The combine's like a festival of basketball
Our usual Friday of little things that may or may not matter and sorry we’re a bit late, sleep got in the way until 7 a.m. my time.
So what’s this draft combine like?
Well, we finally got to find out first hand and it’s like a festival of basketball and front office schmoozefest.
For the past few years, the prying eyes of the media were shut out of the actual workouts, the facility wasn’t big enough to hold us all, the teams and front office personnel wanted some privacy and we’d all wait at a hotel for the players to come back to do media interviews in some stuffy ballroom.
Not any more.
The gym’s huge – three full courts – and the players are broken up into five groups of about 10. Each group goes through about an hour of workouts – shooting drills, sprints, rebounding drills, agility tests – and then we get them for 20 minutes or so in a backroom; has to be about 150 credentialed media here so it’s a real circus, everyone’s trying to talk to their locals or the guys their teams might draft so getting private time with any of the athletes is basically impossible.
That’s the toughest part of it, if you’re in a group of 10 writers or broadcasters talking to a player, you really have to work to get your questions answered, knowing full well that the stuff you’re seeking will end up in someone else’s story or report.
That seems to be the way the business is going, unfortunately, and you really have to put in time to get to know people so that maybe – maybe – you can get a private moment walking out of a gym if you need it for a specific question you want answered. The chance for one-on-ones runs from slim to none, which is why a lot of the stuff you’ll read will sound eerily similar.
Oh yeah, the best part of the day?
The wandering around amid 100 or so NBA executives, coaches and scouts, stopping here for a minute and there for a minute and catching any little piece of gossip you can.
And, believe me, the HOTH are right at the front of everyone’s mind given the uncertainty surrounding the team.
Off the top of my head, there were half a dozen GMs and a more than a dozen other front office types who sought me out to try and find out what was going on.
The overwhelming sentiment?
Bryan should be treated a bit better, some decisions should have been made before this camp began and it’s a tough situation for all.
I have no idea precisely why this came into my head this morning but it did. Gotta make some of you happy, I hope.
Oh, who’s here for the Raptors?
Don’t think I missed anyone and saw Bryan, Ed Stefanski, Wayne Embry, Marc Eversley, Alex McKechnie and my man Alvin Williams, all huddled on the sideline scoping things out.
No one from the coaching staff, which isn’t unusual for a team without a pick and, actually, the only coach I saw was Mike D’Antoni.
Gotta love guys who can bluff.
On a stool in the lobby down from three guys who are watching late afternoon TV when ESPN shows the story about David Beckham retires.
There’s a line about the number of caps Beckham’s won and one guy has no clue what that means and asks his buddies.
The guy at the end of the table, sounding like Sammy Soccer who knows everything immediately pipes up, with absolute authority:
“It’s the number of playoff games he’s been in, championships and playoff games. Games for England.”
The guy who didn’t know nods, “ah, okay, that’s what I thought.”
I order another.
Mail? Kind of lost a bunch of yesterday hanging around with cronies so I’m a little bit behind but here’s a last call to get me through the weekend.
You know the drill, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org and we’re open for business.
So in the run of business at this combine, teams go through an interview process with a handful of players they fancy. They have their psychologists and doctors and front office personnel around to chat, ask questions, poke and probe physically and mentally and it’s a huge part of the draft process.
The Raptors, even without a pick right now, have been doing all entire list but I do know they had the Shabazz Muhammad in for a chat the other night, among others they’ve talked to.
It’s funny that everyone tries to keep all the chats secret, it’s as if no one can know the group of players any team is talking to.
We were chatting with Myck Kabongo yesterday (you’ll see the fruits of that labour up here later on today) and he was asked which teams he’d talked to.
First thing he said?
“Am I allowed to tell.”
We mentioned that, yes, other players have actually offered the information and it’s not like some secret code, despite what teams were saying.
So, Myck saw Orlando, New York and Portland the night before last and had more sessions set for last night.
Hands up everyone who had Spurs-Grizzlies as the Western Conference final when the season began?
Yeah, didn’t think there’d be many of you.
Best thing about where we are today is that we know now exactly when the conference finals will start. The West begins Sunday – and that gives me tomorrow to work on a Grizzlies story and a preview box – and the East won’t get going until next Wednesday thanks to New York’s win last night.
That’ll give the Heat another week off between series, just like they had after sweeping the Bucks, and that’s going to be perfect for Dwyane Wade’s sore knee and will make the Heat all the more dangerous.