1 » The Florida Gators announced on Tuesday that Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam will play the role of honorary Mr. Two-Bits ahead of Florida’s clash with the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday afternoon. In doing so, Elam will be the first active NFL player to come back and take the honorary duties of wearing the Mr. Two-Bits ensemble and leading the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium crowd in a pre-game cheer. The honorary Mr. Two-Bits concept has been a highlight for the Gators over the last two seasons with numerous former players (football and otherwise) taking the field including Wes Chandler, Errict Rhett, Lito Sheppard and Danny Wuerffel. Elam’s Ravens are on their bye week, which will allow him to travel down to Gainesville, Florida.
He comes from France
All four senior basketball players that left the Florida Gators last offseason have now found professional homes despite none being selected in the 2014 NBA Draft.
First was center Patric Young, who worked in the NBA Summer League with the New Orleans Pelicans (which guaranteed him a spot in training camp). By the time Summer League had commenced, Young agreed to a standard two-year, $1.35 million rookie contract with the franchise and is expected to be a contributor this season.
Point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who spent the Summer League playing for two different teams, was unable to find a home in the NBA but instead got a soft landing spot overseas. Wilbekin inked a contract with the Cairns Taipans of the Australian Basketball League and is already in Australia working out with his team.
1 » Former Florida Gators forward Casey Prather has been given a second chance at latching on with an NBA team after agreeing to join the Phoenix Suns in training camp on a non-guaranteed contract. Phoenix currently has 13 guaranteed contracts on its roster as well as one open roster spot. Prather will be competing with veteran center Earl Barron for that job. After spending the month of July playing for the Atlanta Hawks during NBA Summer League games in Las Vegas, Nevada, Prather was not retained or signed by another team. He averaged 5.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in 20 minutes per game.
Both of Prather’s fellow undrafted teammates out of Florida, C Patric Young and point guard Scottie Wilbekin, have landed professional contracts. Young signed a two-year, $1.35 million contract with the New Orleans Pelicans, while Wilbekin inked a deal with the Cairns Taipans of the Australian Basketball League.
1 » Former Florida Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin has found a professional home, according to RealGM.com, which reported Monday that he signed a one-year deal with the Cairns Taipans of Australia’s National Basketball League. Wilbekin is not currently on the roster and his signing has not yet been reported by another outlet, however, it is supposed to contain an out clause that would allow him to leave for the NBA if a team makes an overture for his services before the end of December.
Update: Head coach Billy Donovan, during a speaking engagement with the Atlanta Gator Club on Monday, confirmed Wilbekin’s destination.
2 » Beat writers that cover the Miami Dolphins believe former Gators kicker Caleb Sturgis may be on the verge of losing his job but not due to anything he is doing on the field. In fact, that is exactly the problem, as Sturgis suffered yet another groin injury early in training camp and aggravated that injury this past week. The Dolphins brought in third-year K John Potter to challenge Sturgis, and he impressed during Miami’s second preseason game by drilling field goals from 48 and 51 yards out. Sturgis struggled during his rookie season but was also put in tough situations. Before he got injured, the Dolphins had not brought another kicker into training camp as competition.
1 » During an interview with the Boomer and Carton Show on WFAN and CBS Sports Radio, New York Jets wide receiver David Nelson was asked about former teammate Aaron Hernandez and whether he ever had an inkling that the former tight end was be capable of going off the rails. “You know, there was definitely some tendencies – I’d be lying to you if I said there wasn’t – but it was a huge surprise,” he said. “It really shocked me. Because this is a guy I saw get into a fight in practice and [he was] crying 15 minutes later because he had just hurt his teammate. So this was a guy who was extremely sensitive, he was extremely vulnerable, but the thing is, he was who he hung out with. So if he was hanging out with somebody he was very influenced.
Nelson corroborated what has been reported elsewhere, that members of the Florida Gators were worried about Hernandez going home to Connecticut and hanging out with his old crowd. He also noted that head coach Urban Meyer purposely put Hernandez around himself and Tim Tebow to help improve his character. “You saw some issues with him in college, but they were minor – some drug stuff and that was about it – but nothing to this extreme,” Nelson added. “So he started to hang out with the wrong crowd, get a lot of fame, a lot of money, start to get that ‘I can do whatever I want’ invincible kind of mentality a lot of NFL guys get. And I think you saw him make a really bad mistake.”
What is this?
This is something I have wanted to bring to OnlyGators.com for a while, a weekly column combining opinion, entertainment and information. Seeing as this is still the offseason – and today also happens to be my birthday – I felt there was no better time than the present to begin The Silver Lining, which will be posted every Wednesday right here on OnlyGators.com. The format may change as the concept develops, and suggestions are both respected and appreciated.
The “football school” tag was removed from the Florida Gators long ago, but it is nevertheless noteworthy how much of an impact head basketball coach Billy Donovan has made not just on the school but the NBA as well.
Consider this: On Tuesday, forward Chandler Parsons officially became the best-paid former Florida basketball player in school history (based on average salary) when he signed a three-year, $46 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks. He will earn $14.7 million next year, $15.4 million in 2015-16 and $16.1 million in 2016-17; the latter two salaries are the highest ever scheduled to be paid to a player out of UF.
Consider this, also: During the 2014-15 season, the Gators will have four players earning $12 million or more from their respective NBA teams including Parsons, Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee ($15.0 million), Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah ($12.2 million) and Atlanta Hawks F/C Al Horford ($12.0 million).
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.
1 » With LeBron James’s decision to return to Cleveland now made, the reverberations will be felt throughout the NBA with two former Florida Gators players likely to be immediately affected. Forward Chandler Parsons, a Houston Rockets restricted free agent who signed a three-year, $46 million offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, now looks to be headed back to Houston. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Rockets now plan to match the Mavericks’ offer sheet. Houston must first compete trades to open up the necessary cap space to sign Chris Bosh; once Bosh has inked his deal, the Rockets can reacquire Parsons by using his Bird rights. A source told OnlyGators.com on Wednesday evening that Parsons preferred to continue his career in Dallas, though that same source told OnlyGators.com on Friday that Parsons is now very excited about the opportunity to play in a “Big Four” in Houston.
Update: Friday evening, Bosh spurned the Rockets and decided to remain with the Heat on a five-year, $118 million contract. How this affects Houston’s desire to match Parsons’s offer sheet with Dallas remains to be seen, though doing so would certainly eat into the Rockets’ potential 2015-16 cap space. Additionally, Parsons’s sheet includes an opt-out after year two as well as a 15 percent trade kicker.
2 » Also affected by James is F Mike Miller, who originally hoped to return to the Memphis Grizzlies to conclude his career. According to Wojnarowski, James reached out to Miller this week about potentially joining him in Cleveland. Miller is currently in negotiations with Memphis and the Denver Nuggets with teams like Oklahoma City also extremely interested in his services. He is seeking a three-year contract worth $4-5 million per season but could certainly accept a little less to reunite with James and potentially win more NBA titles before retirement.