Wow, has it really been a month since I last posted something? I swear I’ve nearly had my life threatened by people waiting for me to post my new blog. Well, there have been a couple of reasons for my delay. For starters, my hard drive crashed on my macbook, putting me out of commission for a few weeks. Then there was this little matter of playing in the NBA Vegas Summer League. So, I guess I’ll just pick up where I ended the last post…
After working out for Golden State, I had a couple days off before traveling out to Memphis for their mini-camp. This camp was unique from the others for two reasons: it was after the draft, and it was directly before summer league. This meant that first round pick Michael Conley Jr. was there as well as Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, Tarrence Kinsey, and Alexander Johnson — guys who are actually getting paid.
I got in the day before the camp started and was the last person to fill out paper work and get a physical. As I have stated many times before, I hate doing the “grab my balls” test, so I was pretty happy to see that guys were getting their physicals done in the open area of the trainers room, eliminating the possibilty of such a check. As it turns out, those guys were returning players so they didn’t need to get re-checked. I was promptly walked to the back room where the doctor, while doing the balls test, began to tell me why they do the test. He told me the story about how Lance Armstrong, while doing this very test, was found to have testicular cancer. He told that, because of that, it’s becoming a much more widely used test, even on younger athletes like myself. He told me that I could even give myself the test. To quote him: “nobody knows your balls like you.” It was then that I realized he had been talking for like a minute and a half telling me all these stories, and his fingers were still on my balls! We both must have lost track of time.
The next day I got to the locker room and saw that they had given me jersey number 4 — Stromile Swift’s number, not the Rod Benson 0. Not only that, but they put me in Stromile’s locker as well:
I was obviously pretty hyped about the whole thing seeing that I took a photo of the locker.
We got to work on the court for the next two days. It was actually a lot of fun for me to go head to head with all these guys who had much bigger names than me, even though Rudy Gay dunked on me so viciously that I considered retirement. Still, I had my fair share of nice plays offensively and defensively. Like Golden State, after the first day, Tony Barone approached me and congratulated me on my performance on that day. It’s small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but guys like me never forget comments like those. I can pretty much remember every nice thing a coach I respected ever said to me. It dates back to the 5 and 6 year old division of the Boys and Girls club basketball league. “Rod, you’re doing a great job of being tall,” my coach said after my first couple of plays. Then 5 minutes later it was: “A basketball is not for kicking.” I haven’t kicked a ball since.
The second day of practice was considerably tougher mainly because it included our 4th practice in 2 days. Roger Powell, David Bluthenthal, and I won the shooting competition, earning “respect” as coach Iaveroni put it. I was also upgraded to the first team for the day which I took as a good sign.
After the second practice, I was so tired I could hardly walk, but I still took a little time to check out the surrounding area, which I concluded was pretty tight. I could definitely have a lot of fun in memphis. They say Austin is the live music capitol of the world, but Memphis has to be right at #2 if that’s the case. Every single place has live music, and a couple places have dueling pianos inside — I love dueling piano bars.
Now it was time to head to Vegas. We had practice the day we arrived, which sucked because my body was so tired. But since everyone was tired, it was just something I had to deal with.
We practiced in the same spot where the 2007 NBA Dunk contestants practiced (I think). I came to this conclusion because this was one of our baskets:
If you look closely, those are Dwight Howard’s stickers up there around 12 feet. I can barely touch the bottom of the lower one, let alone slap it up there and catch an alley-oop. Props to Dwight Howard.
The first day of summer league was pretty much amazing. I got the starting job, which I didn’t quite expect. I got to go up against 2 NBA post players in Zhi Zhi and Jianlian. I got to see Rudy Gay completely humiliate Yi in the open court (I felt better about Rudy dunking on me — I guess he is Rudy Gay). I got to wear a jersey that had an NBA team name on the front and my name on the back. I know it’s just summer league, but you cant beat that. I mean, I’m not that guy who is used to this kind of thing. I’m the guy who was pretty much starstruck by Tim Cowlishaw when he walked by me in Dallas a year ago, and mesmerized by David Aldridge who was watching a couple of our games. I got a fast break lay up and one of the first things I thought was “I wonder if David Aldridge saw that?”
We had a couple practices between game one and game two. The noteworthy thing from the two days didn’t happen during the practice itself, but afterwards. See, we had this kid assisting us with water and towels and whatever else we needed. After the second practice, we were walking to the car. It was a record for the hottest day in Vegas that day. I think it was 120 degrees. It basically felt like it does when you put your face under water while in a Jacuzzi. Anyways, somebody decides to pay this kid $100 to sprint as fast as he can, in this heat, to the other side of the football field, touch the goal post, and back. It was probably 220 yards total, but the kid did it. I was pretty sure that he would die of heat exhaustion, but his will to live and spend that $100 must have kept him going.
The second game was against Detroit. The first thing to note about this game was that I had 12 points, not 10 like the stat sheet said. I don’t know where my two points went, but I will be searching feverishly until I find out. Although we lost the game, I thought we played well, we just didnt shoot well as a team. It was on this day that my love affair with Mike Conley began. Running the pick and roll with this guy is like a dream. No matter where I was on the court, he could find me. I bet that Mike Conley could find Osama Bin Laden…if he was open.
The third game was special for a few reasons. For one, I got to go head to head with my former teammate Darius Rice. Last time I saw him was the night of his 52 point performance. The second reason was that Coach David Joeger ran the head coaching duties for the game. Lastly, because I played well and the team won big. Coach actually took me out early to preserve my legs for the next game, acknowledging the fact that we had the game in the bag and that he thought I played well.
Game 4 was offensively the opposite of game 3, for the team and myself both. There was still something cool about the game however. First of all, Chris Kaman was on the Clippers summer league roster. I thought it was pretty awesome that I got to go head to head with one of the best centers in the game today. It was even better when it turned out that he was one of those guys who runs his mouth. It really got me fired up to guard him. He only hit me for 2 points all game (yea, only 2) and I thought I did a good job of frustrating him. At the end of the day, we still lost the game though and he did still have 19 and 11. But I feel like as far as my post defense learning curve goes, that was a big boost.
Game 5 concluded 14 days straight of practice or games (we actually did have one day off in the middle) and the 3rd game in 3 days. I felt exhausted pretty much the whole game. I would call that game my worst all around because I did nothing well and I felt terrible the whole time.
After the game, all the fans wanted us to give them our gear. I threw one guy a shoe and the other shoe went to a kid. Then I gave my shooting shirt to the same kid who sprinted the football field. The people didnt stop asking me for gear though. I was shoeless and shirtless and they still wouldn’t be satisfied until I was completely naked and they had my socks. I guess they assume that we are NBA guys so we can buy it all again. They don’t know that I can’t.
Well, my future is still up in the air for right now. Who knows where I’ll be in the coming months? My boy Roger Powell just signed to go to Italy, a smart choice, the rational choice, but it is hard to be rational in a situation like mine. Chance it and stay here, knowing that getting cut is another D-League ticket? Go overseas and make money and never have $8 in my wallet again? I guess only time will tell, but I’ll tell you this, if I have a legitimate shot, I’m goin for it, because I know what I can do.