MUST READ, IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE 2013 SEASON, PLAYERS & TEAM
In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week Orange & Blue News will keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.
Gators center Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls was named to his second-straight NBA All-Star game on Thursday night. Noah, in his seventh NBA season (time flies, huh?), will be participating in just his second overall All-Star game, earning this nod after posting career numbers through the first half of the season. He is averaging career-highs of 11.4 boards and 4.2 assists while scoring 11.7 points per game (just 0.2 short of his career-best).
Although Noah was selected, one of the most talked about snubs for the game was Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee. The two-time All-Star (2010, 2013) is averaging 19.0 points and 9.8 rebounds but was simply unable to find a reserve spot following the initial vote. All is not lost for Lee, however, as Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will not be playing in the game and a replacement will be made. Lee is expected to be at the top of the list of replacements along with Tim Duncan (San Antonio) and Anthony Davis (New Orleans).
The Associated Press interestingly noted Thursday that Seattle Seahawks defensive assistant (and former Florida defensive back) Marquand Manuel is his team's only remaining link to its last Super Bowl appearance. Seattle fell 21-10 to Pittsburgh in February 2006. Though the loss stings for Manuel, the fact that he was forced out of the game in the second quarter bothers him even more. "I get hurt eight minutes into the second quarter on a fluke play that I've made a million times and I'm not able to come back," he remembered. "[The] 75-yard run [by Willie Parker early in the third quarter] doesn't happen [if I'm in the game]. The halfback pass never happens. Now you're talking about a 14-10 game, which is totally different. Now it's a slugfest and the best team wins and I would have put money on our offense to score points."
Offensive coordinator Sean McVay, head coach Jay Gruden's hire with the Washington Redskins, apparently fell in love with former Gators tight end Jordan Reed after watching film on him from the 2013 season and noticing what he can do on the field. Though Reed's rookie campaign was cut short due to a concussion (symptoms lingered for weeks and forced him out for the season), he is expected to be a big part of Washington's offense once again next season. Gruden and McVay are believed to be targeting Reed as not just a go-to option for quarterback Robert Griffin III in 2014 but perhaps even his primary pass catcher like Rob Gronkowski in New England.
Reigning McDonald's All-American slam dunk champion Chris Walker is set to suit up for Florida for the first time on Tuesday and the growing consensus among college basketball insiders is reflecting what Inside the Gators has been reporting for weeks. Walker, once thought to be a one-and-done prospect, is believed to be heavily leaning towards returning for his sophomore season. Despite coming from a poor family that is struggling financially, Walker is aware how strong the 2014 draft class is perceived and believes remaining at Florida can significantly improve his game and move him from a mid-first round selection to potentially a top-five pick in 2015. Much remains to be seen regarding Walker, but Gators fans have one more reason to root for the player, who truly did whatever he could to play for Florida this season rather than take the easy way out.
Selected for the NBA Rising Stars Challenge for the second-straight year on Wednesday was Washington Wizards G Bradley Beal. In 35 starts during his sophomore season, Beal is averaging 17.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists and stands as a primary reason Washington is making noise in the Eastern Conference. He finished with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting in 22 minutes during last year's game, which he competed in as an NBA rookie. It will be the third-straight year that the NBA has decided to mix up the rookies and sophomores, so Beal's teammates are not yet known at this time.