HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’ve got dreamers, late-bloomers, trail blazers and twins, oh and at least two guys — Kyrie Irving and to a lesser extent Derrick Williams — who are supposed to be franchise saviors.
The NBA Draft is the gift that just keeps on giving, year after year and player after player. The 2011 edition was no different, with tons of colorful sorts from lands near and far joining the party.
The rookies, whether they realize it or not, will probably never be more entertaining than they are right now and in the next few months, when all of this is still new to them, before they are no longer blinded by the lights, cameras and non-stop action that is the daily grind of NBA life.
Of course, we are not talking about Wizards rookie Jan Vesely, who seemed more than a little bit comfortable with the bright lights shining on him and his girlfriend, Eva Kodouskova, on draft night.
But even without the cameras around, the new guys can’t help but make you smile. Because rookies say the darndest things sometimes. After spending a few days with them leading up to the big night, we gathered a couple of examples to share with you:
“Well, I truly believe that Duke is a professional program. The way we prepare, practice, we practice like professionals and that’s what he taught me and that’s what I’m going to carry to the next level is how to prepare like a professional: Countless hours of film, breaking things down in practice, preparing for the next team, thoroughly. There’s not one team that I thought we were unprepared for, even when I was hurt.
“So being a part of the Duke program and shadowing the coaches when I was hurt, I really learned a lot how to prepare like a professional. When I was playing it was a little different, because things were happening really fast. But when I was hurt, things ‑‑ it slowed down for me. So I really got a chance to learn from them, learn from the coaches especially.”
— Irving on why Duke is such a great training ground for future professionals
“I grew up watching him and Magic mostly, and those are two guys that I just tried to emulate growing up. There’s a lot of things that you have jet to see from me, I feel like, especially just in this game of basketball, it’s a little different in college. I feel like this NBA level is something I was made for and something I dreamed about and something I’m going to take full advantage of.”
— Wizards rookie Chris Singleton on the comparisons he’s made about himself and six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen on the defensive end
“I do. Scoring. He can definitely defend, but you know, he’s ready to put the work in. We’re ready to get better every day, like last year when we were at Kansas.”
— Suns rookie Markieff Morris when asked if he thought his brother Marcus compared favorably to Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony, a comparison Marcus made, and would be a “superstar” in the NBA
“Basketball is a little down in Czech. I hope in a few years, it will get better. This is a chance to make basketball a little more popular in Czech. I’m happy to be here. I will work hard for country.”
— Vesely, who responded to a question about being the “European Blake Griffin” by calling the Clippers’ rookie All-Star the “American Jan Vesely,” on being a trail-blazer for Czech basketball
“Similar attributes in Deron Williams. He’s about my size, uses the crossover really well; the crossover step-back. I watched him a lot being in Utah. I watched him play, so I tried to emulate his game, and obviously a very good point guard. And somewhat of a Steve Nash, how he can get a shot off quickly, and especially in the lane, shooting up those different types of shots that I have in my arsenal. So those guys. I’m not at their level yet, but some of their stuff is in my game.”
— Kings rookie Jimmer Fredette when asked to compare himself to current players in the league
“I don’t really say that about any NBA player, to be honest with you. I look at a lot of players, study them and admire what they do. For me to say ‘I want to be exactly like him,’ I never really do that. I admire what Dwyane Wade does, because I’m from the area that he plays in. I admire Steve Nash, and his ability to think the game through. As far as athleticism, I admire Derrick Rose and his ability to create, with how fast and explosive he is.”
— Pistons rookie Brandon Knight on current players he admires and emulates
“Philly is on our back right now. We are going to try to bring Philly back. I have another Philly teammate in Kyle [Lowry], and it’s funny, I texted Kyle right before the Draft and I said, “Tell them whenever you can, get me over there,” and he said to me, “I’m trying, I’m trying,” and it ended up in a good favor. Philly is Philly. That’s my hometown. It made me what I am today.”
— Rockets rookie Marcus Morris on he and his brother Markieff carrying the banner for tradition-rich Philadelphia
“He makes them a lot better. Even though he has not played any games over here yet, when you have a pass‑first point guard on your team, he wants to make you better. Whenever you have a guy like that, it just brings joy to me; a guy that can get to the lane and kick out who wants to pass you the ball. He doesn’t really care about points. And that’s what I like about him. I know we are going to have a big season this year, and hopefully win a lot more games than last season.”
— Timberwolves rookie Derrick Williams on why Ricky Rubio, who also has yet to play a single second of NBA basketball, makes Minnesota more appealing
“I’m just really looking forward to playing against everybody. I really dreamed about playing on the floor with great players, and I’m playing with the best of the best every night. You know, one night, I’ll have Kobe [Bryant], and the next night I’ll have Kevin Martin and the next night I’ll have Stephen Curry. All of these players that I’ve really grown up and been fond of and now they are going to be competitors with me, so I’m really looking forward to that.”
— Irving on the players he is most looking forward to playing again, grouping Bryant, Martin and Curry together for what has to be the very first time in a response to that question
“First, I wanted to say that this was by far the greatest moment of my life. When I heard my name called, I was just going to hold myself, I had to cry a little bit and hug my parents and my agent. It was a great feeling. I’m looking forward to the next step now. It’s just starting now and I’m going to work as hard as I ever did now to play at the next level.”
— 76ers rookie Nikola Vucevic on his initial reaction to being drafted with the 16th pick
“It’s a dream come true, and I have to thank God for blessing me and bringing me a long way. And also Michigan and Coach and everyone else that has helped me to get here. When I heard my name finally called, it was a relief, but also at the same time, definitely put a chip on my shoulder, getting picked 41st, but that’s just the story of my life. Never been a favorite, but always been one of the best. So I’m excited about the future.”
— Lakers rookie and Los Angeles native Darius Morris on his basketball career coming full circle