LEXINGTON — John Calipari is pulling for Hamidou Diallo.
Diallo, entering his second season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, scored 20 points in Oklahoma City’s 78-66 loss to the Utah Jazz in the team’s Las Vegas Summer League opener last Saturday,
“Hami is one of my favorites simply because this stuff was really hard for him,” Calipari said. “He never wavered. We never wavered. I never wavered with him.”
Diallo began the season with the Thunder before finishing out the regular season with the Oklahoma City Blue of the G League. He had surgery on his right elbow in April and is trying to work his way back to the Thunder.
“It’s an unforgiving league,” Calipari said. “Fate intervenes and you get injured and the guy that stepped in for you starts playing out of his mind. Well, now you’ve got to wait your turn. That’s why I said you can’t make the club in the tub. Don’t get injured. But, you get injured, it happens. I think he is going to be fine.”
Diallo is simply glad to be back on the court.
“I’m just getting better each and every day, just trying to showcase the things that I’ve been working on since the offseason and since I’ve been back,” Diallo said on the team’s website. “I’m just trying to go out there and be the player that I know I am, try to get my teammates involved and try to be a leader as much as possible.”
Diallo is one of 13 former Kentucky players competing in the Las Vegas Summer League. Tyler Herro is averaging 19.5 points per game through the first two games for the Miami Heat. Wenyen Gabriel (Sacramento) scored 15 points in his debut, while New York’s Kevin Knox (14.5 ppg)and Chicago’s Mychal Mulder (11 ppg) are also averaging double figures through the first two games of the league.
WEST COAST CATS
The Los Angeles Lakers will have a dose of Kentucky flavor on its roster next season. The Lakers acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans and signed former Wildcat players DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo over the weekend. The three former Wildcats will join LeBron James and first-year coach Los Angeles coach Frank Vogel.
"Anthony Davis is arguably the most dominant all-around young player in today's NBA," Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka said. "Anthony represents everything we stand for, with his unwavering commitment to excellence as both a person and athlete. This is a historic moment for the Lakers franchise, and we couldn't be more proud to have him."
Vogel also has ties to Kentucky. Vogel served as a student manager at Kentucky under Rick Pitino from 1994-95 and played on the team’s junior varsity squad the following season. Vogel graduated from Kentucky in 1996.
Vogel said the goal this season is to become unified.
“We are all going to be pulling in the same direction,” Vogel said. “This is something that I’ve always preached as a head coach, because you can accomplish amazing things if everybody is together. When that happens, with the way we do things from day to day, that stuff translates to the court and how we play.”
Former Kentucky standout PJ Washington signed a contract with the Charlotte Hornets. Washington was the 12th overall selection in the NBA Draft last month.
Washington also signed with Roc Nation Sports and said his finances are in good hands.
“I picked a great agency and I have a good financial advisor,” Washington said. “(I’m) pretty much just listening to them. I think they'll lead me in the right path. … I feel like I'm with a great group. Excited to be with them and just happy they took me along with the group as well.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.