Welcome everyone back to my blog. The NBA season is fast approaching, and I’m excited about that. The experiences that I’ve had this summer have pushed me even more to continue to play.
Right now, I’m just in it. I love the game no matter what. It’s not about the money for me because I’ve made enough money in my career where I can walk away if I wanted to. I just want to continue to play and end my basketball career the way I want to end it.
The opportunity is there. A couple of teams have asked about me and told my agent they were pleased with the way I played in summer league. So for that to even be said from a team, with no negatives, means things are looking up.
While I was in Las Vegas for summer league, we had a couple of meetings and listened to a couple of speakers. One in particular stuck out to me because he said when his NBA career ended when he was 34, the phones weren’t ringing. Nobody was calling him to put him on a summer league team or anything like that.
That put a lot in perspective for me, knowing that I still have a team like New Orleans that called and gave me a spot on their summer league team, as well as other teams who have checked up on me through my agent.
I just have to continue to work to earn an opportunity. I have places at home in Winston Salem and in Dallas where I can get a good run in. But I’m also going to get back out to Vegas to continue to go to Impact and work out. Hopefully, one of these teams will let me come work out with some of their vets like in August, early September, which I know that won’t be a problem as long as I can get out there, and continue to focus.
SUMMER LEAGUE, 10 YEARS LATER
I hadn’t played in summer league since 2004, and I kind of forgot what it was like. But it was pretty cool to have that experience again, and I made the most of it by having fun and enjoying the game.
I want to say thanks again to New Orleans Pelicans for giving me that opportunity.
We started with a short summer league training camp in New Orleans, and I went in there ready to compete. I prepared myself to come into a summer league training camp in shape, so I wasn’t lagging behind anybody.
I went out there and played hard, busted my tail, led by example, and let the young guys know that a 34-year-old vet can still do it.
That focus allowed me to earn a starting spot on the team, and once we got to Las Vegas, I did what they wanted me to do in the games that I played, which was for me to get out there, play and produce. I think I showed the Pelicans, along with other NBA teams, that I can still play. That’s what they wanted to see.
The first game was pretty cool because we played the D-League Select Team, which featured some guys I played with and against last year in Austin.
Tre Kelley, who was our starting point guard in Austin before he got traded, was on that team. Devin Ebanks was on their team. My young fella, Terrel Harris, was on their team as well, but he was injured. So to see those guys who I’ve made relationships with in the D-League out there was cool. To have them out there still pushing made it even more fun and exciting in that game. It was good competition.
I ended up with 14 points in 20 minutes and that was fun. That’s what I wanted to do with New Orleans through summer league training camp and all those practices. I wanted to go out there and have fun. That’s what I had to take myself back to. It’s about having fun, and doing something you love.
After that first game, I knew I wasn’t going to get to play that much because the Pelicans wanted to get a look at the young guys as well.
The second game, our two other wing guys, Courtney Fells and DeQuan Jones, had great games, so there was no need for me to play. The third game that I got to play in was against the Spurs, and I think by then, the Pelicans already decided they had seen what they wanted to see from me.
The summer league is a different kind of NBA atmosphere, because the main purpose is getting those young guys geared up for the league. But it’s also really good competition. It kind of takes you back to the NCAA tournament. Guys have to get ready from one day to the next. You might have an off day in between, but for the most part, it’s pretty much back-to-back, so the mental aspect plays a big part in that tournament format.
I think Sacramento won, and I know they had a lot of second-year players on their team, which is pretty good for them as far as getting those guys ready for this upcoming season.
It’s a very important part of the development of a young NBA player to get that experience. If the young fellas don’t develop, it’s tough for the vets as they get older and things of that nature.
I remember back in 2004, Marquis Daniels and I took our curves early on, but after that we took the opportunity and ran with it. When the opportunity presents itself to lead a team and grow as a player, you have to take it seriously. I think that’s what helped Marquis and I have long careers in the NBA.
Outside of the games we played, I hung around the gym and watched a couple of games and got a chance to see some great young players from around the league.
I was impressed with the point guard that came from UCLA that’s with Minnesota, Zach LaVine. I didn’t really get a chance to see him that much in college since UCLA is based on the West Coast, so I didn’t know much about him. But the way he handled the ball, the way he shot the jump shot coming off the dribble, he kind of reminded me of Deron Williams. I wasn’t expecting to see a Deron Williams in the league anytime soon. But that kid right there I think is going to have a great NBA career.
Andrew Wiggins also showed some flashes of greatness. Ultimately, it’s up to him to be as good as he wants to be, but to see the type of things he was out there doing already was pretty cool. I know he’s probably worried about getting traded due to the Cleveland situation, but if there’s any advice I can give him, it’s just don’t worry about it. That’s a part of the NBA. You are the number one pick. Where you play from there doesn’t matter.
PROMISE OF THE PELICANS
The Pelicans have a great base of talent, and they also have a great coaching staff. Monty Williams has done a great job with those guys. Bryan Gates, Freddy Vinson and those guys took me in and let me play. They also let me play a veteran’s role, talking to some of the players and stuff of that nature.
As a vet playing in the summer league, I recognized that some of the younger guys coming in didn’t know what to expect and saw that kind of “deer in headlights” look, where they’re just overwhelmed with the opportunity to play in the NBA. When I saw that in some guys, I just tried to mentor them a little bit and get them to remain confident in their game. I try to let the ones who will take it in know the right roles to take in the NBA, and just to be mindful of what’s going on around them. It was great to speak with some of those young guys because I’ve been in their position before.
I also got to spend time with Anthony Davis, and talk to him about some things. He’s a very humble young man, and he understands his surroundings. He’s just focused on the game of basketball. That’s good to have a young fella like that at the base of your organization that you can build upon and around.
As a player, Davis is really impressive. For his height, he kind of plays like a three-man. He’s capable of handling the ball, he can post, and he can also knock down the face-up jump shot. So to have all those weapons and to be almost seven feet is great upside. I hope to see him go a long way, and just lead with those skill sets. It could happen.
New Orleans has a winner in him, a future all-star, and hopefully, a Hall of Famer one day. He might produce a championship or two for the Pelicans.
I also talked a lot with Russ Smith from Louisville, who was our point guard, and Pat Young from Florida, who was our power forward. I just tried to keep them motivated and confident even when they made mistakes like turning over the ball or not making the right play. It’s tough coming from college to the NBA. I wanted them to stay focused. Overall, they did a great job. I was proud of them. Those two guys have tremendous upside.
When I wasn’t playing, I tried to be as vocal as possible and help the guys learn.
I spent time talking to some of the guys coming in off timeouts, keeping them motivated. Summer league can be a drag as far as the length you’ll be away from your family and those young guys are not really used to that. So keeping those guys motivated was my number one thing. Trying to keep a smile on their face I think is important, because if you’re happy, you’re going to go out there and perform.
I’m kind of a jokester so I had a good time keeping those guys laughing. I also had one of my teammates from the Toros, Courtney Fells, on the team, so he and I kind of teamed up and just led by example and tried to carry the young guys along.
I think highly of a lot of those guys. Many of them came from great programs. Even Jeff Withey, who is a second-year player from Kansas — he showed me flashes, things I knew he could do. But just to play alongside him, to see him develop from one year to the next, is a great thing to see.
ONE CAMP BECOMES TWO
After summer league ended, I was splitting time between Dallas and my hometown in North Carolina, where I held my camp from July 28th through August 1st.
This was the first year that I held the camp at two different sites, Hanes Hosiery and what was formerly Reynolds Park, now known as William Roscoe Anderson Recreation Center.
I noticed the last two years that some kids couldn’t make it some days and other days they could. I knew a lot of those kids were from the side of town that I grew up on.
Even though it’s a free camp, I got a lot of feedback from parents who were having a hard time getting kids from one side of town to the other, and it wasn’t a problem for me to split time, go from one center in the morning and then go to the other center in the afternoon.
So we decided to split it up. To add some fun to it, we added a rivalry Friday when we hosted a championship with the two camps coming together for a showdown in the big finale. I think it added some excitement. I was hyping up both sides, and the kids were actually looking forward to that. It’s cool to see talent from each side of town go head-to-head.
I think the kids also like the split camp even more because it gives them more space at each gym to do more drills and things of that nature, to hone in on their skill set instead of worrying about lines and stuff like that. It was a plus for both.
So it made a lot of sense to do it that way and the turnout reflected that. It was even better than we had in the past, which is amazing. To still have the draw that I get for a free camp here like I do in Dallas speaks volumes as far as what people think about me, and how I give back to community.
I honestly and genuinely care about these kids and what they do, and their future. If it wasn’t for basketball with me, there’s no telling what would have happened. But to stay focused and use basketball and the things I learned from basketball in every day life has really, really helped me a lot. And if I can get that message across to kids, I think they’ll go a long way with or without sports.