Posted Jun 10 2010 11:17AM
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- While some of his old Celtics teammates have made their way back to Boston for the Finals this week, Larry Bird has made his way to the New Jersey Nets' practice facility, looking to get his current team closer to a championship.
The Pacers' president of basketball operations is one of a few dozen team executives, scouts and coaches in the gym as the Nets host three days of Draft workouts, an event designed to save money, time and energy.
From Wednesday to Friday, 23 teams will watch 36 players, divided into six groups of six. You won't find John Wall, Evan Turner or any projected lottery pick here. But the group of 36 does include 12 players currently projected by DraftExpress to be selected in the NBA Draft on June 24, including UConn's Stanley Robinson, who is projected to go in the first round. After Wednesday's workout, word was that New Mexico's Darington Hobson had improved his stock with a strong performance against Robinson.
This is the third and final group Draft event. In late May, the NBA held its pre-Draft combine in Chicago. Minnesota held a similar group workout. In organizing those events, both the league and the Timberwolves took votes from teams on what players should be invited.
In putting together the New Jersey workouts, Nets vice president of basketball operations Bobby Marks tried to complement the other two events by inviting a mostly new group of players. To create his list, Marks started with guys who were projected around the 20th pick in the Draft and worked his way back.
Since the list was initially created, several changes have been made. Some players who believe they're going to be selected higher have dropped out. But even if a player isn't likely to be drafted, the group workout situation can be a ticket to the league.
The Nets hosted this same event for the first time last year, and 15 of the 36 players in the gym, including No. 15 pick Austin Daye, were drafted a few weeks later. One of those who wasn't selected was Wesley Matthews. But the Utah Jazz liked what they saw of Matthews at the Nets' workout and elsewhere. They invited him to play on their summer league team and, less than a year later, he was guarding Kobe Bryant in the Western Conference semifinals.
The benefits of putting a large group of teams together in the same gym with a larger group of prospects are clear. For only about $2,500, a team gets to see 36 players worth taking a look at. The cost of bringing 36 players into their own gym would be about 10 times that amount.
"Teams are spending an exorbitant amount of money flying these kids around; hotels, airfare, meals and everything," Marks said. "The kids on the other end were also getting worn out, because you're going to 15 or 20 different cities."
This is beneficial for the players as well. "The goal at the end of the day is to have these guys try to eliminate as many workouts as they can," Marks said
As with Chicago, Minnesota and any individual team workouts, five-on-five action is not allowed. Only six players can be on the floor at a time. And while that's not ideal, it's still beneficial for team executives and coaches. Scouts have seen most prospects in person a handful of times, but the guys who spend the entire season with the NBA team have not.
"It's a piece of the puzzle," said Nets director of player personnel Gregg Polinsky. "I think you get in trouble weighing too much with an individual workout, but by the same token, if you know what you're trying to find in the workout as you look selectively, I think it can be a big help."
Seen in the gym with Bird on Wednesday were Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien, Lakers assistant GM Ronnie Lester, Nets president Rod Thorn, Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni and Raptors coach Jay Triano, along with his new assistant, P.J. Carlesimo.
The candidates for the Nets' No. 3 pick -- including Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins and Wesley Johnson -- will make their way to East Rutherford individually in the near future. New Jersey also holds picks No. 27 (from Dallas) and 31, meaning that the Nets are probably seeing at least one of their future employees this week.
Still, Marks said the Nets would be holding the workouts even if the only pick they had was their lottery selection.
"It's a good exercise for a lot of kids you probably would never bring in, kids that would have a chance to make your summer league team," Marks said. "You could always find a diamond in the rough there. It gives you exposure to those types of kids."
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
|Postgame: David Joerger|
David Joerger addresses the media after taking a 2-1 lead in the series against the Thunder.
|Jordan Puts it Back|
DeAndre Jordan rises up for the putback slam off the Darren Collison miss.
|Thunder-Grizzlies: Game 4 Preview|
Steve and Marv break down Game 3 and look ahead to Game 4.
|Crawford for Three|
Jamal Crawford pulls up and sinks the three-pointer.
|Paul to Jordan|
DeAndre Jordan takes the pass and finishes with authority.