goes behind the scenes
Strike A Pose
By Jeff Dengate

If you thought fetching veterans' donuts was a drab job for an NBA rookie, consider staring down flash bulbs for six hours. Or waiting in line behind me for lunch.

But what could have been just another day's work turned out to be a fun afternoon for the rookies in attendance at the NBA Rookie Photo Shoot held at the MSG Training Center in Tarrytown, N.Y. on Wednesday.


The trading card companies -- Topps and Upper Deck -- along with NBA Entertainment photographers, gathered on the Knicks' practice court, complete with curtains, backdrops and cameras to photograph this year's incoming group in their freshly sewn jerseys.

The players were divided into three groups, with teammates making the circuit together throughout the day.

Chris Paul's new jersey is as sharp as his ball-handling skills.
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images
As music blared from a DJ in one corner of the gym and flash bulbs popped in their peripheral vision, the players smiled, posed and made passes to be captured on film.

The backdrops, in front of which the players posed, varied from simple rolls of colored paper to an elaborate locker room set. At another photo station, players posed in front of a green Chroma Key background that will be replaced by an image -- similar to how your local weather person appears in front of all those maps. When Jarrett Jack assumed a defensive stance, you probably could have as easily replaced that green background with a wave and stood him on a surfboard as you could have put him on a basketball court.


The lunch scene was straight out of a SportsCenter commercial. You know how the athletes act all normal but something seems amiss because they're wearing their game uniforms? That was how lunch seemed when we all broke for hot dogs and hamburgers under a big white tent set up on the lawn in front of the training facility.

Staff, media and rookies alike, armed with paper plates and plastic ware, waited in line for their turn at the grill and then spent the better part of an hour refueling. Most of the rookies piled around a few tables, still sporting their uniforms and sneakers -- and, in the case of Boston's Gerald Green and Ryan Gomes, headbands.

Careful with the mustard fellas, you still have to look pretty for four more hours.


The EA Sports folks were nice enough to bring two systems set up with NBA LIVE 06 for the rookies to play with when they had a little down time. When the games were first turned on, there was a mad rush of players trying to find their rendered selves.

In Martynas Andriuskevicius' case, he wasn't in the game because he's yet to ink a contract with the Cavaliers. Such a little detail didn't deter him however, as the Lithuanian center spent a good chunk of the day with a controller in his hand. His team of choice? The Cleveland Cavaliers, of course.

Many of the players took their turns at the games, but perhaps none more so than Nate Robinson. The little man's athleticism took some time to shine through on the game as Robinson repeatedly complained, "I can't dunk! I can't dunk!" Clearly it was not an oversight on the part of the EA Sports crew, just part of the learning curve for the 5-9 guard who, when needed for photos, could be found in front of the game.

Gerald Green holds one of many poses during the day.
Chris Bisani/NBAE/Getty Images
No matter who was at the controller, you could be assured of two things: They would be playing with their real NBA team. And the ball would be in their hands. Hopefully the rookies aren't ball hogs on the court as they were in the game. Robinson best illustrated this when he began a game using the Knicks and immediately made a substitution, replacing Stephon Marbury in the lineup with himself.

As Robinson's teammate, Channing Frye, stood over his shoulder shouting, "Put your hands on it big Frye!" you could be certain the virtual Frye wasn't getting touches until the real Frye took his turn at the game.


When asked to compare this year's rookie class to those in recent years, a common theme we kept hearing was that this is a good group of guys who really get along well together. This was evident throughout the day.

In one corner of the gym you had Detroit's Jason Maxiell giving a little good natured ribbing to Martell Webster, Portland's 18-year old rookie. It seems Webster either got the wrong size shorts or he doesn't fancy the super long bottoms in fashion today. While Webster's trunks were far from the length sported by players from the 1980's and earlier, they were certainly the only pair to end above the knee -- even higher when he hiked them up to play around for Maxiell and an NBA Entertainment photographer.

Meanwhile, off in another part of the gym, Andriuskevicius and fellow countryman -- and newest Indiana Pacer -- Sarunas Jasikevicius found a couple chairs to relax and converse in their native language.

As Wayne Simien, who aspires to someday be a full-time minister, told us, this is a tight-knit group.

"Being through workouts together, the Pre-Draft Camp, playing against and with each other for the last several years," Simien said, "the relationships are something that are defintely strong with this class."


Like Brandon Bass here, all the rookies at Wednesday's shoot got to work on their penmanship.
Chris Bisani/NBAE/Getty Images
While the day was one of rest for most players, they were still likely to be sore at the end of the day. In between photo sessions, the players were ushered to various spots where they had to repeatedly give autographs. An NBA table at the center of the gym, for example, held roughly 40 basketballs and a collection of jerseys -- memorabilia which was signed by the players and will be used throughout the season.

Then it was on to Topps, where sheets of holographic stickers awaited the players. Those silver autographed stickers will be incorporated into trading cards and will be available in the near future.

Consider it all practice for what lies ahead as an NBA star.


We were privy to a sneak peek at one team's new jerseys during the shoot, but like any good secret, we can't tell. The team's rookie -- or was it rookies? -- donned a shirt over the jersey when not in front of one of the backdrops, limiting the exposure of the new uniform until an official unveiling is held. All we can tell you is the new gear was pretty sharp.


So, how would a day of photos and games wrap up? Like most NBA shoot arounds and practices: With Green, Webster, Danny Granger and Gomes repeatedly hoisting shots from mid-court, including one underhanded lob that bore a striking similarity to a bowling ball toss.

Webster stole the show, however, as he was absolutely money from just inside the half court line. In a seemingly effortless performance, Webster knocked down more shots than he missed, hoisting the shots as though they were a typical jumper.