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Hard Work Paying-Off for Dante

Cunningham BlazersThe Portland Trail Blazers selected Dante Cunningham with the 33rd overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, saying they liked his versatility, grit and potential. After leading Portland’s 2009 NBA Summer League entry with 18.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.50 steals in four games (all starts), Dante signed a two year guaranteed contract with the Blazers. Although the terms were not disclosed, Sham Sports reports that he will earn $457,600 this season and $762,200 next season. It's a good bet that he's earning a bit more than than his fellow Nova Class of 2009 grads (hell, most Nova grads).

Dante was not projected to see a great deal of PT this year.  True to those projections, he didn't see the floor in ten of the first fourteen games this season through November 21.  Yet, he's made the most of his time in the four games he played (13 total minutes), scoring 8 points on 4-6 shooting, and grabbing 4 rebounds.

Season-ending injuries to forwards Nicolas Batum (shoulder) and Travis Outlaw (broken foot) should create more opportunities for Dante.  Portland’s GM, Kevin Pritchard will not immediately seek reinforcements. "I want to give Juwan and Dante an opportunity; they deserve it," he said after the Blazers' 99-95 overtime loss in Atlanta."    There are signs that Dante is taking advantage of the opportunity.  In yesterday's Blazers win over Chicago, Dante played 14 minutes, scored 4 points (2-3), had 3 rebounds and one block.  OregonLive.com reports that Dante "apparently has bypassed Juwan Howard as backup power forward."