Ty Lawson Signs With Sacramento Kings

In an effort to get his once-promising career back on track, former UNC point guard Ty Lawson agreed to a one-year contract Sunday night with the Sacramento Kings.

Over the course of his seven seasons in the NBA, Lawson–a key cog during the Tar Heels’ 2009 national title run–has averaged a solid 13 points and six assists per game.

He has also established himself as one of the league’s quickest players with the ball in his hands–mostly during his first six seasons with the Denver Nuggets.

After being charged with his fourth DUI in July of 2015, however, the Nuggets worked out a trade that sent Lawson to the Houston Rockets.

Playing alongside superstars James Harden and Dwight Howard, he was lost in the shuffle on the court in Houston–all while simultaneously trying to clean up his life off the court.

His averages fell to just 5.8 points and 3.4 assists in his 53 games with the Rockets. By midseason, the marriage clearly wasn’t beneficial to either side. Lawson was waived by the team soon after.

The Indiana Pacers made a move to acquire him, but that experiment didn’t quite pan out either–with Lawson seeing just 18 minutes of playing time per night during his 13-game stint with the team.

By joining the Kings, he’ll be competing with Darren Collison for time at the point guard position. Collison was the team’s backup last season behind Rajon Rondo–who recently left to become a member of the Chicago Bulls.

Although the Sacramento organization has been somewhat of a punchline within the league over the last few years, it could serve as a launching pad for Lawson to get himself back to the player he was before.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/ty-lawson-signs-with-sacramento-kings

Date Set for Late Night with Roy

While the college football season is set to get underway for UNC next weekend, the official start date of the Carolina men’s basketball season has been announced.

UNC will host the annual Late Night with Roy event at the Dean Smith Center on October 14.

Late Night With Roy

ESPN’s Sage Steele: Photo via Smith Cameron Photography

Late Night with Roy is full of sketches all leading up to the first sanctioned practice the men’s basketball team is allowed to have, which is usually in the form of a light-hearted scrimmage more fit for an NBA All-Star Game environment than a Roy Williams-led practice.

Kenny Smith, former Tar Heel and current analyst on TNT’s Inside the NBA, served as host last of Late Night in 2015. ESPN’s Sage Steele also made a special appearance at the festivities last season.

The 2015 event also included a tribute to UNC alumnus and famous ESPN personality Stuart Scott. Scott served as the energetic host of Late Night with Roy many times but passed away in 2015 from cancer.

There is no official word on who will host the event this fall.

Late Night With Roy

Stuart Scott’s family: Photo via Smith Cameron Photography

This year’s UNC team will be odd for Tar Heel fans with no Marcus Paige or Brice Johnson. But Carolina will return several key pieces to a team that lost on a buzzer beater in the National Championship game last season.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/date-set-for-late-night-with-roy

Joel James Signs to Play Professionally in Japan

It appears now that the eastern hemisphere will now get a piece of one of Chapel Hill’s favorite local treasures.

Joel James, the lovable former UNC men’s basketball big man, announced Thursday via Twitter that he has reached an agreement to sign with the Kumamato Volters in Japan.

A 6-foot-10 teddy bear from West Palm Beach, Florida, James averaged 2.2 points per game in his Tar Heel career.

His most notable statistic, though, is the amount of hearts he touched per game with his bench celebrations and antics. That number–while yet to be calculated–is likely somewhere between 20,000 and 20 million.

After graduating from the school this past May, James received an NBA Summer League tryout with the Indiana Pacers.

James saw the floor in two games with the Pacers, averaging 2.5 points in just over 8.5 minutes per game. He didn’t record a single rebound, assist, block or steal.

This next stop allows him to keep his dream of a pro basketball career alive, however, as he should have ample opportunity to prove his abilities out on the floor with his new team.

The Volters are part of the Japanese National Basketball League’s Western Conference, and have been in existence for only three seasons.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/joel-james-signs-to-play-professionally-in-japan

Wayne Ellington Hosts Inaugural Philadelphia Peace Games

For Miami Heat guard, and former UNC standout, Wayne Ellington, life was turned upside down on Nov. 9, 2014.

His father, Wayne Ellington Sr., was shot to death in the driver’s seat of his red Oldsmobile in the Ellingtons’ hometown of Philadelphia.

In response, the younger Ellington has become a devoted advocate for gun safety–even taking home the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his tireless efforts. The honor is given annually to the player who displays outstanding service and commitment to the community.

Next up in Ellington’s continued campaign, though, is the inaugural Philadelphia Peace Games at Girard College on Saturday Aug. 20.

The event’s goal is to bring together at-risk youth and young adults while emphasizing gun violence, prevention and advocacy.

“Gun violence is a global epidemic and it is my hope and intention to develop public education campaigns to help wipe out the threat,” Ellington said in a statement. “My father was taken from us due to senseless gun violence. I will do anything I can to prevent other families from suffering through these tragedies, which are all too common.

“I was really moved at last year’s Peace Games in Chicago and I’m excited to make an impact in my hometown community.”

Four teams made up of at-risk youth will compete in a basketball tournament that will be open to the public. Appearances by local and national celebrities will also be made–in an effort to bring together people from different backgrounds for an open conversation exploring the dangers of gun violence.

The Peace Games are a part of Ellington’s “Power of W.E.” initiative, a campaign focused on the reduction of youth violence in Philadelphia.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/wayne-ellington-hosts-inaugural-philadelphia-peace-games

UNC Men’s Basketball Places Three on NABC Honors Court

The UNC men’s basketball team showed its academic chops Wednesday, when it was announced that three seniors from last year’s Final Four squad earned spots on the National Association of Basketball Coaches Honor Court.

Marcus Paige, Justin Coleman and Toby Egbuna were each selected as recognition for their achievements in the classroom.

In order to qualify for the honor, players must meet four requirements:

1) They must be either a junior or senior

2) They must have been at their current institution for at least a full year

3) They need to have a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or higher

4) They must be a member of a Division I, II, or II institution with a coach who is a member of the NABC.

Paige graduated UNC as a fan favorite who earned All-American and All-ACC honors while becoming the most prolific three-point shooter in school history.

Egbuna and Coleman each were part of the “Blue Steel” bench unit that would often close out the late stages of blowouts during the 2015-16 season.

On many occasions they received loud roars from the Dean Dome crowds as they attempted to win Bojangles biscuits for fans by getting the Tar Heels to 100 points.

Coleman was also the star of many pregame dance routines throughout last season.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-mens-basketball-places-three-on-nabc-honors-court

JP Tokoto Signs Training Camp Deal With New York Knicks

Since the NBA Summer Leagues have all come to a close, it means that training camps are right around the corner.

As each team looks to fill out its 20-man camp roster, many players are receiving the chance of a lifetime to prove they belong.

Former UNC small forward JP Tokoto is no different.

The uber-athletic, 6-foot-6 swingman agreed to a partially-guaranteed training camp deal with the New York Knicks on Monday–as he tries to carve out a place at the next level.

After skipping his senior year in Chapel Hill to enter the 2015 NBA Draft, Tokoto was ultimately selected late in the second round by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Tokoto made a number of highlight plays at the rim during his time at UNC, but he often relied too much on his superior athleticism to get by. (Todd Melet)

Tokoto made a number of highlight plays at the rim during his time at UNC, but he often relied too much on his superior athleticism to get by. (Todd Melet)

He was eventually cut by the team, before going on to play for the Oklahoma City Blue in the NBA Developmental League.

In 48 games for the Blue–where he played about 27 minutes a night–he averaged 11.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and two assists per outing.

He also made an appearance in the D-League Dunk Contest at the league’s All-Star Weekend.

As a result, the former Tar Heel was given a chance on the Knicks’ Summer League roster this past July.

Although his statistics were similar to those he put up in the D-League–10.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists–Tokoto showed that he has the same glaring hole in his game that’s always been there.

His inability to consistently make shots this summer (40 percent on all field goals, 28 percent from three-point range) has brought into question whether he’ll be able to ultimately make the final cut after camp ends.

While his highlight slams have brought many fans to their feet–and to Youtube–they’ve never counted as anything more than two points on the court.

In order to truly prove his worth to teams at the NBA level, Tokoto will have to continue developing his all-around game.

Should he be able to pair that with his tantalizing athleticism, there could be a bright future ahead–whether it be in New York or elsewhere.

It’s that high-potential ceiling, more than anything else, that explains the Knicks’ decision to give him a chance.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/professional/jp-tokoto-signs-training-camp-deal-with-new-york-knicks

UNC Hopes Maui Invitational Brings Good Luck Yet Again

It may not make him much different from anyone else, but here’s a true story about UNC head men’s basketball coach Roy Williams.

He loves Hawaii.

When the bracket for November’s Maui Invitational was released on Wednesday he was plenty excited to talk about his upcoming trip–one that has brought the Tar Heels good fortune in the past.

The perfect temperatures, sandy beaches and deep blue oceans make Hawaii the ideal vacation spot.

But to use one of the greatest sports clichés of all time, the Tar Heels are supposed to be on a business trip—attempting to win three games in three days against a field full of tough major conference opponents

The bracket for the 2016 Maui Invitational--which takes place from Nov. 21-23. (Photo via @MauiInv)

The bracket for the 2016 Maui Invitational–which takes place from Nov. 21-23. (Photo via @MauiInv)

Making his tournament-record sixth appearance as a head coach, Williams knows more than anybody how tough it is to stay focused out there.

“First time I went [in 1996 while at Kansas], I thought it was the greatest preseason tournament I’ve ever been involved in,” he said during the tournament’s media teleconference. “I almost would not leave the islands–until they promised me I could come back four years later.”

If history tells us anything it’s that another trip to the Final Four could be in the cards for UNC depending on how the team performs in Maui.

In each of the three seasons–1999, 2004 and 2008–the Tar Heels took home the prize, they ended up reaching the Final Four later on that year.

Listening to Williams, it appears this year’s group led by veterans Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks should have the right makeup to accomplish the feat again.

“It is a long trip, and you’ve gotta remain focused on why you’re going,” the coach said. “So you need experienced players that have been through it before.

“We’ve been successful sometimes, and sometimes we haven’t been as successful.”

UNC will get a break in the first round this season, as it was matched up with the host school—Division II’s Chaminade University. Although the Silverswords have pulled major upsets before, it’s highly unlikely in this instance.

UNC will need Joel Berry to step into a larger role this season, especially if the Tar Heels are going to win the Maui Invitational. (Todd Melet)

UNC will need Joel Berry to step into a larger role this season, especially if the Tar Heels are going to win the Maui Invitational. (Todd Melet)

Should the Tar Heels move on, they’ll play the winner of Oklahoma State and UCONN. Awaiting them in the finals could be one of four strong teams—including Oregon, a No. 1 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

In preparation for the early season gauntlet, UNC has already used each of its four summer practices as Williams gets his young players acclimated to the college game.

“My goal has always been—number one–let the freshmen understand what practice is gonna be like,” Williams said. “Number two is to talk to them and get them to understand the secondary break.

“And then three is the pace of the game that we want to play with,” he added. “To emphasize to them that they may think they’re in shape, but they’re nowhere near in shape to play.”

By November, every player should be in full game shape as the Tar Heels look to embark on yet another successful season.

And sure, it might not be the end of the world if UNC comes up short in Maui like it did back in 2012. But previous evidence says this vacation usually ends up a lot like Groundhog Day.

Win and good things happen. Lose and they don’t.

Only time will tell if that remains true.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-hopes-maui-invitational-brings-good-luck-yet-again

NBA Free Agency: The Tar Heel Round-Up

UPDATED on Friday, July 15, 2016

 

The sports world was brought to its knees on the fourth of July when former Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant announced his intentions to sign with the Golden State Warriors in free agency–adding yet another layer to what was already the NBA’s most talented team.

Durant’s spotlight-stealing moment came just days after the Memphis Grizzlies re-signed point guard Mike Conley–a solid starter, albeit one that’s never made an All-Star Game–to the largest contract in NBA history (five years, $153 million).

A dramatic increase in the league’s salary cap caused by the league’s new nine-year, $24 billion TV deal has made this free agency period has one of the craziest of all time.

As many as nine former UNC players have found themselves on the market this summer–some hoping to cash in big and others hoping they can cash in at all.

This round-up is designed to keep you up to date on those former Tar Heels, and how they’ve been affected by the madness.

Harrison Barnes: Signed with the Dallas Mavericks (four years, $94 million)

Barnes won an NBA Championship in 2015 with the Warriors, but will move on to Dallas after Golden State signed Kevin Durant to replace him. (Stephen Dunn/ Getty Images)

Barnes won an NBA Championship in 2015 with the Warriors, but will move on to Dallas after Golden State signed Kevin Durant to replace him. (Stephen Dunn/ Getty Images)

As our own Art Chansky wrote recently, there may be no player who helped themselves more during this period than the former Golden State swingman.

The NBA Finals may not have gone his way, but he was rewarded soon after with a max contract and a spot on the U.S. Olympic roster.

Durant may have taken his job in Golden State, but Barnes will be just fine now that he’ll have a larger role with the Mavericks–not to mention the larger contract.

He’s expected to take over the starting small forward spot in Dallas after Chandler Parsons left Dallas to sign with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Marvin Williams: Re-signed with the Charlotte Hornets (four years, $54 million)

The former No. 2 overall pick in 2005 is coming off perhaps the best season of his career playing for owner–and Tar Heel legend–Michael Jordan.

Marvin Williams gave the Hornets a valuable asset with his shooting and rebounding combination as a stretch four. (David Richard- USA Today Sports)

Marvin Williams gave the Hornets a valuable asset with his shooting and rebounding combination as a stretch four. (David Richard- USA Today Sports)

He shot a career-high 40 percent from beyond the three-point line while averaging 11.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game–playing as a stretch forward who was able to help space the floor for dynamic point guard Kemba Walker.

Yahoo’s NBA guru Adrian Wojnarowski said Williams received offers from other teams that totaled more than $15 million per year.

However, the idea of remaining in Charlotte was much more appealing to the 11-year veteran.

Raymond Felton: Signed with Los Angeles (one year, $1.5 million)

Raymond Felton's list of free agency suitors may be down to the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Raymond Felton spent last year with the Dalla Mavericks. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Another lottery pick from the aforementioned 2005 draft, Felton has played for six teams in his career–spending the last two with the Dallas Mavericks.  He is joining Brice Johnson with the Clippers.

 

Tyler Zeller: Restricted Free Agent (Boston Celtics)

Despite seeing a significant decrease in playing time last season in Boston–his total minutes dropped from 1731 in 2014-15 to 710 in 2015-16–the Celtics tendered a qualifying offer to Zeller before the free agency period began.

Tyler Zeller is a restricted free agent, meaning Boston can match any offer he receives. (Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

Tyler Zeller is a restricted free agent, meaning Boston can match any offer he receives. (Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

What this means for the seven-footer is that he’s allowed to agree on a contract with any of the league’s 30 teams–but with a catch.

The Celtics have the right to match any offer that Zeller accepts, as long as it’s within three days of him signing that opposing deal.

Should Zeller end up unable to find a long-term contract he likes, he’d return to Boston to play out his one-year qualifying offer before becoming an unrestricted free agent next season.

Ty Lawson: Unrestricted Free Agent

After spending his first six seasons in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets becoming one of the league’s most talented–and quickest–point guards, Lawson has spent the last year in an unceremonious fall from grace of sorts.

An offseason arrest in Los Angeles for DUI–the fourth of his life–prompted a trade to the Houston Rockets, where he never quite fit in with stars James Harden and Dwight Howard.

Ty Lawson is hoping for a bounce-back year coming off a nightmare season spent between Houston and Indiana. (Foxsports.com)

Ty Lawson is hoping for a bounce-back year coming off a nightmare season spent between Houston and Indiana. (Foxsports.com)

Houston ended up agreeing to a buyout with Lawson midway through the season with the 2009 national champion at UNC averaging just six points and three assists per game–well below his career averages of 14 points and 6.6 assists.

He then spent 13 games with the Indiana Pacers before ultimately becoming a free agent again this offseason.

Although no suitors have emerged yet, Lawson granted an interview to Slam Magazine where he stated he hopes to play in an up-tempo system where he promises a “new Ty Lawson” will flourish.

Tyler Hansbrough: Unrestricted Free Agent

In many eyes, Hansbrough is the greatest college player to ever step foot in Chapel Hill.

Tyler Hansbrough has struggled to find a consistent role in the NBA in recent years. (Brian A. Westerholt/ Getty Images)

Tyler Hansbrough has struggled to find a consistent role in the NBA in recent years. (Brian A. Westerholt/ Getty Images)

Unfortunately, the ACC’s all-time leading scorer has yet to make his mark at the next level.

Psycho T has set career lows in scoring over the last three seasons with the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets. His peak came during his second full season with the Indiana Pacers, as he scored a career-high 11 points per game back in 2010-11.

With Toronto his average fell to just 4.9 point per game in 2013-14, then 3.6 in 2014-15–before dropping just 2.4 per game last year with the Hornets.

Charlotte’s recent signing of 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert means it’s highly unlikely that the Hornets bring Hansbrough back for another shot.

Wayne Ellington: Signed with the Miami Heat (two years, $12 million)

The third free agent from UNC’s 2009 national title run, Ellington will be searching for his seventh team in eight seasons.

Wayne Ellington is spending the free agency period in search of his seventh team in eight NBA seasons. (Getty Images)

Wayne Ellington is spending the free agency period in search of his seventh team in eight NBA seasons. (Getty Images)

He declined a $1.5 million player option with the Brooklyn Nets in search of a more lucrative deal as a role player who can bring outside shooting off the bench.

A career 37.6 percent shooter from three-point range, Ellington will bring the most useful skill in the game to any team that he ends up with.

He was most recently in the news for winning the PBWA Citizenship Award, an honor he received for speaking out against gun violence in the wake of his father’s murder.

James Michael McAdoo: Re-signed with Golden State Warriors for One Year Deal

Although he’s played in just 56 games in his two-year career, McAdoo entered the public eye once again during the NBA Finals.

Like Harrison Barnes, James Michael McAdoo will also be moving on from Golden State during free agency. (Kelley L. Cox/ USA Today Sports)

Like Harrison Barnes, James Michael McAdoo will also be moving on from Golden State during free agency. (Kelley L. Cox/ USA Today Sports)

As a member of the Golden State Warriors, McAdoo was given crucial playing time as a way for the Warriors to maintain their preferred “small-ball” style.

ESPN’s Marc Spears reported that McAdoo had re-signed with the Warriors on Friday.

 

PJ Hairston: Unrestricted Free Agent

P.J. Hairston (19) faces an uncertain future in the NBA thanks to a combination of different factors. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

P.J. Hairston (19) faces an uncertain future in the NBA thanks to a combination of different factors. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

Hairston has struggled in his transition to the NBA, as he has yet to find the shooting stroke that made him such a threat as a Tar Heel.

In two seasons spent with the Charlotte Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies, Hairston has averaged just six points per game–even though he was a starter in Charlotte for the first half of last season.

Part of that is his career three-point percentage of just 29 percent when much of his game depends on outside shooting.

With his off-court troubles and attitude issues having been documented heavily in recent years, it’s unclear what the future holds for the enigmatic shooting guard.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/nba-free-agency-the-tar-heel-round-up

Roy Williams Gives Update on Condition of His Knee

Just about five and a half weeks ago–May 27 to be precise–UNC head men’s basketball coach Roy Williams underwent a total replacement of his right knee.

This past Tuesday, Williams ventured to Orlando to see the Tar Heels’ most recent NBA first-round draft choice, Brice Johnson, suit up in the Summer League for the Los Angeles Clippers.

While there, the coach stepped into the broadcast booth–where he answered questions from analyst Rick Kamla and another former UNC great, Vince Carter.

Williams hobbled through much of last season as his knee was giving him obvious discomfort. After offseason surgery, the issue should be behind him soon enough. (Todd Melet)

Williams hobbled through much of last season as his knee was giving him obvious discomfort. After offseason surgery, the issue should be behind him soon enough. (Todd Melet)

When Kamla asked Williams for an update on his health, the response was accompanied by the 65-year-old’s signature grin.

“The surgeon assured me I’d be able to play golf in August,” Williams said. “I said, ‘I’m gonna hold you to that.’”

Throughout the entirety of last season, it was even painful from the outside watching the Hall-of-Fame coach hobble his way onto the court and into press conferences–let alone what he must have felt on the inside being kept away from his beloved golf course.

“Last year I hurt every day,” he said. “At practice, I’d never sat down on a basketball court in 43 years until this past season.

“I asked Marcus Paige, ‘Marcus, does that bother you?” [Paige] said, ‘Coach, you sit down for 15 seconds then you get back up and keep going.’”

It’s that tireless work ethic that’s helped Williams achieve the type of success he has thus far in his storied career, and it’s the same mindset that should have him feeling much better entering this next season.

“I’m missing being able to get around,” he said. “I’ve got a cane but I can walk OK.

“The cane, the doctor said if you have that–people realize there’s something wrong with you and give you a little space,” Williams continued, with another hearty laugh.

He later stated in an assured manner that, “[The knee’s] gonna be better [this season].”

http://chapelboro.com/featured/roy-williams-gives-update-on-condition-of-his-knee

Joel James Added to Indiana Pacers’ Summer League Roster

After capturing the hearts of fans in Chapel Hill, former UNC big man Joel James will now try to charm the minds of pro scouts.

The 6-foot-10 James–a native of West Palm Beach, FL–was named Tuesday night to the Indiana Pacers summer league squad.

Despite averaging just over two points and two rebounds per game in four years as a Tar Heel, the Pacers are likely hoping James’ size can be a useful skill at the NBA level.

He’ll join 14 other young up-and-coming players trying to carve out a role for themselves on the main roster.

The first opportunity James will have to show what he’s got will be this Saturday–when Indiana opens play in the Orlando summer league against the Magic.

Before the team heads to Florida for game action, however, assistant coach Popeye Jones will hold five practices at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

As of now, the Pacers are slated to play at least four games in Orlando, but that number could grow depending on how the team performs.

If there’s one thing that is for certain about his opportunity–it’s that James is hungry to succeed.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/joel-james-added-to-indiana-pacers-summer-league-roster