D.J. Strawberry: Better Late Than Never
Posted Jul 11 2007 11:33PM
LAS VEGAS, July 11, 2007 -- Some things in life simply go well together. For example, bald men and baseball caps, homemakers and soap operas, and flat-screen televisions and surround sound.
You can add D.J. Strawberry and the Suns to that list. The athletic Strawberry was born to play in Phoenix’s run-until-you-drop system.
In the first quarter of what would become a 104-101 overtime loss to the Sixers at the NBA Summer League on Wednesday, Strawberry could be found racing up the court and delivering the perfect pass for easy buckets.
He racked up four points and three assists in the period to set the tone for what would become a can’t-wait-to-call-a-relative night.
With several members of the Suns’ front office seated in the stands, it was almost as if he were auditioning for the role of Steve Nash’s backup.
Despite leading the University of Maryland in scoring (14.9 points per game to go along with 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists), the 6-foot, 5-inch Strawberry slid all the way down to the 59th selection at the 2007 NBA Draft. There must not be a lot of teams that need a player who can play both guard positions on offense and cover a one, two or three on defense.
The Suns were delighted to get someone of Strawberry’s caliber with the second-to-last pick of the draft. Of all the players at the NBA pre-draft camp combine in Orlando last month, he had the highest total test score.
Since his dad is former Major League Baseball player Darryl Strawberry, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that he has great athletic genes.
In his professional debut against the Cavaliers on Monday, Strawberry had seven points, but handed out just one assist and committed eight fouls
We will chalk that one up to jitters, because the improvement he showed just one game later against the Sixers is impressive. He could be seen smiling, slapping hands and encouraging his teammates on the way to a 19-point, seven-assist, three-steal night. And he only committed two turnovers.
“I was a little antsy and nervous for the first game but I got that all out of my system,” Strawberry said. “Today I got back to doing what I’ve been doing my entire life. I had a good time out there and I was relaxed.”
Strawberry said he brings a lot of intangibles to the table.
“I feel real comfortable here,” Strawberry said. “I can put a lot of defensive pressure on the ball and I can play multiple positions. I’m going to continue to play hard. I’ll do whatever it takes to be a part of this team.”
While most teams are lucky to get one first-year player who would see time on almost any other squad in the league, it appears the Suns may be fortunate enough to have two.
First-round pick Alando Tucker was equally as brilliant as Strawberry, scoring 29 points and delivering six assists of his own. Tucker, who is the University of Wisconsin’s all-time leading scorer, hit on 10-of-19 shots and 8-of-10 free throws. Although the forward grabbed just two rebounds, you would be hard-pressed to find any other flaw in his performance.
Strawberry and Tucker teamed up on more than one occasion for rookie-to-rookie scoring plays.
“Alando and I worked out together in New York and that is how we got to be so close,” Strawberry said. “That is one of the reasons that I got so excited when I found out I was going to the Suns. I enjoy playing with him because he is such a good player and he helps make it easier for everyone else.”