Gani Lawal starring in Polish league, feeling stronger after knee injury

The lockout is damaging the earnings and legacies of many NBA players (or so it will without a quick resolution), but for Gani Lawal the lockout couldn’t have come at a better time.

The last time we heard from Gani back in April he was embarking on his final couple months of rehab from his torn ACL only to see the Suns select a player at his position in the first round of the draft when his rehab was nearing completion. Suns GM Lance Blanks then added salt in the wound by saying after the draft that Lawal “will be basically like a rookie again” and that he is “younger in his basketball life” than Markieff Morris.

Perhaps Lawal will catch up to the Suns’ rookie by the time labor peace is reached after spending his fall carving up the Tauron Basket League in Poland.

Through seven games, Lawal is averaging 16.9 points and 11.7 rebounds per game for Zastal Zielona Góra, including a monster 27-18 contest on 12-for-14 shooting on Nov. 2 against LKS Lodz, the team from Marcin Gortat’s hometown. He also went for for 15 and 14 with four blocks in a road upset victory over TBL star Corsley Edward’s team on Sunday.

For the season Gani is shooting 65 percent from the field (but just 57 percent from the line) and has enjoyed his fair share of highlights as can be seen in plays 8, 6 and 3 in the video below:

Lawal, who turns 23 today, is the only 2010-11 NBA player currently playing in the TBL, but in his first real action since knee surgery he already is one of the league’s best centers, according to Polish sports reporter Lukasz Ceglinski of Sport.Pl.

In a translated story Ceglinski wrote on Lawal today, the Polish reporter acknowledges that Lawal came to Poland “to be rebuilt” and that in his first training sessions and the friendlies Lawal was fearful of other “pulls.”

But now Lawal is starring in the TBL and told Ceglinski that the injury “was a blessing for me” because he became stronger mentally and learned to take advantage of every minute on the floor. Perhaps most importantly, Lawal said he is stronger and can jump higher than he could before the injury to the extent his coach said he is “like a dragon” under the basket.

Ultimately, the gaudy stats don’t matter since Lawal isn’t doing this against any NBA-caliber big men, but the key takeaway is the fact that he says he feels better than ever after surgery and his numbers support that claim.

If Lawal can make up for some of the time lost to injury during his rookie season through this professional experience, perhaps there will be at least one positive externality of the lockout for the Suns.

And 1

  • Jared Dudley answered some fan question on Twitter this weekend about the lockout. To summarize, Dudley wrote, “The owners are trying to get over on the players and it’s the principal not the money.”  He believes the players should have already decertified, adding it might be too late now. The lowest split he would personally accept is 51-49, a split he said was offered by the players on Saturday night. He also confirmed that the NBA is currently offering a two-year, $2.5 mil mid-level for tax-paying teams and took the over on a 50-50 over/under bet on the chances of a season.
  • Former Sun and current emcee Cedric Ceballos is now the star of the American Basketball Association Arizona Scorpion team he co-owns, as Paul Coro writes. CC led the team in scoring during the exhibition slate, finishing with a 30-13 game. Ceballos plans on donating $1 for each point he scores to a breast cancer charity. “I’m still disappointed right now because I shouldn’t be the best player on this team,” Ceballos said.. “I wasn’t ever a go-to guy. I just found my points. This is a new dimension for me. When they call plays for me, I say, ‘Don’t do that to me.”
  • Former Sun Oliver Miller pled guilty last week to the charges of first-degree assault and carrying a handgun after allegedly pistol whipping his girlfriend’s brother repeatedly in the head at a Maryland cookout. The Big O will be sentenced on Dec. 16 for these charges that typically mean four to nine years in jail, according to The Associated Press, but likely will be much less since Miller has no criminal record. Just a very sad story about a player who showed so much promise as a young player but never was able to realize it.
  • Former Sun Alando Tucker was picked No. 2 overall by the Texas Legends in the D-League draft. He also recently put out a rap video.

Tags: Cedric Ceballos Gani Lawal Jared Dudley Oliver Miller

  • Scott

    Who knows if we’ll ever see another NBA game? But it’s nice to know that Lawal appears to have recovered from his injury.

    My guess is that if the Suns were comparing Morris and Lawal today, Morris would start before Lawal – because of better scoring options and slightly better FT shooting – but Lawal would be an adequate backup. Both players would boost Suns rebounding numbers.

  • PHS suns fan in LA

    this guy has talent we really need to give him a shot…

  • sun-arc

    I’d like to see what he can do. He’s had some tough breaks, but could be a real asset. Plus, to have he and Morris battling it out on the court for playing time would be great. I’d like to see them push each other in all good ways.

  • chn

    For now, Gani is a real force in rebounding. He still needs to learn post-up moves though…

  • Scott

    From what I’ve seen and read, Lawal is very raw. Morris is more developed. Both guys have decent defensive and rebounding instincts, but both shoot under 70% at the free throw line, and only Morris has a jump shot. (That’s why Lawal is playing center in the Polish league.)

    Lawal is going to have to get a reliable short jumper before he’ll be granted any minutes that aren’t garbage time. He’s too light to play C in the NBA, and barely heavy enough for PF.

  • sun-arc

    everything you say is true- though he may get more than garbage time just in terms of rebounding and the pick-n-roll if he plays with tons of energy on defense like Louuuuu did. But those are quite a few if’s I suppose.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    I co-signed Lawal when he was drafted. I co-signed, (and suggested that it should be he introduced into the rotation so we could have drafted Jordan Hamilton), leading into the draft, and I still co-sign him.

    He is playing center over there? Well that would be a bad thing for him considering he plays for the Suns, a team which never uses unconventional players at the 5 position – wait…

    Best case scenario, he can actually take the place of RoLo, (yes I’ve given up on him), and play side by side with Morris or Frye depending on who starts at the 4.

    I’m not worried about his lack of shooting. For Lawal, I don’t care about that at all. His job would be to screen and attack, protect the bucket, and grab boards. I thought he could do it when he was drafted, and i still think he can do it now.

  • Scott


    While some undersized players are able to make it as C, it’s fairly rare. Lawal is roughly 6′ 8″ and 235 lbs. That’s heavier than Lou Amundson, who plays at C for Golden State, but why play Lawal at C if your team already has 4 taller and heavier centers and a relatively empty hole at PF?

    Lawal is in the height and weight range for SF/PF. As I see it, ideally he’d pick up a jumper and learn the pick and roll. If he doesn’t develop a jumper, there are taller, heavier, and better shooting guys already on the team who will have an edge on playing C.

    I think one easy test for Lawal’s ability would be for him to practice against Siler and see if he can reliably come out on top. If Lawal is to play at center, I’d say Siler is the first mountain he’s got to climb. ;)

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    All of that is fine and dandy except for the fact that the Suns don’t follow the conventional rule for centers. They still wouldn’t had THORTAT!?!?!?!? not forced them to insert him.

    It’s about activity and aggression, especially coming off the bench. Apparently, Morris’ game is a lot closer to Frye’s game offensively so either way it wouldn’t be unheard of.

    Also, outside of D12, Bogut, the POLISH HAMMER SMASH?!?!? or the Gasol brothers, what true center would he get dominated by? His quickness would cause more problems to them in my opinion which leaves Frye or Morris available to keep the floor stretched.

    ** I know I didn’t mention the Lopez brothers, Bynum, etc. Bynum probably won’t be playing when a game versus the Suns comes around and Brook Lopez can’t rebound or defend to save his life. RoLo.. hasn’t been in the league for over a year… pretty much.