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David
06-14-2003, 01:29 PM
Inside An NBA Pre-Draft Workout

Potential Talent On Parade - In Buffalo?

By Bob Matuszak -- DallasBasketball.com

Don Nelson is doing his offseason preparation in Maui. Donnie Nelson is doing his in Italy. Unusual? Nah. The Toronto Raptors conducted a closed workout for draft prospects and did so in another country.

The Raptors held their workout in Buffalo, just across the border. But still. …

We’d like to take you inside such a closed workout of Mavs prospects for the June 26 NBA Draft, and DallasBasketball.com learned Thursday that we might just get that chance, as Mavs staffers are assembling a list of invitees for next week. (The problem: At this still-early stage, few kids and their agents are willing to admit to themselves that they might end up being available at 29). Keith Grant is doing much of that work, while Donnie is not just preaching the gospel of Mavs basketball in Europe but is also attending a Eurocamp that includes NBA prospects. And Don isn't just playing cards against Willie Nelson, as noted in a terrific Dallas Morning News story on Thursday. He's recharging his batteries, and we grant him that right.

But instead, how about if we go to the Raptors workout for an inside glimpse:

Recently in Buffalo, the Toronto Raptors held two afternoon workouts for nine draft-eligible players (six on Day 1 and three on Day 2). The workouts were held in the states because of what Raptors officials said were visa and passport related problems and issues. They stressed that it had nothing to do with the recent SARS problems in Toronto.

(How convenient for DB.com, where our extensive staff just happens to have a satellite office!)

Former Marquette standout Dwayne Wade (a 6-5 shooting guard projected to be a top-10 guy, pictured) and UCLA’s 6-8 senior Jason Kapono (a lesser light) were two of the individuals that took part in the festivities that were held in the gym of the University of Buffalo. The players went through a 2 1/2 hour workout under the watchful eyes of Raptors scouts as well as assistant GM Bob Zuffelato.

Toronto general manager Glen Grunwald was not in attendance since he’s been a tad busy trying to line up a coach. (Another piece of evidence that the Nelsons’ being spread out might not be so unusual after all.)

The fun got underway as two Raptors assistant coaches put the players through a variety of drills. They were split up most of the time as the big men worked on one side of the court as the guards and small forwards worked on the other. The big guys did more posting up drills while the shooters did just that – shoot. And shoot. And shoot some more.

Which was fine for the first hour but even a gym rat had to have been looking for the no-doze after seeing Wade pull up for another jumper and Kapono line up at the free-throw line for the skillionth time.

There are, of course, NBA rules that dictate certain things that the team can and cannot do during these workouts. One such thing is that they can’t have the kids go through a scrimmage. If the club wants to see some game-type action, 2-on-2’s is the best they can offer.

But even then they can tell a lot about the prospect.

“When you go 2-on-2 you can see how they do in that situation,” said Zuffelato. “You can also tell how they roll to the basket and react to another player. Whether they box out or not. There’s a lot you can find out on 2-on-2.”

Obviously in this setting the attention is put more on individual skills rather than how a player would respond in a 5-on-5 setting. That, according to Zuffelato, puts some pressure on the players and in turn gives the hierarchy a chance to take a peek at the raw talent.

“The individual moves and ability to make shots under pressure, that’s what we’re looking at,” he said. “Even though they’re shooting on their own there’s NBA eyes watching them. And that’s a lot of pressure.”

So much pressure that you could sense some of that in the participants. Even taking breathers and drinking water became a stressful situation in that it seemed like no one wanted to let on that they were gassed.

Or were they?

“I don’t get nervous with these types of workouts,” said Wade. “I just think back about Marquette. There we had some real tough workouts so that’s what helps me out when I go through these. I just try to go to these workouts and do the best I can and do it to the best of my ability.”

After a little break, the players were back on the court, practicing pick and rolls, taking jumpers off the dribble and, of course, shooting more free throws.

“Naw, it’s not that bad,” said Kapono.

Tell that to the some of the student athletes at the university that were dropping by the gym to see future professional basketball players in action, only to be let down by the monotony of the proceedings.

“Not very exciting,” said one.

Even the soccer coach came by but soon left, blissfully not realizing that this was as action-packed as the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Greenville Ave. compared to one of his games.

While all this is happening, a member of the Raptors equipment staff was carrying a clipboard, marking down something for someone. One could only guess what was being written and recorded. Certainly teams can’t take that much stock in this workout, right?

“Actually we do,” admitted Zuffelato. “It’s happened when you become discouraged after seeing the player and not seeing the results. Or you can be extremely surprised like we were with Vince Carter. I mean, he came in and blew us out of the water.

“Damon Stoudamire, our first pick in history, blew us away with his workout, physical-fitness wise and he just shot the lights out.”

Finally, after a 3-on-3 scrimmage (don’t tell David Stern), the players headed off the court to have their blood pressure checked. From there they went to a wall and reached as high as they could as the staff measured their foot-to-fingertip length.

And after answering a few questions from the media, the players and Raptors staff started to disperse. We did the same, but not before hearing the unfortunate words from Zuffelato.

“Same thing tomorrow,” he proclaimed.

Mandyahl
06-14-2003, 01:44 PM
thanks for posting, david...it's interesting to see what is being done in the workouts.