Brewer steps up, Horford and Noah eliminated

Three of the seven former Florida Gators players participating in the 2012 NBA Playoffs made national news on Thursday night for completely different reasons.

Denver Nuggets forward Corey Brewer got to experience major success while Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford felt the agony of defeat and Chicago Bulls C Joakim Noah was forced to sit idly by while dealing with an ankle injury.

Coming off the bench for Denver, Brewer was extremely efficient, starting 8-of-9 (and finishing 8-of-12) from the field (2-of-3 from downtown) for 18 points with three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 19 minutes.

He scored 11-straight points to begin the fourth quarter and extended his team’s lead to a game-high 18 points, helping lead the Nuggets to an important 113-96 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers that forced a seventh game in their first-round series.

Horford played in his third (and started his second-straight) game since coming back from rehabbing a torn pectoral, continuing to be an effective player for Atlanta. Though he did not see much action offensively in the first three quarers, Horford went 6-of-9 from the floor for 15 points with nine rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. Unfortunately his performance not without some negatives for the Hawks. He turned the ball over a game- and career-high seven times and had an opportunity to tie the game from the free throw line with two seconds left but only made one-of-two attempts.

After seriously spraining his ankle in Game 3, Noah found himself on the bench for Game 4 and 5, helpless as Chicago fell behind 3-2 in their opening-round series against Philadelphia. He hoped to get back on the court for Game 6 and even participated in layup drills prior to the contest but was unable to go once again and watched the Bulls drop yet another game.

Both Horford and Noah’s teams were eliminated from the playoffs in a pair of nail-biters with Atlanta falling 83-80 to Boston and Chicago losing 79-78 to Philadelphia. Florida began the postseason with seven former players in uniform, tied for the most of any school (Kansas); five players remain in action following Thursday’s games.

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Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Defensive lineman Brad Culpepper on Wednesday became the second former Florida Gators player in the last three weeks to join lawsuit against the NFL. Culpepper is the lead plaintiff one of two concussion lawsuits (Brad Culpepper et al v. NFL) filed by the Locks Law Firm against the NFL. “The lawsuits are identical to the other suits filed by Gene Locks, asserting counts of fraud, conspiracy to defraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, loss of consortium and seeking declaratory relief and medical monitoring,” according to Paul Anderson. Former Florida offensive tackle Lomas Brown is part of a separate suit against the NFL that cites the recent bounty scandal as evidence that the league did not properly protect its players from concussions.

» Former Gators running back Emmitt Smith admitted this week that, while he appears to be in perfect health now, he is worried that all of the hits he took over his football-playing career may come back to haunt him both physically and mentally in the future. “The evidence is starting to pile up. You are talking to a guy who carried the ball more than anybody in NFL history. So why wouldn’t I worry? I pray about it,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He also spoke about the tragic death of Junior Seau and reuniting with some of his former Dallas Cowboys teammates.

» Former Florida linebacker Dustin Doe has been re-signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL after appearing in just three games for the team last season. Doe registered two tackles each on defense and special teams in 2011 but spent the majority of the season on the practice squad. He is hoping to become a permanent member of the active roster this season as he attempts to continue his career.

» Speaking of players looking for new homes, it appears as if defensive tackle Marcus Thomas will be donning a different uniform in 2012. After spending the first six years of his career with the Denver Broncos, Thomas will be moving on to what he hopes are greener pastures, according to The Denver Post, which reports that it is unlikely Denver re-signs him this season. A selection in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Thomas has been a productive member of the Broncos throughout his career. However, Denver only wants to bring him back on a one-year deal while Thomas is looking for a multi-year agreement. The Post notes that at least two other teams are interested in Thomas’s services but will likely wait until after June 1 to sign him to a contract.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

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TWO Video BITS: Brown on Saints, Noah on Fela

1 » Former Florida Gators, Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints defensive end Alex Brown appeared on ESPN2’s Dan LeBatard is Highly Questionable on Tuesday to discuss playing for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (who he said was “wrongfully suspended”) and bounties in the NFL (among numerous other topics like the worst thing he did as a child and his first kiss). “It’s football. It’s not golf now. That’s what we have to understand: That it is football and it was built around hits and that’s what we do.”

2 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, currently on the bench while nursing a serious ankle sprain while his team competes in the 2012 NBA Playoffs, was featured in a video by OkayAfrica on Tuesday. In the clip, Noah discusses Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti, how his music has impacted his life and how he shared a bond with President Barack Obama over Fela one year ago.

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Al Horford’s big night leads Atlanta over Boston

Two games into his return from a torn right pectoral that forced him to miss 55 regular season contests and the first three games of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, forward/center Al Horford came up big for the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, scoring a team-high 19 points (on 8-of-15 shooting) with 11 rebounds in 41 minutes.

Horford’s monster night, which fueled Atlanta’s 87-86 victory over Boston, included three assists, three steals and three blocks along with a big jumper with 1:34 left that put the Hawks up four points. He made his return to the starting lineup on Tuesday after playing just 20 minutes in Game 4 of his team’s first-round series on Sunday.

“Al Horford was absolutely huge tonight,” Hawks head coach Larry Drew said in the post-game press conference. “His ability to move around at times when we were forced to make switches on defense, and his foot speed enabled him to stay with the ball. Offensively he gives us a presence down there, and he made some big shots for us tonight. I didn’t want to bring him back that early in the fourth, but it was a close game and you could feel the momentum shifting. He was a superman for us down the stretch.”

Horford said after the game that he was only supposed to play 15-20 minutes but was perfectly fine after being on the court for double that amount of time. “I was tired a little bit but right now I feel fine,” he said. “Maybe it’s the adrenaline from the game and [Wednesday] it will be a different story, but right now I’m fine. At the end of the third quarter I asked coach if he could sit me down for four or five minutes so I can come back and leave it all out there. But I had to go back in earlier than that. I was picking my spots on when to be aggressive out there. I didn’t want to lose the series that way, so I didn’t want to let [Rajon] Rondo shoot a jumper over me. You’re fighting for your life out there. I wanted to bring energy to the team tonight. We needed to win this game.”

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FOUR BITS: lacrosse, Noah, Horford, Brewer

1 » Florida Gators lacrosse continues to make history as, in just the third season of the program’s existence, it was announced Sunday that the team received the No. 1 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida, which won the ALC regular season title for the second-straight year and captured the first ALC Tournament Championship in team history on Saturday, is on a 13-match winning streak heading into the tournament. The Gators will receive a tremendous homefield advantage in the first two rounds (should they advance) before being forced to travel to Stony Brook, NY for the Final Four. Florida is looking to become the fastest program in the sport’s history to go from inception to national title but has a long road ahead of them beginning on Saturday, May 12 at 1 p.m. against Albany at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

2 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was knocked out of Game 3 of his team’s first-round series against Philadelphia after severely spraining his ankle midway through the contest. Noah did his best to continue playing but was badly limping and eventually headed back to the locker room where he was told he would be unable to return to the court. He sat on the bench in a suit and air cast during Game 4 on Sunday and is also expected to miss Game 5 (as well as the remainder of the series should it advance past that point). Noah’s injury is a tough blow for a Chicago team already without point guard Derrick Rose. The top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls may wind up eliminated in the first round while playing without their two biggest stars.

3 » The polar opposite of Noah, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford came off a major injury and returned to action this weekend just as his former teammate appears to be going on the shelf for the rest of the season. Horford, who tore his right pectoral on Jan. 11 and has not played since, was an active participant in Atlanta’s Game 4 on Sunday. He posted 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in 20 minutes of action, not showing much rust despite missing almost the entire season. Horford may only see one more game in 2012 as the Hawks are set to face an elimination Game 5 on Tuesday.

4 » Denver Nuggets F Corey Brewer may have been trending on Twitter during his game Sunday while fans were joking about his hairline, but Brewer is taking his team’s first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers very seriously. According to the Denver Post, Brewer has been “finding fuel” to play hard by thinking about his father who passed away during the season. “He always used to smile when I’d do something good,” he said. “Every time he’d see me, he was always happy. Everybody says we have the same smile. He had it rough. He didn’t have legs. He was blind. But every time I’d see him, he was smiling. He can’t walk, he can’t see and he’s happy every day – so I got to be happy.” Head coach George Karl called Brewer his team’s “energizer, offensively and defensively” and has praised his ability to make an impact especially on the defensive end of the court. Like Noah and Horford, Brewer’s team is also facing an elimination Game 5 on Tuesday.

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FOUR BITS: Noah, Leak, Tebow, Meyer

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, acting team leader with point guard Derrick Rose sidelined for the remainder of the season, looked very much like his young teammate during Game 2 on Tuesday when he performed a quick crossover and broke the ankles (figuratively) of Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Young.

2 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak, the new starter for the AFL’s Orlando Predators, has also decided to continue his career as an analyst and sports commentator by accepting a new gig. Leak will join Chris Childers as a co-host for College Sports Coast-to-Coast on SiriusXM’s College Sports Nation, the company announced via press release on Tuesday. The show airs weeknights from 7-10 p.m. and Leak will appear on the program multiple nights each week. “SiriusXM College Sports Nation offers college sports fans outstanding coverage of their favorite conferences, schools and players all year long and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Leak said in the release. “I still get amped up every spring, like I did when I was at UF, knowing a new college football season isn’t far off. I look forward to talking directly with the fans about the BCS, this year’s national title contenders and the teams and players that you’re going to want to keep an eye on from now through the upcoming season.”

3 » New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan told ESPNNewYork.com’s Rich Cimini on Tuesday while at a charity event that he is thrilled about having QB Tim Tebow on the team and thinks he brings a lot to the table. “It’s exciting to have a young guy that has experience in the playoffs and is learning the system,” he said. “I think he’s an excellent backup quarterback. I think he’s an outstanding football player. We’ll see what we can come up with.” Ryan expanded on his “football player” comments as well. “Everybody recognizes the competitiveness. The guy’s a winner, no question. People get tired of me saying it, but how do you not describe this guy as a football player? That’s what he is. He’s got size, he’s got strength, he’s got speed and he can throw the football.”

4 » With former Florida head coach Urban Meyer going to Ohio State, there should be no doubt that plenty of comparisons and parallels will be made throughout his tenure with his new employer. One thing that will not be the same is that Meyer plans to use a no-huddle offense at OSU, something that he sent former Gators offensive coordinator Dan Mullen to Missouri to learn but never implemented at Florida. “The minute you go no-huddle, you lose the intangibles and the immeasurable leadership of guys like Tebow and Mike Pouncey,” he told ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach. Meyer, during his year off from coaching, travelled across the country and picked up plenty from all the other head coaches he visited while working for ESPN. The no-huddle, up-tempo offense he is installing may be similar to another school that has recently gained prominence. “All you’ve got to do is look at Oregon,” he said. “We’re committed to it. We’re going to pop a huddle once in a while, but we’re committed to it.”

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Florida Gators in the 2012 NBA Playoffs

With the regular season wrapping up last week and the 2012 NBA Playoffs already in full swing, seven (six healthy) Florida Gators are currently representing their squads as they compete for the opportunity to appear in the NBA Finals.

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

(1) Chicago Bulls
No. 13 C Joakim Noah
Season: 5th
Averages: 30.4 mins., 10.2 pts., 9.8 rebs., 2.5 asst., 1.4 blk., .508 FG%, .748 FT%

(2) Miami Heat
No. 13 SG Mike Miller
Season: 12th
Averages: 19.3 mins., 6.1 pts., 3.3 rebs., 1.1 asst., .435 FG%, .453 3P%, .400 FT%

No. 40 PF Udonis Haslem
Season: 9th
Averages: 24.8 mins., 6.0 pts., 7.3 rebs., 0.7 asst., 0.4 blk., .423 FG%, .814 FT%

* Atlanta’s Al Horford has missed most of the season with a torn pectoral. Though he was expected to be back for the first round of the playoffs, he has been pushed back to at least the second round should his team make it to that point with a first-round victory. He is not currently listed as active for the playoffs.

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

(1) San Antonio Spurs
No. 15 F Matt Bonner
Season: 8th
Averages: 20.4 mins., 6.6 pts., 3.2 rebs., 0.9 asst., .440 FG%, .420 3P%, .762 FT%

(4) Memphis Grizzlies
No. 5 C Marreese Speights
Season: 4th
Averages: 22.4 mins., 8.8 pts., 6.2 rebs., 0.8 asst., 0.5 blk., .453 FG%, .771 FT%

(6) Denver Nuggets
No. 13 SF Corey Brewer
Season: 5th
Averages: 21.8 mins., 8.9 pts., 2.5 rebs., 1.2 stl., 434 FG%, .260 3P%, .692 FT%

Playoff teams without Gators on their rosters: (3) Indiana, (4) Boston, (6) Orlando, (7) New York, (8) Philadelphia, (2) Oklahoma City, (3) Los Angeles Lakers, (5) Los Angeles Clippers, (7) Dallas, (8) Utah

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TWO BITS: Pierce “Tebowing,” tennis in NCAAs

1 » Near the end of the Boston Celtics’s Game 2 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs on Tuesday, forward Paul Pierce made a free throw late in the first quarter and celebrated by “Tebowing” on his way back to his team’s bench. Up seven with 1:15 left in the game, it was probably a bit early for Pierce to perform the move though Boston wound up beating Atlanta and tying the series 1-1.

2 » Florida Gators women’s and men’s tennis each learned of their seedings for their respective 2012 NCAA Tournaments on Tuesday. The No. 2 women’s team, making its 30th tournament appearance and looking for its sixth national title, received the second seed in their bracket and will play hosts to some first- and second-round matches May 11-12. Florida captured the tournament championship last season in thrilling fashion and is ready to defend its title. The No. 11 men’s team, competing in its 21st NCAA Tournament but still trying to win its first national crown, earned the 12th seed and will also host first- and second-round action May 12-13.

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