador] Scottie Pippen to [New York Knicks head coach] Mike D’Antoni.

You shoot and then you actually compete, too. We played one-on-one, two-on-two off the dribble. It was about an hour workout, so it kind of zipped through. The second day [Friday] was similar but also included agility testing like the cone drill, three quarter court sprint, standing vert[ical jump], bench press.

I played well, shot the ball well. My agent said I basically did everything I could for my situation. We got a lot of good feedback from the individual team interviews that followed each day. Basically everyone said they were really impressed. I shot the ball really well, played tough. I interviewed with the [Los Angeles] Clippers, [Atlanta] Hawks, [Portland] Trailblazers, [San Antonio] Spurs, [Boston] Celtics, [Miami] Heat, [Minnesota] Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors. I had probably 10 interviews with me just sitting in the hotel room with them getting to know me. They get to see your personality, and I think that’s something I’ve been doing really good at…just being myself, having fun with it and being the outgoing guy that I am.

There were crazy questions. They asked me everything from my upbringing to the girls in Gainesville to… ‘Have you ever failed a drug test? Have you ever been arrested? Who’s the best player you’ve played against?’ They get pretty personal, too. They ask if you smoke and drink. If you think about it, they’re investing millions of dollars in you and it’s a business, so teams want to know everything about you before they draft you.

The last two days – Saturday and Sunday – I went to the hospital and took every single medical exam possible. Saturday I went in and took all these tests…MRIs, X-rays, you get tested for everything. And then Sunday, all the NBA trainers come in and talk to you about your results; that’s literally all day. There were no red flags for me; I’ve been really fortunate and blessed, never even rolled my ankle.

Last night we had a four-hour delay in the airport and then an hour delay on the actual plane on the runway due to all of the tornadoes in Minnesota. It was terrible. We got in here late last night, ate food and then hit the bed.

When I woke up [Monday] morning, I had to take a 240-question personality test and then also a speed test about how quick you react. There would be, for example, six pictures of a Christmas tree, a sun, a fork, a dog and a spoon, and you’d have to circle the two that are the most similar or which repeat in a pattern. That is timed. The first two groups also worked out, but I’m in group three so I don’t work out until [Tuesday].

A few of us also got to walk around downtown Minneapolis and grab dinner, and then we went back to the hotel for interviews. Tuesday I will come in, work out and then leave. Combining the interviews I’ve done before the combine, at the combine and today with the 12-15 city workouts I have scheduled, by the time it is all over I will have worked out with every team.

One team is going to draft me, but you never know down the line when I’m a free agent when I get to pick who I play for…as much as they’re interviewing me, on the flip side, I’m taking mental notes of who I liked, how it went. I look at it like this: The more teams you meet with and work out for, the better.

Go Gators,

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Noah’s rough Sunday includes one point, gay slur

Post updated at 5:25 p.m.

Sunday was not the best night for Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah.

Facing the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals, Noah only posted a single point while failing to connect on an attempt from the field, grabbing just five rebounds and dishing six assists.

Additionally, his defense on Heat power forward Chris Bosh was lacking; Bosh scored most of his game-high 34 points on Noah and ended up +15.

“I never got into a rhythm,” he said. “Even if I’m not in an offensive rhythm, I have to bring more. Give Miami credit, they played well. But we can get better.”

However, what Noah will actually be remembered for from Sunday’s game is not his poor performance but rather something he said while on the bench. He apparently directed a gay slur at a heckler in the pro-Miami crowd who was repeatedly taunting him.

Note: The video below contains explicit, inflammatory language.

Like Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant received a few weeks ago, Noah will likely be handed down a fine from the NBA league office for the slur. Bryant uttered a similar phrase to a referee previously in these playoffs.

Noah has since apologized for his actions, something Bryant chose not to do.

“It’s very disappointing. I apologize if I offended anyone,” he said. “I was just caught in the moment. A fan said something that was disrespectful toward me, and I responded. I have to take the consequences like a man. It was just a bad decision on my part.”

UPDATE: Noah has since apologized a second time. “I don’t want to be a distraction for the team, and I apologize for what I said,” he said Monday. “What I said wasn’t right. I don’t want to disrespect anybody. That’s not what I’m about. I just got caught up in something a fan said and I went back at him, and I’m going to face the consequences as a man. Sometimes fans say things that are a little bit overboard, but still, it’s on us not to react. If you react, they win, and I did. It was a bad decision on my part, and I’m going to face some pretty severe consequences.”

Noah was fined $50,000 Monday evening by the NBA.

The quotes used in this post are courtesy of the Miami Herald and New York Times.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, softball, Haslem, Weis

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has a wide variety of interests these days, but up until this point no one has dared question his work ethic or dedication to football. Then comes running back LenDale White, who asked Tebow publicly last week to join the voluntary workouts being put on by veteran safety Brian Dawkins in Denver. Tebow has previously worked out with teammates (especially his wide receivers) both in Denver and Jacksonville, FL but was finishing up a round of appearances including at his own charity golf tournament and for Jockey in New York, NY.

Thursday he returned to Denver and was one of 13 players to show up at the workout – the only quarterback on his team to do so. According to The Denver Post‘s Lindsay Jones, Tebow got there an hour early to throw passes and stayed for the duration. “This part is more important to show that we’re all together. I know a lot of us have been throwing and catching and doing what we need to do other places, but I think this is big, just to show that we’re together,” he said. “You can come together a few times to show, ‘Hey, we’ve got each other’s backs.'”

2 » Six members of No. 3 Florida Gators softball were honored Thursday with selections to the 2011 Louisville Slugger/National Coaches Fastpitch Association All-Southeast Region Teams. Senior outfielder Kelsey Bruder, senior first baseman Megan Bush, freshman pitcher Hannah Rogers and sophomore utility player Brittany Schutte were voted onto the First Team, while junior OF Michelle Moultrie and senior second baseman Aja Paculba earned Second Team honors. Florida begins 2011 NCAA Tournament action by hosting the Gainesville Regional beginning Friday at 6 p.m. against Benthune-Cookman.

3 » Playing his first significant minutes for the Miami Heat since making an early recovery from a Lisfranc injury of his foot, power forward Udonis Haslem was a major spark off the bench on Wednesday. Haslem entered the game, started 4-for-4 from the field and finished with 13 points and five rebounds (three offensive) on 50 percent shooting. He was also a huge help in the post for Miami, which lacks strength and dominance down low, by limiting the offensive rebounds that the Chicago Bulls were able to grab. Game three of the Eastern Conference Finals is set for Sunday at 8:30 p.m.

4 » Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis may be getting paid handsomely by Florida ($765,000 in salary this year), but he is also still receiving checks from his last college job with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. According to a report from the Chicago Tribune printed on Friday, Weis has been paid $7.3 million by Notre Dame since he was terminated in 2009 including a $6.6 million lump sum upon being fired. He will continue receiving payments from the school through Dec. 2015 (when his 10-year contract extension was supposed to end).

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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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