NBA Rookies: From the Green Room To Greenbacks

By Jerald L. Hoover
Updated: July 3, 2007

Basketball Hoop NEW YORK — Draft night for the NBA was more spectacular and entertaining than this past season’s NBA Finals between the Tim Duncan-led San Antonio Spurs and the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers.

And if you don’t believe me, then just ask anyone that was in attendance at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden. Some teams however (i.e., the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Denver Nuggets) just to name a few were not invited to the big dance because they traded away their respective draft picks.

The prospects of trades and other non-court-play innuendo along with the suspense of who was being picked in certain spots (other than the first two which featured, Ohio State’s center Greg Oden and the University of Texas’ Kevin Durant) seemed to had over shadowed the fact that a ball had not been bounced nor has a whistled blown.

That will not happen until the various Summer Leagues that each team puts their respective rookies and free agents through.

Speaking of Durant, he of the splendid and silky smooth jumper. The Longhorn freshman phenom stands 6-foot-10 inches tall. He doesn’t have a whole lot of weight or muscle to his frame but that didn’t stop him from averaging over 12 rebounds a game to go a long with his 25 points.

He was extremely excited once his name was called by the Seattle SuperSonics on Draft Day. Once Durant was asked if he felt comfortable playing small forward — the very same position that unrestricted free agent Rashard Lewis plays — he answered, “I don’t consider myself just a small forward. I basically can play anywhere on the court.”

That was a very interesting question and one that is essential especially with the fact that All-Star and future Hall of Famer Ray Allen was traded on Draft Day in exchange for forward Wally Szczerbiak and combo guard Delonte West.

At present the Sonics roster seems to be well overloaded with small forwards (they also acquired Georgetown forward Jeff Green with the fifth pick) and without any real (explosive) two guard to take up the scoring slack. So from an outsider looking in the move doesn’t appear to make a lot of sense at this particular point.

The Sonics are not only getting a potential great player in Durant but, they’re also getting a great person who has a humble spirit and a big heart. Rick Barnes, Durant’s head coach at Texas once told a story on how when Durant was working out in a gym (yes, he’s a gym rat as well) and one of the equipment managers was doing something and fell and twisted his ankle.

Durant who never fancied himself as a prima donna despite all of the hoopla that surrounds him, stopped what he was doing on the court and went (unasked) to retrieve bag and put ice in it and brought it back to the manager and put it on his ankle.

Whatever happens, Durant is sure to enjoy a rookie season in which he will be doing a boat load of scoring as he becomes the “new face” and the focal point of the franchise.

Draft tidbits: The New York Knicks set the Garden house afire when the trade for Portland’s Zach Randolph was announced just a few slots before they picked DePaul forward, Wilson Chandler. The NCAA’s back-to-back champion Florida Gators sported three Lottery picks: Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls), Corey Brewer (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks), whose father Tito Horford was a rebounder extraordinaire several years ago with the Houston Rockets.

NOTE: Published reports Tuesday say Sonics’ free agent Rashard Lewis signed with the Orlando Magic to a max contract believed to be between $75 million and $85 million over five seasons.