Training camp revivals: 10 players trying to resurrect their careers in 2013-14
Everybody loves a good comeback story.
Whether it’s a former first-round pick trying to redeem himself for unrealized potential or an aging veteran looking to prove he can still contribute, NBA training camps are ripe with such narratives. While young players get valuable reps and older ones round into shape, these fringe players on non-guaranteed contracts are battling for final roster spots.
A training camp invitation is the NBA’s version of a second chance and there are several intriguing cases worth highlighting this year. Here’s a look at 10 players trying to restart their NBA careers in training camp this season.
Michael Beasley, F, Miami Heat
Claim to fame: The biggest name on a non-guaranteed contract in any camp, Beasley, 24, returns to the team that drafted him second in 2008 after a disastrous one-year stint with the Suns. The mercurial forward put up the worst season in his five-year career and capped his time in Phoenix with a marijuana arrest in August. Beasley looked like he would be a star coming out of Kansas State, but he’s been his own worst enemy pretty much since Day 1.
Roster chances: If Beasley can’t turn it around in Miami, he won’t be long for this league. He’s fortunate to back into an opportunity to play with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the two-time defending champions. There’s no denying Beasley’s talent, but his decisions on and off the floor can be mind-boggling. Pat Riley and Miami obviously have a soft spot for him, so making the roster is a strong probability if he can show glimpses of his former self and stay out of trouble.
Corey Maggette, F, San Antonio Spurs
Claim to fame: Scoring and getting to the free-throw line. Maggette has averaged 16 points per game in his 14-year career, including three seasons of at least 20 points. His best years, with the Clippers, are long gone, but Maggette, 33, was still a capable scorer (and occasional black hole) in Golden State, Milwaukee and Charlotte. He fell out of favor in Detroit last season and was benched.
Roster chances: Maggette doesn’t fit the “three-and-D” mold the Spurs tend to favor for their swingmen (he’s a career 32.4 percent three-point shooter), but the appeal of his instant offense off the bench could win him a job as small forward Kawhi Leonard’s backup.
Josh Childress, F, Washington Wizards
Claim to fame: Childress showed a lot of promise with the Hawks in his first four years, averaging 11.1 points and 5.6 rebounds, but his career has never quite recovered from his decision to bolt for Greece in 2008. After returning to the States, Childress was amnestied by the Suns after two seasons before playing briefly for the Nets last season.
Roster chances: Otto Porter is the future for the Wizards at small forward, but he recently sustained a hip injury after missing part of summer league with a hamstring injury. Washington has an array of backups who are younger than Childress, but the 30-year-old would be a welcome addition if he can play like he did for the Hawks.
Joe Alexander, F, Golden State Warriors
Claim to fame: Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum and George Hill. Those are just a few of the players taken after the Bucks drafted Alexander eighth in 2008. The West Virginia product blew teams away in pre-draft workouts, only to turn out to be one of the biggest busts in recent memory. He washed out after averaging 11.1 minutes in 67 games over two seasons, and later spent time playing in Russia.
Roster chances: What’s slimmer than being slim? With Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green among the Warriors’ options at small forward, Alexander is unlikely to be in Golden State’s plans. And if the Warriors’ final roster spot happens to be a coin toss, we’re putting our money on Stephen Curry’s younger brother, Seth. The fact that Alexander got an invitation at all is a good sign, but the Warriors are arguably the deepest perimeter team in the league.
Ryan Gomes, F, Oklahoma City Thunder
Claim to fame: Gomes looked like a surefire longtime rotation player after flashing potential with the Celtics (All-Rookie second team in 2005-06) and playing all 82 games in back-to-back seasons with the Timberwolves from 2007-09. But he was lost in the shuffle after signing with the Clippers as a free agent in 2010, playing a small role that he would eventually lose, too. Gomes played in Germany last season before getting a camp invite from the Thunder.
Roster chances: Gomes has as good a chance of making his team as anyone on this list. An experienced two-way player, Gomes could win the job as Kevin Durant’s backup with a strong showing. And with Kevin Martin gone, Oklahoma City needs bench talent.
Renaldo Balkman, F, Dallas Mavericks
Claim to fame: Energy and defense were Balkman’s calling cards in the NBA from 2006-12, but he’s probably best known for being the surprise, much-mocked No. 20 pick by then-Knicks president Isiah Thomas in 2006 and for an incident in the Philippine Basketball Association last season. Although the swingman averaged 25 points and 13.4 rebounds in the PBA, he’s better remembered for going berserk in the middle of a game and choking a teammate.
Roster chances: Dallas is already well stocked on the wing with Shawn Marion, Jae Crowder and Vince Carter, and the best parts of Balkman’s game — scrappy defense and rebounding — would be redundant mixed in with that group. Balkman, 29, is back on the NBA radar after being out of the league for a year, but he’s unlikely to catch on in Dallas.
Fab Melo, C, Dallas Mavericks
Claim to fame: Shot blockers with potential are rare, but the Celtics parted with the 2012 first-round pick after just 14 months. After a brief, bizarre stint in Memphis, the Grizzlies cut Melo to save money, enabling the Mavericks to sign the 23-year-old center.
Roster chances: Melo, 23, may have the most untapped potential among the four centers on the Mavericks’ roster — 32-year-old Sam Dalembert and the undersized DeJuan Blair and Bernard James are the others — but can he prove that he can contribute enough in 2013-14 for the playoff-hopeful Mavericks to keep him around? A more likely scenario is the D-League, but Melo is an intriguing prospect worth keeping an eye on (he averaged a D-League-leading 3.1 blocks for the Maine Red Claws last season).
Cole Aldrich, C, New York Knicks
Claim to fame: The 11th pick in 2010 has already been traded three times (including once on draft night) and played for Oklahoma City, Houston and Sacramento. With the former Kansas standout having averaged only 7.9 minutes for his career, we’ve yet to see what he can really do besides occupy space.
Roster chances: The Knicks need a center and Aldrich could be their guy. Jeremy Tyler broke his foot earlier this month and likely won’t be able to return until November. Andrea Bargnani is a center with an allergy to the paint. Amar’e Stoudemire recently had his third knee surgery in a year. And Kenyon Martin is better suited to play power forward. Aldrich has his work cut out for him on a deep training camp roster, but the opportunity is there.
Xavier Henry, G/F, Los Angeles Lakers
Claim to fame: Henry looked like Paul Pierce 2.0 coming out of Kansas, but the 2010 lottery pick’s rookie flop was so mighty that the Grizzlies gave up on him after one year and traded him to the Pelicans. Two seasons of sparse production didn’t give New Orleans a reason to keep him around, leading to a D-League demotion and the decision to not pick up his option.
Roster chances: With Kobe Bryant recovering and Metta World Peace gone, the Lakers’ cupboard is empty on the wing. Henry will compete with the likes of Shawne Williams, Elias Harris, Marcus Landry and Ryan Kelly on a Lakers team with 11 players with fully guaranteed contracts.
Patrick O’Bryant, C, Charlotte Bobcats
Claim to fame: O’Bryant, 27, was the first lottery pick ever sent down to the D-League, in 2006 by Golden State. After cups of coffee with the Celtics and Raptors, O’Bryant played in China, Greece, Puerto Rico and Lithuania.
Roster chances: With the addition of Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller to go with Bismack Biyombo and Josh McRoberts, Charlotte’s frontcourt rotation is pretty set. That said, NBA teams can always make room for a 7-footer with talent. If O’Bryant has a strong camp, he’ll get a shot. If not, well, he’ll likely get to see another country.
Honorable mention: Ike Diogu (Knicks), Lou Amundson (Clippers), Dahntay Jones (Bulls), Roger Mason Jr. (Heat), Darnell Jackson (Pacers).