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Big Dreams Realized or Put on Hold with NBA Draft

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, June 28, 2012

In the past month, the Sacramento Kings held tryouts for four dozen players who have left college and turned pro… The other 29 NBA teams held similar tryouts.  For any given player, that equates to a tryout and an airplane flight and accompanying jetlag every other day. 

Not that you'd know it by talking to Robert Sacre from Gonzaga. 

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SACRE:  "Wake up, have a shower, pretend it's like game day, just go in and have fun.  That's pretty much how you gotta think about it. This is a game, so you gotta have fun with everything and just enjoy the moment.  You only get one of these."

He was invited to try out before more than a dozen teams -Sacramento being among the last.  His easy-going attitude off the court is appealing to journalists hoping for a good quote.  But it's his play on the court that he thinks will get him drafted.

SACRE: "I like to hit people, and just a little, uh, toughness.  I'm willing to do whatever my team needs me to do to win."

Sacre's dozen or so invites sound like a lot.  But, Mike Scott, who went to college at Virginia, is up to around a dozen and a half -including the Lakers, Spurs, Celtics, Heat and Thunder.

He's not complaining - the more workouts a player attends, the better chance he has of catching the eye of a coach or general manager. 

He's also very realistic about his skill level and he's already compartmentalized and strategized how he will address his shortcomings.

SCOTT: "Defensively, guarding a three, guarding someone smaller than me. I think, offensively, working on my handle, expanding my range."

A "three" is a shorter, faster player.  His handle is how well he dribbles.

You might think Scott pointing out his weaknesses shows…weakness. What it actually shows maturity not evident in some other prospects.  It's a strength that could move him ahead of other players with similar skills. 

The Kings' Director of Player Development is Fat Lever.  He is a former first-round pick who played 11 years in the NBA. 

Lever says one thing matters to coaches and general managers more than anything else.  That's effort.   

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LEVER: "A low self motivator -you'll see that in his workouts. You may not see it in one day, but you'll see it the second day. So, there's a lot of variables that come in. So, it's very important not just to see him one time you may want to see him three times individually or go back and watch videotapes of him in college."

Other variables are shooting form, attention to detail, and coachability.   And with all things being equal, including effort, the better player may not be picked over the player who fills a team's most glaring need.

LEVER:  "If that player doesn't fit in based on attitude, same players in similar position, you don't have the time to wait, you take that into consideration."

After the top 60 are drafted, the NBA holds its Summer League in Las Vegas.  In Summer League, teams have players under contract, but also have an expanded roster with vacancies for free agents.   

if a player doesn't catch on during Summer League, he can still play for a team's developmental league team, or he can go overseas. 

Kings broadcaster Henry Turner played two seasons in the NBA in the 90's and 13 years across the Atlantic …an experience he calls, "a blessing."

TURNER:  "Whether I played here or played overseas, I was still playing professional basketball.  I still had a crowded arena of 10,000 or more.  So, I really enjoyed my time."

So, who gets drafted? Fat Lever says it really could be anybody.  The Kings won't know who's available until the picks ahead of them have been made.

LEVER: "It throws everyone in disarray, so those decisions aren't made until that actual pick comes at that final minute and you've got five minutes to make that decision."

The Kings' have had four consecutive years of dreadful basketball.  The upside of bad seasons is good draft position. 

With a young pair of recent draftees -Tyreke Evans and Demarcus Cousins-  and a top-five pick this year, Lever says he thinks this is the year when talent will start translating into wins. 
Of course, it would help if the team can find the right player…or if the right player finds the Kings. 
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