Florida Gators in 2015 NBA Playoffs: First Round

With the 2014-15 NBA Playoffs underway, 10 of the 11 former Florida Gators basketball players in the league advanced to the postseason.

The Gators are represented on nine of the 16 playoff teams with four starters and six reserves active for competition. The 10 total UF players in the postseason marks the most of any school this year.

OnlyGators.com breaks down how each player fared during the 2014-15 regular season as well as their respective outlooks for the playoffs, which began on Saturday.

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Limited oral history of the Final Four-winning 1999-2000 Florida Gators basketball team

Exactly 15 years ago today, then-34-year-old head coach Billy Donovan led the Florida Gators to the first Final Four victory in program history.

The 1999-2000 Gators were a special group, which included four NBA players (three of whom are still in the league), a young but hungry coaching staff (every assistant went on to be head coaches elsewhere) and a 10-man rotation that allowed Florida to be relentless on both ends of the court throughout entire games.

Those Gators captured just the second Southeastern Conference regular-season title in school history, played in the national championship game for the first time in school history and were ranked wire-to-wire that season for, you guessed it, the first time in school history.

It was a transcendent Florida team that came together to overcome tremendous obstacles, including a overall No. 1-ranked team in Duke – with Shane Battier, Jay Williams, Carlos Booser, Chris Carrawell and Mike Dunleavy – that would go on to win the national title the following season.

OnlyGators.com wanted to tell the story of these Gators through the eyes of those who were actually there. As such, we reached out to guard Teddy Dupay and forward Brent Wright to recount one of the biggest moments in program history on its 15th anniversary.

With the 2014-15 Final Four being played in Indianapolis – the same site as the 1999-2000 Four – and featuring two of the same teams (Michigan State, Wisconsin), the stars could not be better aligned for a look back.

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2 BITS: SEC/Big 12 Challenge, Miller, Hernandez

1 » The Southeastern Conference and Big 12 announced Thursday that the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which began last season, will undergo a significant format change. Instead of being 10 games played over three days in the fall, it will now be 10 games played in one day early in the spring. That date has been set for next season with all 10 games tipping off on Saturday, January 30, 2016, though match-ups have not yet been determined at this time. “Moving the Big 12/SEC Challenge later int he season will raise the profile of this event and give our coaches, student-athletes and fans the attention that it deserves,” said Mike Slive, the SEC’s commissioner. The 10 games will all be played on ESPN networks with the four SEC teams not given match-ups going head-to-head against each other on the SEC Network that day.

The Florida Gators wound up playing a home-and-home series against Kansas in the first two iterations of the event, hosting the Jayhawks last season and travelling to Lawrence, Kansas, this fall. Florida is expected to host an SEC/Big 12 Challenge game in 2015-16, though renovations to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center would have proved that difficult if the game was played during its previously-scheduled window. Whether the event was moved to help accommodate UF remains to be seen, but the scheduling adjustment was not just made for next season but for the duration of the event’s existence.

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FOUR BITS: Hinds, Senior Bowl, Horford, Lee

1 » According to CoachingSearch.com, the Florida Gators will add Justin Hinds to their coaching staff as a defensive graduate assistant. Hinds, who worked under defensive coordinator Geoff Collins at Mississippi State, had high praise for his boss during an October interview with ESPN.com.

Justin Hinds says there’s a genius to Collins’ eccentricity. Behind those wild blue eyes — the kind that stare at you with so much intensity they seem to shake — is a coach who knows how to fire up his players, and more important, gets them to understand what can be a complex system by boiling down the most intricate details into easily digestible parts.

“It’s like ‘A Beautiful Mind,'” Hinds says, gesturing toward a wall-to-wall white board filled with coverages and blitzes diagrammed on every available inch of space. “He’s a unique thinker.”

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2014-15 NBA season begins with 12 former Florida Gators spread across 11 teams

The 2014-15 NBA season tips off on Tuesday night with 12 former Florida Gators on active rosters, tied with Arizona for sixth-most across the league.

Those players are spread out over 11 teams with only the Golden State Warriors employing more than one former Gators star on their roster.

Below is a primer on all 12 Florida players (five starters, seven reserves) ahead of the 2014-15 season.

STARTERS

C JOAKIM NOAH, Chicago Bulls
Drafted: 2007: 1st round, No. 9 overall pick
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 232 lbs.
Year: Eighth | All-Star: Twice (2013-14)

Already a popular player and stalwart in Chicago, Noah broke through during his seventh season to capture the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and earn nominations to the All-NBA First Team and NBA All-Defensive First Team. He averaged career-highs of 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.2 steals, earning a trip to his second-straight All-Star game in the process. One year after becoming the seventh player in NBA history to record a triple-double with double-digit blocks, Noah became just the fourth center in NBA history to register four triple-doubles consisting of points, rebounds and assists in a single season. He was also the first Bulls player since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (1992-93) to record four in a single season. Noah enters the 2014-15 campaign coming off knee surgery and is expected to be limited at times during the season.

PF/C AL HORFORD, Atlanta Hawks
Drafted: 2007: 1st round, No. 3 overall pick
Height: 6’10” | Weight: 250 lbs.
Year: Eighth | All-Star: Twice (2010-11)

One of the most underrated players in the league, due in large part to his team (Atlanta) and in ability to stay on the court, Horford has become the Hawks’ unquestioned leader and go-to player. In just 29 games last season, the second in three that has been cut short early due to a torn pectoral, Horford averaged a career-high 18.6 points per game on a career-best .567 shooting. Though he has not been selected to an NBA All-Star team since 2001, Horford plans to make his way back this year with his eyes set on a 20-10 average.

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The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 6

Looking for more gold in Cleveland

Giving up more money, more years and a starting role, former Florida Gators forward Mike Miller officially inked a two-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, returning to the side of LeBron James for the second time in his career.

Miller will continue his career at a rate of $5.6 million with the Cavaliers. Cleveland gave the 34-year-old a player option for the 2015-16 season for the second year of that deal as well as a 15 percent trade kicker should it try to move him.

A two-time NBA Champion, the 2001 NBA Rookie of the Year and 2006 NBA Sixth Man of the Year has put together an exceedingly successful career since being selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. In fact, he may very well be the most successful former Gators player in NBA history when his total list of accomplishments is taken into account.

Now with his sixth team, Miller will spend his fourth season next to James. During the first nine seasons of his career, Miller’s teams won just 46.2 percent of their games; however, over the last four, he’s been winning games at a 68.3 percent clip. Miller no doubt expects that that trend to continue with the Cavaliers.

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4 BITS: Miller, Pounceys, Calathes, SEC Network

1 » Former Florida Gators forward Mike Miller, after struggling with his decision for nearly a week, has decided to continue his 15-year career alongside LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers. According to ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard and Jeff Goodman, Miller will sign a two-year deal, $5.5 million with the Cavaliers with a player option after the first season. He chose Cleveland and the ability to chase championships with James over Houston and a better monetary offer from Denver after originally seeking a three-year deal worth $12-15 million. Miller will be joining his sixth NBA team following two stints with the Memphis Grizzlies and one each with Orlando, Minnesota, Washington and Miami. Last season, he averaged 7.1 points in 20.8 minutes per game while shooting 45.9 percent from beyond the arc.

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FOUR BITS: Bonner, Young, Miller, Lee

1 » According to multiple reports Sunday afternoon, 10-year NBA veteran F Matt Bonner will re-sign with the San Antonio Spurs. Bonner, who made nearly $4 million in 2013-14 – the final season of a four-year, $13.9 million contract he signed back in 2010 – will play his ninth-straight campaign with San Antonio once terms of the deal are finalized. On Saturday, Bonner was in his native Concord, New Hampshire; he brought the Larry O’Brien Trophy home to Rundlett Middle School for his annual summer basketball camp. “It means a lot to me to bring the trophy here to Concord,” Bonner told the Concord Monitor. “it’s very symbolic. I literally grew up a block from [Rundlett], right down on South Street. So now, at the age of 34, to have the NBA Championship trophy come here, it kind of brings it all full circle.”

2 » Former Florida Gators center Patric Young has played well thus far in a pair of NBA Summer League games with the New Orleans Pelicans in Las Vegas, Nevada. Coming off the bench in his first game on Friday, Young scored 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting with 13 rebounds in 19 minutes but did cough up three turnovers. On Sunday, Young earned a start at power forward, finishing +25 after playing a team-high 29 minutes. He was 5-for-6 from the field, scoring 10 points with six boars, a block and only one turnover. Neither point guard Scottie Wilbekin (Philadelphia 76ers) nor F Erik Murphy (Utah Jazz) impressed in their debuts. Forward Casey Prather did not see the court with the Atlanta Hawks in his first game but chipped in four points on 2-of-4 shooting with a rebound, two steals and a block in 20 minutes on Sunday.


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