There is only ten days left until the 2012/13 NBA season reaches tip-off. That’s ten nerve-wracking days for three elite Australian basketball players who hope to take the court on October 30th.
One is Andrew Bogut who cautiously is awaiting a doctor’s appointment Monday morning which will tell him whether he will be able to return to an NBA court for the first time in almost 9 months.
Another is Patty Mills, who recently returned from a slight ankle injury, who is as just as likely to score double figures for the San Antonio Spurs as he is the sit on the bench for 48 minutes. He hopes to use this season to transition from seldom-used backup to proving he can regularly contribute in this league.
And the third is Luke Nevill, who merely hopes to still have a locker in two weeks time.
Part 1 – Luke Nevill
Many Australian fans baulked when Luke Nevill said he would not return to the Perth Wildcats in 2012, instead opting to try his luck at making an NBA roster. His 9.5 points and 4.9 rebounds efforts for the Wildcats last season did not conjure up thoughts of an NBA player and another thought persisted that if Nevill was only able to get 20 minutes a game for the Wildcats, how would he ever get minutes on an NBA team? However, one thing people did not realise is that work ethic and certain skill sets can be very valuable to NBA teams.
Nevill flirted briefly with the NBA in 2009 after having a stellar career at the University of Utah (where he stepped into the vacancy left by Andrew Bogut being drafted to the NBA) averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds a game. Although rumours of being drafted by his then hometown team, the Utah Jazz floated about Luke Nevill did not hear his name called out during draft night. A summer league invitation came soon after from the New Orleans Hornets, he also spent time on a Cleveland Cavaliers roster before being cut prior to the season’s start.
As soon as Nevill made the decision to try his luck once more this year NBA teams again showed keen interest. The Orlando Magic and the Minnesota Timberwolves were quick to take a look at him, giving him a chance to show his talents on their summer league squads. It was during this time that he received a call from former University of Utah coach Jim Boylen, now a member of the Indiana Pacers coaching staff, telling him to pack his bags and make his way to Hoosier town.
Whilst Nevill may have never been a prolific scorer or rebounder he has had two things going for him over his basketball career, one being the fact that he is a great defensive player (he is the recipient of the 2009 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year) and he is 7 feet 2 inches tall. It’s true that you can’t teach height and these two reasons are why the Indiana Pacers are interested in the 26-year-old big man from Perth.
“Its been great to go up and down with some big bodies… It’s great to go up against Roy (Hibbert) & bang bodies with someone the same height as me,” said Nevill to Pacers.com reporters.
“Roy’s the go to post player, make it tough for him to score the ball… Will only make him better & make me better”
Roy Hibbert was an NBA All-Star last season, but despite his presence on the low block the Pacers don’t really have a stand out centre coming off the bench, Perhaps Luke Nevill can help fill that void.
Nevill has gone into training camp stating that he was just planning to “Go in aggressive… to show off to the staff & team that (he) is an asset.”
Currently, the Pacers have 18 players on their roster, 12 of those contracted from last season. NBA teams are allowed to sign up to 15 players, so Nevill has 10 days to Pacers coach Frank Vogel he is better than Blake Ahern, Sam Young, Lance Stephenson, Sundiata Gaines and Ben Hansborough, the remaining players in the Pacers camp without current contracts.
All five have impressive basketball resumes and it will be no easy task to beat any of them out of a roster. Whether its Lance Stephenson who is New York State’s all-time leading scorer in high school basketball or someone like Ben Hansborough who has the advantage of his brother Tyler already being part of the Pacers roster and sure to be an influence on the coaches decision.
Two days ago Nevill logged 4 minutes in a Pacers loss to Orlando and contributed two blocks and one rebound. Nothing too flashy, but the fact that Luke took the court and guys like Ben Hansbrough, etc. didn’t make it off the bench is a good sign that the Pacers still must be considering bringing Luke on board for season 2012/13.
The next ten days are sure to be nerve racking for Nevill, who may achieve that rare feat of making the NBA straight from the NBL. Something which hasn’t been done since Nathan Jawai made the Toronto Raptors roster in 2008.
No matter what happens when Luke Nevill is called into the coaches office this week, his game will have developed tenfold from this experience, which is great either way for Australian basketball.