by David Benner
July 20, 2012
Since I didn’t get invited to play in the British Open, I’ll turn my attention to my other favorite sport with some thoughts.
The NBA Draft
If someone yells out "Bust!" in a crowded chat room, then it must be the case. So many experts, so little expertise. One thing I have learned in my 221 years around the NBA, wait about three years before you determine a player drafted is a bust or a team has earned a grade of “D” or “F”. There are so many intangibles to players taken in any draft of any sport. How will they adjust to the level of competition? How hard will they work? Will new-found wealth spoil them? What about the environment they are now in and the lifestyle that comes with it? Will they, for whatever reason, clash with a coach?
These questions aside, NBA teams don’t just reach into a hat and pull a name out when it comes their time to draft. The hundreds, probably thousands, of hours, miles and phone calls the Pacers’ basketball staff puts into preparation is truly incredible. There are games to watch (both in person and on tape), coaches, friends, media members, doctors, critics and supporters to speak with. There are background checks. There are physicals. There are face-to-face interviews with a large number of people associated with the franchise. There are workouts. The process is exhausting. One player who came in for a workout said, "There isn’t a question I haven’t been asked, a friend or family member that hasn’t been contacted or an area on my body that hasn’t been probed."
So, when "Bust" is shouted out after a pick is made, regardless of what team makes it, I laugh at the ignorance. In this case, hindsight can be 20/20 so wait a few years. There will be hits, there will be misses. But it won’t be for a lack of preparation.
Rookie/Free agent camp & Summer League
There are five practices over four days for camp, five games in five days for the summer league, a precious few hours to impress the coaches of the team you are playing for and the personnel people of other teams (NBA, Europe) watching at the summer league. For the majority, the odds are long on NBA dreams. Draft choices and one- or two-year veterans already on rosters get the majority of playing time and shots. The others hope their particular game/size/position fits a niche somewhere.
As a sportswriter, my favorite event to cover was the United States Olympic Swimming Trials. Dreams realized and shattered in hundredths of a second and it’s four years before you get another shot. NBA camps/summer leagues obviously are different, but the dreams are the same: trying to reach that next level. Players come back to try, try again, year after year. Watching some of these hopefuls on the Pacers’ roster—guys like Robert Vaden, Matt Rogers, Chris Kramer, Ben Hansbrough, Julian Mavunga—has you rooting for them to land somewhere in the NBA. All good players, all great people, all chasing that NBA dream. Most, if not all, will end up playing overseas or in the D League.
But whether it’s a swimmer missing the Olympic Team by a fingertip, or a summer league player fighting for a roster spot somewhere, it is intriguing sport and you root for them to someday be an Olympian or wear an NBA uniform.
Roy Hibbert’s collection of, uh, unusual Pacers’ fans will have auditions soon. Stay tuned to Pacers.com for details. I hope Roy makes it Area 55x2. 110 looneys up there giving 110 percent. Especially since George Hill and Paul George’s G2 Zone has thrown down the challenge of which section will be better next season. This is team in-fighting worth condoning.