Tar Heel Pros News & Notes

IC's weekly update on former Tar Heels now in the pro ranks.


* Ed Cota ended his second season with Zalgiris Kaunas on Saturday as a Lithuanian League champion yet again. With an 88-70 win in game four of the best-of-seven series, Zalgiris cruised to a 4-0 sweep of archrival Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius. Cota scored nine points to go along with six assists, four steals and three rebounds. Kaunas native and team part-owner Arvydas Sabonis posted a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds.

For the series, Cota averaged 33.3 minutes, 7.5 points and 7.3 assists as Zalgiris dominated with a point differential of 76. Cota has been on the league championship team in three consecutive seasons, last year with Zalgiris in Lithuania and in Oostende, Belgium in 2002.


* In the Italian League playoff quarterfinals, Ademola Okulaja led Benetton Treviso (2-0) to a game-two 70-62 victory over Cantu (0-2) on Saturday with 18 points (6-9 FG, 2-4 3PT FG, 4-4 FT) and six rebounds in 30 minutes. Former Tar Heel Dante Calabria scored eight points (5-9 FG, 4-8 3-pt. FG) for Cantu.

In game one of the best-of-five series on Thursday, Calabria tallied 14 for Cantu as Benetton Treviso coasted to a 96-76 win. Okulaja played 25 minutes and contributed 11 points and six boards for Benetton.


* Rasheed Wallace and the Detroit Pistons have pushed the New Jersy Nets to a seventh-game showdown following last night's 81-75 victory that tied the series 3-3. Wallace played 40 minutes and came up with 14 points, five rebounds and four blocks.

The deciding game will be in Detroit on Thursday and will be shown on ESPN. The winner advances to the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana or Miami.

* The Lakers got by the Spurs 4-2 with Saturday's 88-76 win. That keeps Rick Fox in the running for another ring, but may not change his current benchwarmer status. Fox, replaced by the younger and more explosive Devean George, only played in two games for eight minutes against the Spurs. Fox attributes his recent lack of playing time to a late-season fractured right thumb that limited his scoring ability. "I didn't think I needed to be a scoring threat on this team," Fox told the Boston Globe.

Fox also noted the Lakers went away from the triangle offense to more of a pick-and-roll offense after the Spurs took a 2-0 series lead. "I'm an old guy who has to play in a system to be effective. If the system is not going to be used, then my time will be limited," said Fox, according to the Globe report. The Lakers await the Kings or the Timberwolves in the Western Conference finals.


* During TNT's "Inside the NBA" halftime proceedings last week, former Tar Heel and NBA star Kenny Smith, a current TNT analyst, offered that if he played in the minor league Continental Basketball League (the CBA), he would average better than 20 points per game. Co-analyst Charles Barkley and host Ernie Johnson were in agreement that Kenny would not be able to post 20 points per game over the course of a CBA schedule.

The CBA's Rockford Lightning have made an attempt to settle the dispute. Rockford is willing to offer Kenny Smith a contract to play for the Lightning next season. "The door is open to Smith, and if Sir Charles would like to join him, training camp begins the first of November," announced Rockford coach Chris Daleo. Rockford's GM Michael Neville says the offer is legit and the team is willing to discuss salary issues.

The 39-year-old Smith might be more concerned about a winter of bus trips through the cities of the CBA than salary issues.

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