Se­folosha re­turns to At­lanta Hawks, hop­ing to move on af­ter his ar­rest

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY PAUL NEW­BERRY

Thabo Se­folosha stood along the base­line, a bas­ket­ball un­der his right arm as he watched a drill on the first day of train­ing camp for the At­lanta Hawks. Just rou­tine stuff. But Se­folosha is rel­ish­ing ev­ery mo­ment of his re­turn to the court, any­thing to help him move on from a dis­puted ar­rest by New York City po­lice that he said led to a bro­ken right leg and knocked him out of the play­offs.

“It’s been a long road,” he said. “It was def­i­nitely tough watch­ing from the side­line in the play­offs, not be­ing able to help the team.”

Se­folosha was a key con­trib­u­tor off the bench, a de­fen­sive stop­per who helped the Hawks to a fran­chise-record 60 wins and the top seed in the East. With­out him, At­lanta still man­aged to reach the con­fer­ence fi­nal for the first time, but his ab­sence on the perime­ter be­came ap­par­ent as LeBron James and the Cleve­land Cava­liers romped to a four-game sweep.

“Some­times you look out there, and you feel like his arms and legs are ev­ery­where,” Hawks coach Mike Bu­den­holzer said. “Solid seems like a bor­ing word, but he’s re­ally a good, solid de­fender who does a lot of things within what­ever scheme you’re do­ing.”

Dur­ing the fi­nal week of the reg­u­lar sea­son, Se­folosha and then-team­mate Pero An­tic made a late-night stop at a Man­hat­tan night­club pop­u­lar with ath­letes and celebri­ties. Po­lice ar­rived af­ter another NBA player, Chris Copeland, was stabbed dur­ing an al­ter­ca­tion.

There was no in­di­ca­tion the At­lanta play­ers were with Copeland or had any­thing to do with the stab­bing, but of­fi­cers say they in­ter­fered with the crime scene. They were both ar­rested and, at some point, Se­folosha wound up with a bro­ken fibula and torn lig­a­ments.

The charges against An­tic have since been dropped, but Se­folosha turned down a le­nient plea-bar­gain that would have re­quired him to do a sin­gle day of com­mu­nity ser­vice. His trial is sched­uled for Mon­day in New York.

“I’m very con­fi­dent,” Se­folosha said. “But at the same time it’s not some­thing I’m used to. I re­ally don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen. I don’t want to talk too much about it, but I’m con­fi­dent and I know in my heart that I (did not do) any­thing wrong.”

The bur­den of the case — and the pos­si­bil­ity of a civil law­suit against po­lice — is a dis­trac­tion Se­folosha would pre­fer not to have as he pre­pares for a new sea­son and the chance to move into the Hawks’ start­ing lineup.

“It’s def­i­nitely on my mind,” he said. “It’s not the best time to be deal­ing with all this. But it’s got to be done. I’m try­ing to be strong for my fam­ily and my team­mates and my team, and try­ing to do what’s right.”

Se­folosha seems the most log­i­cal can­di­date to take over at small for­ward for DeMarre Car­roll, who left the Hawks for a US$60 mil­lion con­tract with Toronto.

Yet there are ques­tions about Se­folosha’s of­fen­sive skills.

“I think of­fen­sively he’s a lit­tle bit un­der­rated as far as his de­ci­sion-mak­ing and pass­ing, his slash­ing and un­der­stand­ing tim­ing,” Bu­den­holzer said. “We’ve just got to con­tinue to work with his shoot­ing and get him to where he’s mak­ing shots and he’s com­fort­able there.”

While Se­folosha has been cleared to take part in all ac­tiv­i­ties, he ac­knowl­edged that he’s not yet at 100 per­cent. His min­utes will be lim­ited in camp and dur­ing pre­sea­son games.

“It’s been only 5 1-2 months,” Se­folosha said. “I’m still build­ing strength and build­ing con­fi­dence.”

The Hawks have other can­di­dates. Kent Bazemore is a bit un­der­sized for the po­si­tion, but he played well in the play­offs af­ter Car­roll was slowed by an an­kle in­jury. The Hawks also have new­comer Tim Har­d­away Jr., ac­quired from the New York Knicks.

Kyle Korver, another At­lanta player com­ing back from an in­jury, has been get­ting a lot of oneon-one time with Se­folosha dur­ing the re­hab process.

“I want Thabo to be on my team again,” Korver said. “He looks great. He’s shoot­ing the ball re­ally good. ... I think he’s go­ing to have a great year.”

Se­folosha is cer­tainly ready to move on.

He wants to be known for what he does on the court, not for an in­ci­dent that has been linked to other racially charged in­ci­dents in­volv­ing po­lice.

How­ever, Se­folosha, a na­tive of Switzer­land who is black, did say it has opened his eyes “to some de­gree.”

“I’m the same per­son. I will con­tinue to be the same per­son,” he said. “Un­for­tu­nately, I’m still in the mid­dle of it. But hope­fully it will be a thing of the past soon.”

AP

In this Mon­day, Sept. 28 file photo, Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose sits down for an NBA bas­ket­ball media day news con­fer­ence in Chicago, Illi­nois.

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