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Clippers Sign Nick Fazekas

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The signing that was reported to be happening in today's LA Times and OC Register is now official.

Here's the press release:

The Los Angeles Clippers today signed free agent forward Nick Fazekas to a 10-day contract. Drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round (34th overall selection) of the 2007 NBA Draft, Fazekas appeared in four games with Dallas this season, averaging 1.0 point and 0.8 rebounds.

A three-time Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Player of the Year at the University of Nevada, Fazekas played 28 games with the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Development League this season and was selected to the D-League All-Star Game, but did not play in the game. Fazekas averaged 19.1 points per game. 10.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.0 steal while shooting 53 percent from the floor.

Fazekas was a star in college for the Wolfpack, averaging 20.4 points and 11.1 rebounds as a senior while ranking fifth in the nation in rebounding. During his senior year the Arvada, Colorado product was a consensus Second Team All-American and member of the Wooden Award All-American Team. Fazekas finished his collegiate career as the all-time leading scorer and shot blocker in Nevada history and is one of only six players in NCAA history to score 2,000 points, grab 1,000 rebounds, and shoot 50 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free throw line.

This is a good signing for the Clippers.  In almost every draft, there are a couple of guys who just never get a chance in their first stop in the NBA, who turn out to be solid pros.  And Fazekas' numbers are nothing to sneeze at.  Anyone who thinks he was a fluke of weaker competition in the WAC only needs to look at his D-League numbers.  Is the D-League the NBA?  No.  But it ain't the WAC either.  And 53.5% shooting is some nice work.  You can go here for his D-League numbers or here for his full game log.  One concern is that he was only 3 for 17 on his three point attempts.  So far at least, it seems like that extra three feet is significant for him, since he was a major three point threat in college (43% his senior year).

It's interesting to note that John Hollinger had Fazekas rated as the 7th best college player in this year's draft.  Take that with a boulder of salt - he had Thornton at 25 - but realize that Fazekas' college numbers were a statistician's dream.

I really like the idea of a shooting big to come off the Clippers' bench.  Obviously that's what Thomas is ostensibly, but his unwillingness to do the little things is just a lot to take.  Still, off the bench Thomas is an asset.  The knock on Fazekas is that he's not athletic enough to be able to play defense.  But there's a lot of hard work and savvy that go into defense, and the guy certainly has the length to be a good defender.  Hell, he's the leading shot blocker in Nevada history, and I watched Edgar Jones play for the Wolf Pack as a kid!  Fazekas has good size and length and he can score the ball.  Let's just say I wasn't expecting the Clippers to sign a prospect as intriguing as this in late February.

The obvious question is why did Dallas give up on him?  They were interested enough to spend the 4th pick of the second round, 34th overall, on him.  He was taken a spot ahead of Big Baby Davis.  He was considered by many a potential first rounder.  Of course, who needs a 'Nowitzki type' player when you've already got the real thing?  So the Mavs left him in the D-League pretty much all season - he only got 9 minutes with the big club.  So, yes, I was concerned to see that they cut him - why wouldn't they hold on to him for the future at least?

I speculated earlier today that it was strictly for the admittedly small dollar savings, which gets bigger because of the luxury tax.  And then I realized - duh, they were at 15 before the Kidd trade, and need Van Horn's contract to make it work.  So they were forced to waive Fazekas, to make room for Van Horn, in order to complete that trade.  Even though they took back fewer players than they sent out, they had no choice but to waive SOMEBODY first, and Fazekas was on an unguaranteed contract.  Bye bye Nick.

Last thing - there's a Clipper history angle to this story as well.  One of Fazekas' teammates in Tulsa was former Clipper Keith Closs.  I recently read a story out of Tulsa about how Keith is finally dealing with his alcohol addiction.  Indeed, he is playing the best basketball he has in years for the 66ers, leading the NBDL in blocked shots with 2.4 per game (in just over 13 minutes!) and shooting close to 60%.  He's still a relatively young man at 31.  It's nice to know that he's doing well.