Kazemi set to contribute after historic draft night


Kazemi set to contribute after historic draft night

Michael Carter-Williams fielded most of the questions between the Sixers’ two 2013 draftees in attendance at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on Friday.

Flanked to Carter-Williams’ left was Arsalan Kazemi, who received less of the attention but was certainly on the Sixers’ minds during draft night.

Kazemi was selected 54th overall for the Sixers by Washington, a product of one of several draft deals executed in the second round by Sam Hinkie.

The Sixers' new president and GM was doing plenty of maneuvering to gain assets while keeping one eye on Kazemi.

“We had the 35th pick in the second round and we were interested then, but we moved and moved and moved,” Hinkie said. “But we always moved with one goal. We were never not going to have a pick in the second round. The reason for that is we were never going to put ourselves in a position to not pick Arsalan, so we are excited to be able to also add him.”

Kazemi (6-7/226) played all four years in college. The forward averaged 9.4 points and 10 rebounds a game for Oregon last season while leading the nation in defensive rebounding percentage.

Those are all solid accomplishments, but the achievement of becoming the first Iranian-born player ever selected in the NBA draft took the night to a completely new level for Kazemi.

“I am really just happy. It is not just me but all the kids back in Iran and not just Iran but the region of the Middle East,” he said. “It is going to be huge for them keeping their dream alive because they think it is not going to happen for them. But I was just the same way and thinking the same way, and the next minute I am in a plane coming to the U.S. and now I am being drafted.

“It is exciting and I am really happy and happy for basketball in that region.”

Soccer and wrestling are considered the major sports in Iran, but Kazemi said basketball and volleyball are really growing. The interest in basketball certainly continued on Thursday when plenty of people in Iran stayed up late to see Kazemi’s named called.

Kazemi’s road to Philadelphia had its rough moments. He spent the first three years of his college career at Rice University. He was granted hardship transfer for allegedly being the target of racial abuse from the school’s athletic director.

However, Kazemi didn’t let that deter his dream.

In three NCAA Tournament games this past spring, Kazemi grabbed 45 total rebounds to help keep his name in discussions about playing at the next level.

In the mold of other high-energy rebound magnets such as Kenneth Faried and Reggie Evans, Kazemi is confident about what he can bring to the Sixers.

“I always play hard and I bring toughness,” Kazemi said. “I bring hard work. I am a good defender and energy, that is what I bring to the table. I think I am mentally ready and obviously I played against professional players because I played for my national team. Every year I get to play against a bunch of professional players.

“I want to compete. I played against a lot of NBA guys playing against Team USA. I have the mindset of how it is going to be. I have the experience playing in college four years. I think I should be good.”

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.