Kazemi playing only way he knows how for Sixers


Kazemi playing only way he knows how for Sixers

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Sixers fans will quickly grow to love second-round pick Arsalan Kazemi.

The Iranian-born 23-year-old is a hustler who is constantly in motion and finds his way to the backboard.

“He is amazing,” Sixers assistant coach Michael Curry said. “It is easy to see why his teammates and all his coaches like him. He just plays hard. Not the most athletic, not the fastest. Very seldom does he miss an assignment. He is always in the right place. He makes effort plays and he gets a lot done because of that. He has been doing well. I am happy to see that.”

Kazemi scored 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting Thursday afternoon in the Sixers’ 90-89 loss to the Magic during Orlando Pro Summer League action (see story). The 6-foot-7, 226-pound forward also grabbed six rebounds.

Kazemi hopes to make a reputation on the glass in the NBA just like he did in college. In three of his four collegiate seasons, Kazemi averaged double-figure rebounds. As a senior at Oregon he pulled down 10 per contest, the 15th-highest mark in the country.

From 2004 to 2006, the NCAA’s leading rebounder was Paul Millsap, who averaged 12.7 boards per game at Louisiana Tech. Millsap was selected 47th overall by Utah in the 2006 draft and has since averaged 12.4 points and seven rebounds a game in seven seasons with the Jazz. That production landed Millsap a two-year, $19 million free-agent deal with the Atlanta Hawks this offseason.

Kazemi, who was selected 54th overall in last month’s draft, has closely followed Millsap and would like nothing more than to follow in the forward’s footsteps.

“As a rebounding guy, Paul Millsap was leading the nation in college for three years,” Kazemi said. “I was on top for a while and he came into the league and started improving on his game, so that is the closest guy I can think of [having a similar game].”

Kazemi’s offense is nowhere near that of Millsap when the Hawks’ new big man entered the league in 2006. However, Kazemi is sure he can develop his overall game with time.

“I have to get stronger and I need to work on my outside game and shooting from the corner,” he said. “Those are the two big things I need to work on.”

Sixers president and general manager Sam Hinkie has no doubt that Kazemi will put in the work to become a solid NBA player.

“He is a lunch-pail kind of guy,” Hinkie said. “People may say he is undersized, but I say look around and see there are a lot of undersized guys that make an impact bigger than just their size. I think he has shown who he is this week. He is a winning basketball player.

“He knows who he is, that’s important. And he plays hard all the time. That’s not refreshing as a fan. That’s important if you care about winning and he does and he shows it on every possession.”

The summer league is a time to experiment. In Kazemi’s case he has seen action at the small forward after playing mainly as a power forward in college.

“He plays the four the best right now,” Curry said. “Athletically that fits him. He is not quite the size. Some matchups at the three he is able to do a really good job as well.”

“I like to play the three,” Kazemi said. “I played the three for my national team during world championships, so I know that I can play both positions.”

Given his status as a second-round draft pick and the Sixers’ need to have some ready-made NBA players to fill out the bench, Kazemi’s grip on a final roster spot is uncertain. Still, at some point Sixer fans will see more of the player nicknamed “The Beast From the Middle East” and he is sure they will enjoy how he performs on the court.

“I kind of felt that at Oregon they didn’t know me at the beginning, but after awhile they really liked me because of the way that I play,” Kazemi said. “Fans and coaches all love that player that plays hard, so I am just going to keep on doing what I am doing. As a rookie going into the league you just have to play defense and make the hustle plays and bring energy to the team and that is what I am going to do.”

Best of NBA: Cavs roll after getting rings; Warriors blown out

Best of NBA: Cavs roll after getting rings; Warriors blown out

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James had his 43rd career triple-double, Kyrie Irving scored 29 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who raised their championship banner before the game, beat the New York Knicks 117-88 on Tuesday night in the NBA season opener.

James scored 19 points and added 11 rebounds and 14 assists in front of a raucous home crowd that was on its feet from the pregame ceremony until late in the game, celebrating the city's first championship in 52 years.

James, who spoke to the crowd before the game, continued his perfect record on ring nights. He was 2-0 when the Miami Heat players were presented with their championship rings.

Irving scored 19 points in the third quarter, when Cleveland used a 20-4 run to take a 74-53 lead. Kevin Love scored 23 for the Cavaliers.

Carmelo Anthony led New York with 19 points and Derrick Rose had 17 (see full recap).

Leonard, Spurs blow out Warriors in Durant's debut
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Kawhi Leonard scored a career-high 35 points and the San Antonio Spurs emphatically spoiled Kevin Durant's long-awaited Warriors debut Tuesday with a 129-100 rout that sent Golden State fans for the exits early on opening night.

Durant had 27 points and 10 rebounds, but little looked in sync for MVP Stephen Curry and the reigning Western Conference champions in a forgettable first game -- and quite a different one after the Warriors dominated at home and came out of the blocks last season with a record 24-0 start.

Leonard scored 31 points by the end of the third, LaMarcus Aldridge added 26 points and 14 rebounds and Gregg Popovich thoroughly outdid a couple of his close friends on the opposite bench in reigning NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr and top assistant Mike Brown (see full recap).

Yes, San Antonio sent quite a message to the West.

Blazers win 16th straight home opener
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard scored 39 points and the Portland Trail Blazers extended their winning streak in home openers to a league-record 16 straight games with a 113-104 victory over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night.

CJ McCollum added 25 points for the Blazers, who trailed 83-77 at the start of the fourth quarter. They were still down 102-99 with under 5 minutes left before McCollum made a pull-up jumper and 3-pointer to give Portland a 104-102 lead.

Lillard made a pair of free throws before nailing a 3-pointer that put Portland up 109-102 with 1:02 left and the Jazz couldn't catch up.

Joe Johnson scored 29 points in his debut with the Jazz and Rodney Hood added 26, including a rim-rattling dunk in the third quarter (see full recap).

Nerlens Noel undergoes surgery on sore left knee

Nerlens Noel undergoes surgery on sore left knee

Nerlens Noel has had surgery on his sore left knee, and the Sixers have not disclosed a timetable for the disgruntled center's return.

Noel has been out since the team's first preseason game. He initially had a left groin strain before experiencing soreness in the knee during rehab, and it was discovered he had an inflamed plica. 

The team is calling the surgery a "minor elective arthroscopic procedure." It was performed in New York by Dr. Riley J. Williams at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Noel eventually will travel to Birmingham, Ala. to rehab with associate clinical director Kevin Wilk at Champion Sports Medicine.

The Sixers expect to have a timetable for his return once Noel returns to Philadelphia. According to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Noel is expected to miss three to five weeks. 

This has been a rough preseason for Noel, who hasn't hidden his displeasure with his role on the Sixers' jammed frontcourt. The team has until Oct. 31 to extend his rookie contract but, per a report in the Inquirer earlier this month, the two sides have yet to discuss it.