Gator NBA gathering

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Had a chance to catch up with three former Gators in the NBA when the Knicks
and Hawks played in Atlanta on Friday night at Phillips Arena. The
battle in the pivot between former Gator big men was a wash. Hawks
center AlHorford finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds and Knicks center David Lee had 15 points and 11 boards. Former Gator point guard Anthony Roberson also played for the Knicks, but didn’t score in four minutes of action.

The Hawks won 98-95. Knicks forward Al Harrington
air-balled a 3-pointer at the buzzer that could have tied the game. The
arena was about half full, but there were plenty of Florida fans there
to cheer the former Gator hoop stars on.

Some impressions:

— Lee has been the subject of trade rumors because he’s in the final year of his four-year contract. But the Knicks would be foolish to deal him. He’s the perfect big man for what new coach Mike D’Antoni
is trying to accomplish because he runs the floor well, gets rebounds
and is athletic enough to set high screens and finish on pick and roll
plays. Sound familiar? “It reminds me of when we were playing at
Florida,” Lee said. “We were pressing and running up and down. So I
knew if I could get in really good shape that I could be effective.” As
for Lee’s future. “The contract is not something you think about until
the end of the season,” said Lee, who wants to remain aKnick. “Otherwise, it will drive you crazy.”

— Roberson was all smiles before the game, saying that
he feels like he’s fitting in well. But it’s clear that he hasn’t
changed much from his days at Florida. On three straight trips down the
floor at the point, Roberson fired up jump shots without even passing
to a teammate, drawing the ire ofD’Antoni during a timeout. That kind
of gunner mentality might work if you’re Kobe Bryant, but Roberson
could end up back on the waiver wire if he’s not more selective
with the shots he takes.

— Horford said the game has slowed down for him in year
two. “I’m able to know where my offense is coming from and make
decisions with the ball,”Horford said. “I feel more confident.” And Horford
continues to show maturity that belies a second-year NBA player. When
Hawks forward Josh Smith picked up a foolish technical late in the
game, it wasHorford that held him back and ran interference to the refs.

— Phillips Arena is a nice place, and it will be
interesting to see in light of last year’s near weather disaster at the
Georgia Dome if it gets a test run for the SEC basketball tournament.
It seats about 18,000, which is good capacity for the event. I know
some writers have suggested Phillips Arena as a venue. This year’s SEC
hoops tournament, of course, will take place at the St. Pete Times
Forum in Tampa.