Florida Gators in the 2015 NBA Playoffs: Conference Semifinals

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 were 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 marked the most of any school this year.

Seven have since advanced to the second round. OnlyGators.com breaks down how each player fared during round one as well as their respective outlooks going forward.

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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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Former Florida Gators PG Scottie Wilbekin signs with A.E.K. Athens B.C.

Former Florida Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who originally planned to continue his professional career in the NBA D-League, has instead decided to sign with A.E.K. Athens B.C., a source close to the player told OnlyGators.com on Friday.

Wilbekin, a Most Valuable Player candidate who helped lead the Cairns Taipans to the Grand Final in Australia’s National Basketball League, averaged 15.4 points and 4.3 assists per game. The team fell short of the championship, but Wilbekin was named to the All-NBL First Team this week.

Like the NBL, the Greek Basketball League is the top league in its country. Wilbekin is expected to start for the veteran-laden team, putting himself in position to be a featured player in one of Europe’s best leagues over the next three months.

He will be the second Gators point guard to join a GBL team in the last few seasons as Nick Calathes led Panathinaikos B.C. to back-to-back titles (2010-11) during a four-year run from 2009-12.

Calathes coupled his success at Panathinaikos with a solid run for Lokomotiv Kuban (Russia) to propel himself into the NBA as a 24-year-old rookie in 2013-14. A successful run in Athens could get Wilbekin back in the United States next season, possibly as an NBA rookie.

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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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TWO BITS: Gators in NBA, Horford improving

1 » Training camp for many NBA teams begins on Tuesday and there are currently 15 former Florida Gators on rosters with 12 assured of making the cut out of training camp this season. Guard Bradley Beal (Washington), forward Matt Bonner (San Antonio), F Corey Brewer (Minnesota), point guard Nick Calathes (Memphis), power forward Udonis Haslem (Miami), PF Al Horford (Atlanta), PF David Lee (Golden State), F Mike Miller (Cleveland), center Joakim Noah (Chicago), F Chandler Parsons (Dallas), PF Marreese Speights (Golden State) and C Patric Young (New Orleans) will all certainly find their way onto regular-season rosters. Also competing in training camp right now are PF Vernon Macklin (New Orleans), F Erik Murphy (Boston) and F Casey Prather (Phoenix). Murphy has barely played since being selected in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft and will be on his fourth team in just over one full season. Macklin and Prather both received non-guaranteed, league-minimum training camp contracts.

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TWO BITS: Horschel wins; Murphy, Calathes out

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Billy Horschel on Sunday earned his second PGA Tour victory, his first in one year and five months, after shooting -14 and winning the 2014 BMW Championship. Just last week, Horschel choked on the 18th hole during his final round at the 2014 Deutsche Bank Championship, finishing in a three-way tie for second behind Chris Kirk of Georgia. He did not make the same mistake on Sunday, shooting -1 over the final 12 holes to best two-time Masters Tournament winner Bubba Watson, also a UGA alum. Horschel collected $1.44 million on Sunday to go along with the $579,000 he banked last week, bringing his season-long earnings to nearly $3.4 million.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Horschel wins; Murphy, Calathes out

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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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4 BITS: SEC Network, Horschel, Smith, Calathes

1 » With just six weeks to go until the launch of the SEC Network, there are still plenty of cable and satellite companies that have not come to an agreement on terms with ESPN to carry the channel. However, according to FOXSports.com, Comcast appears to be the next in line to make a deal with the World Wide Leader in Sports. Company spokesman John Demming claims that Comcast and ESPN are “working out final details” for the network with an agreement expected to be announced “in the near future.” Currently, the SEC Network is only scheduled to go live on AT&T Uverse, DISH Network and Google fiber. DirecTV and Time Warner Cable are the other major entities that have not agreed with ESPN, though Comcast’s agreement to purchase TWC for $45 billion will likely make that contract signing easier. (Same with AT&T attempting to acquire DirecTV in a similar deal.) Smaller cable companies are expected to come to terms to carry the channel once the larger deals are struck. Florida Gators fans concerned about whether Cox Communications will have the station should take solace in the fact that it would be bad business and public relations for the SEC Network to go live without fans of one of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference able to watch it.


The SEC Network on Monday also announced that 10-year veteran anchor Dari Nowkhah has reached a multi-year deal with ESPN an will host the station’s “weeknight news and information show,” called SEC Now. The new show will debut on Thursday, Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. [Pictures: Set renderings]

Continue Reading » 4 BITS: SEC Network, Horschel, Smith, Calathes

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