PARTING THOUGHTS: 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 has always been one to poke LeBron James throughout his NBA career. Noah has referred to James and his former Miami Heat teammates as "Hollywood as hell," discussed playing out of position to try and shut him down defensively and has now made more humorous yet pointed remarks at the league's best player. "I'm happy for LeBron James," Noah said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "He gets to go home. People are happy over there. But I really hope that we can kick his ass as many times as possible." The 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Noah and his Chicago Bulls may be the favorite in the Eastern Conference this season. Not only is point guard Derrick Rose finally healthy (for now), the team also acquired forward/center Pau Gasol this offseason in an effort to boost its offensive efficiency.
Although former Florida running back Chris Rainey had not done much of anything in his NFL career, he had a believer in Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. While at North Carolina, Pagano recruited Rainey at the behest of Rainey's older brother, "He Hate Me" Rod Smart, who played under Pagano in Oakland. "It looked like everyone else was standing still on the [high school] tape and that's what he looks like now," Pagano said over the weekend, according to Pro Football Talk. "You can see the athleticism, the burst, the speed. He puts a foot in the ground and gets north and south." Rainey was expected to get the opportunity to see time at running back - he only returned kicks and punts in limited action with the Colts last season - now that Vick Ballard is out for the season. Instead, he was waved on Monday for what ESPN's Adam Schefter deemed was the violation of a team rule.
Though safety Will Hill will be suspended for the first six games of the 2014 season due to his third drug violation (second for a substance abuse), the free agent was given yet another chance to succeed in the league when he was picked up by the Baltimore Ravens on Friday. In a conversation with reporters after practice, Hill claims "everything is behind me" when it comes to marijuana. "[I was] just being irresponsible," he said, according to the Baltimore Sun. "Yeah, I feel like I've learned. I'm ready to play football. They talked to the [New York] Giants and they had nothing but good words to say about me." Hill has claimed to put marijuana in his back window before, notably when the Giants signed him a full year after he went undrafted. Nevertheless, he was suspended for drugs each of his first two seasons in the NFL and will start 2014 with a third.
One completely healthy season would allow former Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin to prove how effective he can be in the NFL, and he hopes to get just that in 2014 as he enters training camp fully healthy. "This year, being able to get my foundation back and go through the whole offseason with no problems, OTAs, minicamp, and then to [training] camp [has bene great]," he said, according to the Seattle Times. "As long as I keep practicing and building my foundation, I'll be fine. It's been a while [since I've been healthy], but I don't know if any football player can say they're fully healthy playing football. But this is the best I've felt in a long, long time. I'm just going to keep building, building, building and I'm looking forward to the season."
Reaching the pinnacle of the Puerto Rican Baloncestro Superior Nacional, former Florida guard Walter Hodge on Wednesday was named the league's Most Valuable Player. He easily won the honor, picking up 70 votes (32 more than second-place finisher Mike Harris). One-time Gators G David Huertas finished fourth with 33 votes. Hodge received 11-of-31 first-place votes and appeared in 19-of-31 ballots. He averaged 16.9 points per game while leading the league in assists (6.9) and steals (1.8) per contest. Also playing in BSN is former Florida G Mike Rosario, who is teammates with Huertas.
Starting training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list due to simply being "out of shape" when reporting to Washington, former Gators offensive lineman Maurice Hurt will now be fighting for a roster spot. The No. 217 overall pick in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Hurt has seen extensive time with the franchise in his two healthy seasons, starting all eight games he played as a rookie and getting the nod in one of 13 contests he participated in during his second season in 2012. Hurt had arthroscopic knee surgery ahead of the 2013 season and was placed on the PUP list before eventually being moved to injured reserve. Now he must show new head coach Jay Gruden that he is committed to getting in shape so he can participate in preseason games and earn a gig with Washington.