SLAM spent some time with the 2010 rookie class.
Last week, for the second straight year, I was in attendance for Panini’s NBA Rookie Photo Shoot. Held at the MSG Training Center in Tarrytown, NY, the shoot—a staple event of the Rookie Transition Program—mirrored last year’s nearly detail for detail.
The lone difference—aside from the photographer’s setup? Last August, both the players and I were rookies; this time around only the players were fresh to the pro game.
The gift of perspective is one I gained over the course of my first year-plus of covering the NBA. The same perspective is also the curse I’m now saddled with. It’s that gift/curse that allowed me to appreciate Panini’s shoot last week.
Last August, I didn’t know it was abnormal for players to be so candid and smiley around the media. Naively, I took player-reporter cooperation for granted. This time around, after a year of dealing with “no comments” and “it is what it is,” I was better able to appreciate the amazing atmosphere at the shoot.
Having not been in the same room since Summer League, the rookies were genuinely happy to be hanging out together. It was akin to a class reunion—granted, a truly rich and athletic class.
There were even some honest answers given to reporters.
On his new joint “Short Summer,” Joe Budden raps, “Inception, are you livin’ a dream or livin’ in one?”
The 2010 rookies—like the Draft classes who’ve come before them—feel like they’re living a dream.
Give them a season or two.
SLAM: How’s your ankle feeling?
Avery Bradley: Better. A lot better.
SLAM: You back out on the court?
AB: Not yet.
SLAM: Just working out?
SLAM: Have you has a chance to talk to Rajon Rondo at all, or any of the other guards on the squad?
AB: Kinda. A little bit. I mean, briefly, but not really.
SLAM: You think there’s a lot you can learn from the guards in Boston?
AB: Definitely. I think I could even learn from the post players; I could learn a little bit from everybody, so I’m just excited.
SLAM: Has Coach Rivers told you what he expects from you?
AB: Not yet.
SLAM: What do you expect from yourself?
AB: Just go out there and do what I do.
SLAM: Play defense?
AB: Play defense; work hard.
SLAM: What do you know about Boston? What was your team growing up?
AB: My favorite team was the Seattle Sonics.
SLAM: I guess now it’s the Celtics?
SLAM: So…you happy to be in Boston—What do you know about the city?
AB: Definitely happy, I know that there’s a lot of history in Boston—it is one of the first places in the United States. So it’s cool. I like it, and I’ll enjoy it a lot.
SLAM: Do you see your game as similar to anyone who’s already in the League?
AB: Umm, Monta Ellis. A lot of people say I play like Monta Ellis. Russell Westbrook. That’s about all I get.
SLAM: What have Danny Ainge or Coach Rivers told you that they want from you this year?
Luke Harangody: We haven’t really talked about what my role is gonna be within the organization yet. But whatever they need me to do, I’m gonna be willing. Obviously it’s a loaded front court, with all of the players they brought it, so I’m just gonna come in and do whatever I can and work.
SLAM: Have you talked to any guys on the team yet?
LH: Yeah, yeah. Me and Avery have actually been up there for a couple weeks; there’s been a couple of guys in. Everyone in the organization’s been great, and everyone likes to get after it and just work.
SLAM: Any surprises so far?
LH: No, not really. It just seems like a really good group of guys—a lot of older guys, so that’ll be cool to learn from.
SLAM: Could you have landed in a better situation than Boston?
LH: I don’t think so. Everyone I talk to says this is gonna be the perfect fit for me, so I’m very happy with where I landed.
SLAM: From the Notre Dame Irish to the Celtic Irish.
LH: I know! That’s what everyone says. I can’t get away from the green. (Laughs.)
SLAM: You’ve seen the physicality of the game already in Summer League? Think it’s much different than college?
LH: I mean, the bodies are a lot bigger. You see some of that in the Big East. But now everybody every game is like that every night.
SLAM: Have you met Big Baby Davis yet?
LH: Yeah, I met him yesterday, actually.
SLAM: You looking forward to going at it with him in practice?
LH: Yeah, that should be fun. He’s a big dude, and we both like playing physical, so that should be fun.
SLAM: Do you hope to pick up a lot of things from KG, Shaq—some all-time greats?
LH: Yeah, that’ll be great. Me being a rook and being around a bunch of guys like that, I’m just gonna be able to soak so much in.
SLAM: Any hazing?
LH: Not yet, not that I’ve seen so far. But I’m sure there’s gonna be a lot of that, so that should be interesting.
SLAM: I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it seems Shaq wasn’t aware of who you were when you signed. What’d you think about that?
LH: Yeah, I heard, all my boys let me know about that.
SLAM: What do you think about that? You gotta let him know who you are, right?
LH: Yeah, you know. Shaq’s been around for a while so I’m not surprised to know who he is, but you know, I’ve heard great things about him. He’s a great guy.
SLAM: We’re now a couple of months after the draft, where you slid a little bit. Do you think everything worked out for the best?
Tiny Gallon: Yeah, it did. Everything’s going all aright. I’m glad I’m here with the Bucks. I’m just happy I’m here, [and] just having fun, working out in Houston, getting ready for training camp.
SLAM: You get a chance to meet any of your teammates yet?
TG: Yeah. I talked to Andrew Bogut. I’m real cool with Brandon Jennings. I talk to him on a daily basis. I talked to Drew Gooden, John Salmons. They’re all cool.
SLAM: What’s Brandon telling you to expect out in Milwaukee?
TG: He told me he’s just ready for me to come in and work. He said it ain’t gonna be easy. He said come in ready to work cause you gotta earn your minutes.
SLAM: Coach Skiles tell you at all what he expects of you, what you can provide?
TG: Rebounding. Basically, be a threat down low. He just wants me to go down there and bang down low, because they already have one big down low with Andrew Bogut, and they need another post-man they can throw it too. He feels like I can be one of the big men that can go down there and get [players in] foul trouble and get to the line.
SLAM: You have a little bit of a chip on your shoulder from slipping in the draft?
TG: Yeah, I do. I’m gonna just come out and play hard every night, and show the team I should’ve been higher. But I’m happy where I’m at now; I can’t complain. God wanted me to be here, so I’m happy where I’m at.
SLAM: What’s the situation in Minnesota like?
Wesley Johnson: Good. It’s real good up there, man. I like the people, and everybody’s welcoming me with open arms. So we’re just waiting for the season to start now.
SLAM: No doubt. Jonny Flynn telling you what to expect?
WJ: Yeah, he’s been giving me a heads up since last year. I was just waiting on a time to get up there.
SLAM: What’s he telling you to look out for? How’s it different than college?
WJ: He’s telling me when the times get too rough to just keep a positive mindset. Just kinda stay encouraged, that’s the main thing.
SLAM: You looking forward to anything in particular?
WJ: Probably the matchups, because of the opponents I’m going to be facing. That’s probably the main thing.
SLAM: You looking forward to playing against any of the rookies, or against anybody else?
WJ: Yeah, I’m looking forward to playing against Paul George, playing against John Wall, Evan Turner, all those guys.
SLAM: You still talking to Coach Boeheim?
WJ: Not really. He just went overseas. So I’ll probably catch up with him when I go back up there, when we got an exhibition game up in Syracuse.
SLAM: What do you think the biggest adjustment is gonna be from college?
WJ: The time management that we have, and probably the mental aspect of it. The 82 games, and the wear-and-tear on the body.
SLAM: People talk a lot about you being too passive. What do you think of all that?
WJ: I mean, it’s going to change now. In college, I tried to channel my teammates and help my teammates out. And I always had success, so I didn’t want to go against the grain. Now, it’s going to be more so—you see in the NBA, there’s more one-on-one type of stuff, so you see a lot more of that this coming year.
SLAM: Coach Rambis tell you what he expects at all?
WJ: He really just wants me to be aggressive, just play within the offense and really be myself so I can do what I’m capable of doing. It’s going to be a lot more west than it was the past couple of years.
SLAM: Jonny gonna hit you with a few oops? We gonna be seeing you on SportsCenter?
WJ: Yeah, without a doubt! There’s gonna be a lot of that. I’m definitely looking forward to that.
SLAM: You in settle down in Minnesota yet?
WJ: Yeah I got a place and everything, right by the Metrodome, so it’s looking nice.
SLAM: What kind of kicks are you going to be wearing this year?
WJ: I signed with adidas, man. The new adidas are going to come out. They a work in progress right now.
SLAM: You meet at all yet with Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard or any of the other adidas guys?
WJ: Nah, not yet. I met with D. Rose when I was in Chicago training. I saw him briefly. I’m looking forward to it, though.
SLAM: Who were you training with—Tim Grover?
SLAM: What was he working on with you?
WJ: Little bit of everything: back to the basket, one-on-one skills, shooting, everything. It wasn’t one specific thing.
SLAM: I saw you dancing to music before. You the best dancer in the rookie class?
WJ: If you ask John or DeMarcus—everybody says they are. We gotta battle. (Laughs.)
SLAM: What are you looking forward to? Have you spoke to Coach at all yet about what he expects?
HW: Yeah, they looking towards me to being a dominant person on defense, and being a dominant player on offense and on the rebounding level. They’re looking at me to be more like a four.
SLAM: You think you’re gonna show that you have more offense than people think you do?
HW: Yeah. I think really because I was so dominant defensively, a lot of people don’t think [I can play] offense.
SLAM: Yeah. Is it going to be fun playing with DeMarcus Cousins?
HW: Oh, yeah! He’s a funny guy, a fun dude to be around. The whole team is a young team, so he’s gonna blend in with them.
SLAM: Think there’s gonna be a big adjustment, coming from a small school?
HW: It’s just another level, I think. It’s just going to be a higher level. I think I’m ready for it.
SLAM: What do you think is gonna be the biggest difference on the court?
HW: Probably bigger guys, better talented guys. And I won’t really be in the paint, because you can’t be in there for longer than three seconds, so [I’ll be] just really coming in and out of the paint. And just picking and choosing my spots to block shots.
SLAM: How sweet is it to be wearing an NBA jersey?
HW: It feels nice, man. It’s always been my dream—since I was little I had to prove myself to everybody—so I’m going to just keep proving myself. My dream ain’t there yet.
SLAM: You been in Portland at all?
Elliot Williams: Yeah, I actually was in Portland a few weeks ago, working out with Greg Oden and Brandon Roy. So that was good for me. Then I went to L.A., and now I’m here.
SLAM: What kind of things did Greg and Brandon have to say?
EW: Well Greg, you know, he’s pretty happy and getting ready for the year. He’s a great player. [I was] just getting advice from him and Brandon Roy about the NBA, and the expectations, and just about the team in Portland.
SLAM: Talk to Coach McMillan at all?
EW: Yeah, during during Summer League. Also my time up in Portland. So I’ve gotten to talk to him. And of course he’s a great coach and demands a lot. I’m ready for the challenge.
SLAM: What’s he looking for out of you for this season? Has he told you at all?
EW: Just to come in and be able to play the point guard, the two guard position. Just to know the offenses and defenses, and just play my game.
SLAM: What do you think you’re gonna add to the team?
EW: A lot. I’m can add athleticism, being a big point guard, slashing ability, defense. I can add a lot to the team.
SLAM: What do you think the biggest adjustment from college is going to be?
EW: Just the pace of the game. The talent level—I mean, we’re all very talented players. But just the pace of the game, and just coming to play every night. It’s 82 games, not 30, so…
SLAM: What would you call a successful season?
EW: Winning it all.
SLAM: Any personal goals?
EW: Just, you know, learning a lot. Being a sponge this year. Learning a lot from the veteran guys and just reaching my potential.
SLAM: How you been?
Quincy Pondexter: Good, man. Having a lot of fun out here.
SLAM: Where were you before this?
QP: I was in Seattle, working out.
SLAM: You been working out in New Orleans at all? Been there at all?
QP: I’ve been there a little bit. They’re remodeling the practice facility right now, so I haven’t had a chance to be out there too much, but I found my place to stay at. Yeah, it’s pretty nice out there.
SLAM: You been working out with the whole Washington crew, back in Washington?
QP: Yeah, everyone back there’s working real hard.
SLAM: What do you think the biggest adjustment is gonna be for you? What are the other guys telling you?
QP: The amount of games and the pace of the game. The pace of the game is a little different than college, and everyone’s a great player. You can’t underestimate anyone and you gotta go out there and give it your all.
SLAM: Have you been talking to Coach Williams at all, and has he told you what he expects from you?
QP: Yeah, I’ve been talking to him quite a bit. He expects a lot out of me. He wants me to come in, work really hard, and hopefully be in the rotation. I’m really looking forward to this year, spending [time] with Chris Paul, and trying to learn from him.
SLAM: Chris have any advice for you?
QP: Not yet, not yet. But I’m pretty sure I’ll pick his brain a lot.
SLAM: What are you looking for out of yourself? What do you think you can add to the squad?
QP: I’m gonna add a lot of defensive toughness, and try to provide a different energy that’s been there in the past.
SLAM: What would be a successful season for you? You think you have a shot at making the playoffs?
QP: Making the playoffs—that’s my biggest goal. I love to win and hate to lose. Bringing the team back to the playoffs, that’d be a huge accomplishment for us.
SLAM: Think it’ll be a big adjustment, going from Washington to New Orleans?
QP: It’s going to be a huge adjustment! It’s a lot different city. I’ve been in Washington the last four years of my life—[so] it’s going to be different, but I’m looking forward to it.
SLAM: You still talk to Coach Romar at all?
QP: Yeah, I talk to Coach Romar all the time. He helped me out a lot with the process, and he’s really a great father figure, someone to look up to, and he gives great advice all the time.
SLAM: Does he, or does anyone else, tell you what you still need to work on?
QP: He always does. He’s been watching me the last four years of my life, so he knows all my weaknesses and a lot of my strengths. So I try to get with him a lot of times, and work on all my weaknesses.
SLAM: You gonna miss anything from college?
QP: I miss all the people I met—all the friends I met—and the college life. You don’t have so many worries in college. But I’m also looking forward to the new challenges of being in this profession. I’m looking forward to it.
SLAM: I saw you dancing a little earlier. You think you’re the best dancer in the rookie class?
QP: Wes Johnson’s got some moves. Cole Aldrich thinks he can dance, but he’s horrible. We can have a dance off, and I think I’ll be in the top part of it.
SLAM: You living out there this summer?
EB: Yeah, I have been ever since right after the Draft.
SLAM: What do you think about the city?
EB: Oh it’s nice. Palm trees, beach, can’t get no better. (Smiles.)
SLAM: What do you think about the squad you guys have?
EB: I think we got a pretty good chance to be real good. It’s all about us playing together, and working. So yeah, we got a chance.
SLAM: What are you looking for out of yourself?
EB: Just to come in and help the team as much as possible, doing what I can. Just come in and learn.
SLAM: Has coach told you what he expects from you at all?
EB: Nah, not yet. But I’m pretty sure he’s gonna get at that soon.
SLAM: Nervous at all, playing for the Clippers?
EB: You just gotta think positive. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing. I think we got a lot of potential to turn the program around.
SLAM: You been talking to any other—you talked to Blake [Griffin], or any of the other UK guys in the League?
EB: Yeah, I talked to Blake. Talked to Baron [Davis]; talk to him a lot. They tell me what I need to work on.
SLAM: What do they say? What do you need to work on?
EB: Pshhh. Turnovers. (Smiles.) I’ve been turning the ball over a lot.
SLAM: What’s Baron teaching you?
EB: He’s a great player to learn from. Yeah, he’s teaching me how to run the team. Run the team and stay focused.
SLAM: I was talking to a trainer recently, and he said you have the most potential he’s seen in a long time.
EB: Yeah, that’s what I think I got. That’s what people been saying: that I got potential. I’m trying to make the potential come early, stay late.
SLAM: You miss anything about college yet?
EB: I miss everything about college.
EB: Yeah, pretty much, you’re on your own. In the League, once you’re here, you’re on your own. In college it’s like family. I like everything about college.
SLAM: You think y’all will stay in touch this year?
EB: Yeah, I think we’ll stay in contact a lot, because we’ll be in and out of each other’s city a lot.
SLAM: You looking forward to playing against them?
EB: Yeah, yeah I am. (Laughs.)
SLAM: Get John on a poster?
EB: Nah, nah. I mean, if comes to that, I will!
SLAM: You know he’s gonna be trying to put you on one.
EB: Yeah he’s gonna try and put me on one. But I still look forward to trying to put him on one, too.