Posts Tagged ‘Isaiah Austin’

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 204) Featuring Isaiah Austin

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Draft night in the NBA, where hoop dreams are realized, dashed and smashed all on the same night.

For guys like Karl Anthony-Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay and others Thursday night in New York will a night like no other. The pomp and circumstance for the top picks is guaranteed. For those on the fringes, however, there isn’t a more anxiety-filled night in their basketball lives.

Draft projections only matter up until that first name is called and the action kicks off.

That’s when things get real.

Isaiah Austin knows this better than most, having come so close to realizing his dream only to have it snatched away moments before it could be realized. The former Baylor center and projected lottery pick was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects the heart. The diagnosis ended Austin’s playing career.

Credit NBA Commissioner Adam Silver with the save of Draft night last year. He made sure Austin heard his name called, selecting him between the 15th and 16th picks in the first round as an honorary pick for the NBA. Silver made sure Austin was honored properly, complete with the embrace and hat ceremony with the Commissioner for all the world to see.

Austin has since made his mark on the game, continuing his education at Baylor while also working with the program, staying connected to the other players of his generation (Mudiay is one of his closest friends) and serving as an inspiration to others around the world. He details his story in his new book, “Dream Again: A Story of Faith, Courage, and the Tenacity to Overcome,” which was released today.

We talk with Austin, stroll down Draft memory lane (and allow Rick Fox to relive his glory days as the 24th pick of the 1991 Draft — if we re-Drafted today he insists he should be the No. 1 pick over the likes of Larry Johnson, Kenny Anderson, Dikembe Mutombo, HTP fave Steve Smith and several other standouts) and debate the merits of a process with so many built-in pitfalls that no one should have to work under such pressure, and much, much more on Episode 204 of The Hang Time Podcast Featuring Isaiah Austin …



As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of,  Lang Whitaker of’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

VIDEO: Emmanuel Mudiay, a close friend of Isaiah Austin, is easily one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s NBA Draft

Morning shootaround — July 23


Reports: Cavs working to land Love; Bulls join fray? | Report: Mavs to meet with Nelson | Austin says he was offered job with NBA

No. 1: Reports: Bulls making push for Love as Cavs try to seal deal — Yesterday the Cleveland Cavaliers and Utah Jazz pulled off what on the surface seemed to be a minor deal: Cavs guard Carrick Felix heads to Utah in exchange for John Lucas III, Erik Murphy and Malcolm Thomas. But unless you’ve been living on another planet the last few weeks, that deal was done to give Cleveland more salary-cap flexibility so it can work out a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves for All-Star big man Kevin Love. According to’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst, the Cavs are confident they can pick up Love, but the Chicago Bulls are also trying to make a late push to get in on the Love sweepstakes:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are increasingly confident that they will eventually complete the acquisition of Kevin Love, but the Chicago Bulls are making a late push to try to get into the trade mix for the All-Star power forward, according to sources close to the process.

Sources told that the Cavs firmly believe they are progressing toward a trade framework that the Minnesota Timberwolves will accept in exchange for Love and enable Cleveland to pair the versatile big man with Team USA teammate LeBron James.

Cleveland’s offer, sources said, would be headlined by No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, 2013’s No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick, with one source close to the process insisting Tuesday that the Cavs are destined to acquire Love. At least one more player might have to added to the package to satisfy NBA trade rules.

Sources say that the Bulls, though, have re-entered the race and would appear to be the biggest threat to the Cavs thanks largely to the Golden State Warriors’ resolute unwillingness to add longtime Wolves target Klay Thompson in any deal.

Although the full extent of the Bulls’ offer wasn’t immediately known, it is believed Minnesota would seek a package from Chicago featuring forward Taj Gibson and defensive ace Jimmy Butler in addition to other assets. The Bulls shelved their Love interest while trying to sign Carmelo Anthony away from the New York Knicks but, according to sources, have re-emerged as contenders.

The Cavs, though, rocketed to the upper echelon of Love’s wish list of potential trade destinations from the moment James agreed to return to Cleveland. reported this month that even James’ short-term contract with the Cavs — which spans only two seasons and includes a player option to return to free agency next summer — would not dissuade Love from committing to Cleveland.

Wolves owner Glen Taylor insisted again last week that he wanted to keep Love and that Minnesota is prepared to open the season with Love on the roster. But sources say numerous rival teams think  that Minnesota will ultimately part with Love before the start of the new season, given the extremely public nature of Love’s unwillingness to commit to the Wolves beyond this season.

Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Cavs are solely focused on getting Love and are working hard to make that trade happen:

Cleveland has been determined to acquire Love since it signed LeBron James to a free-agent deal.

Those three players can be included in packages as preludes to a Love deal, or in a Love deal itself to give Minnesota salary-cap relief. The Cavaliers hold an interest in keeping Thomas, who could be an inexpensive role player to strengthen their frontcourt depth, sources said.

Cleveland has to be creative in solidifying a deal for Love, who the Timberwolves want to package with Kevin Martin and J.J. Barea, several front-office officials told Yahoo Sports.

Cleveland’s discussions with Minnesota have escalated with the Cavaliers’ willingness to include No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins in the deal, sources said. Without Wiggins, there’s no other combination of Cleveland players and picks that would interest Minnesota. Once Wiggins signs his rookie contract, a trade involving him can’t be formally completed for 30 days.

The Denver Nuggets have remained a strong contender for Love, offering a package that sources said has been the most appealing to Minnesota outside of the Cavaliers and a possible Golden State deal including Klay Thompson. So far, the Warriors have kept Thompson out of their offer to Minnesota.

Minnesota wants a package for Love to include Barea, who has $4.5 million left on his expiring deal – and possibly Martin, who has three years and $21 million left. As part of a larger deal, the Cavaliers want to include 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and a future No. 1 pick for Love.

The Cavaliers have been offering future first-round picks for an experienced center, league sources said.

VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses the latest trade rumors involving Kevin Love

Isaiah Austin: ‘I know I’m going to lead a happy life’

VIDEO: Isaiah Austin chats with NBA TV’s Kristen Ledlow about his future

LAS VEGAS — People who recognized him, even sitting, without Isaiah Austin uncoiled at 7-foot-1, stopped to ask if they could take a picture with him or get an autograph. One lady simply offered a smile and a reassuring arm squeeze.

He is still in a basketball setting, the way it has always been, except that it’s never been like this. Summer League games are being played, he was supposed to be playing somewhere, here or Orlando last week, as a rookie from Baylor, and on top of that, his hometown team, the Mavericks, are playing the Raptors.

Watching from the front row is as close as Austin will get, though. On June 21, five days before the Draft, the projected second-round pick announced through the school that he would be forced to retire after it was learned he had Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that had gone undetected the first 20 years of his life. He had an increased risk of a potentially fatal heart episode on the court without ever knowing.

His career was over in an instant. He was brought to the Draft by the league anyway and given a unique salute when commissioner Adam Silver announced from the podium that the NBA was drafting Isaiah Austin. The crowd at Barclays Center responded with a standing ovation.

Baylor said his scholarship will remain in place and that Austin has an offer to join the coaching staff. As he weighs whether to accept that, though clearly leaning toward it, he came to Las Vegas to work behind the scenes for NBA TV.

Question: When you first got the news, was your reaction as a basketball player about what it means for your career or were you thinking more as a human being and what it could mean for your life?

Answer: Definitely my life. Basketball’s a wonderful game and all, but it’s not worth taking my life and risking it all, playing the game to risk my life for it. That was the first thing that came in my mind. I had been playing for I don’t know how long and my life has been in danger the whole time without knowing.

Q: How much does that scare you now as you think about that?

A: It didn’t really scare me because I have a strong faith and I knew that if my time was going to come then God was going to take me home. But at the same time, I was confused that nobody else caught it at the time.

Q: Do you ever look back now to any moment that you were playing that you may have felt a symptom or a problem coming on and just sort of set it aside as a quick moment?

A: No. I’ve never had any symptom. They told me some of the symptoms of Marfan syndrome are shortness of breath or chest pains, lower back pains. I’ve never had any of those pains while I’ve been playing in my career.

Q: How long did it take you to come to grips with the reality that you’re done with basketball?

A: It happened the first night. It’s reality. It’s not something you play with, something of this stature, messing with your heart. So I knew that right away that my career would end, but at the same time I knew that I can make this into a positive.

Q: Was it that easy to put it behind you? You’re just able to close one door and open another, or have there been days that it’s been difficult?

A: There’s still days that it’s difficult. Even watching these games, watching all these guys compete, I miss it. I miss being out there. I miss competing. I miss all the hustle and all that type of stuff. But at the same time, I’m focused on just staying positive and not trying to sulk in all this.

Q: Is it hard to sit here and watch these games?

A: Not really.

Q: Do you put yourself in position of “I could be out there, I should be out there”?

A: Sometimes I do. I definitely could be out there. I should have been out there. But it wasn’t God’s plan for me to be out there to play, so I’m definitely thankful that it was found out when it was because it did save my life.

Q: Did you give any thought to saying, “I’m going to play anyway”?

A: At first I did. But then I came to reality and I was like I would hate to see one of my fans or one of my family members see me collapse out there on the court.

Q: How long did you think about it and how seriously?

A: A couple days. I was pretty serious. They said I could sign a waiver and still play. But it’s not worth my life. It’s a great game and it teaches you many life lessons, but it’s not worth taking a life for.

Q: Have you had any teams talk to you and say, “If you ever reach a point that medically you feel you’re able to do this, please let us know”? Has there been any communication with any teams about playing one day?

A: No. I haven’t had any communication with any team. The only communication I’ve had with teams were them reaching out to me to give me their condolences. They were telling me they’re sorry that it happened but they were supporting me.

Q: What have you heard from them?

A: They just tell me that I’m a great guy and I’m a genuine dude and they’re supporting me in whatever I choose to do. They all tell me that I’m still a part of the NBA family. I’m thankful.

Q: Have there been one or two calls or letters that have stood out to you and meant the most.

A: Probably the one that meant the most was when commissioner Adam Silver whispered in my ear on stage that I’m always a part of the NBA family.

Q: What did that mean to you at that moment?

A: Everything. It’s always been my dream to become a part of this organization, to be part of the NBA, and he’s making it happen for me.

Q: There was a lot of attention and positive energy that night when they brought you up on stage. When they first approached you with the idea, were you all for it or were you thinking, “I can’t get that close to the NBA and not actually touch it. I just can’t do that”?

A: I was all for it. I’m all about being around the game that I love.

Q: It wasn’t too hard to get so close and not to be able to reach the goal?

A: It’s hard, of course, because I’ve worked my whole life for it. But at the same time, as long as I can be a part of the game in some way or form, I think I’ll be satisfied.

Q: Did the reaction of the crowd that night, and around the country, we assume, based on the reaction from Twitter and some other areas, did it surprise you at all?

A: Definitely. I had no idea that I would have this much support from around the world.

Q: What did that mean to you in a difficult time?

A: Everything. It’s tough to go through something like that, but it makes it that much easier when a lot of people are behind you and supporting you.

Q: When that night is over, you’re back in your hotel room, what’s going through your mind?

A: Man. I was just thankful. I just remember praying that night after I got back to the hotel room. I just remember calling my mom and thanking her and my family for being with me on this journey. I told them that it’s not over and we’re just beginning. It’s a new chapter in my life.

Q: You’re here doing some work for NBA TV. I know Baylor said that it was interested in having you come back to work on the coaching staff. Have you decided what’s next?

A: I am going to go back this fall to finish my degree, and while I’m there I’m thinking about taking the coaching job so I can still be
around basketball.

Q: Haven’t decided yet?

A: Haven’t decided yet.

Q: Is it something that you envisioned yourself getting into one day after your NBA career or you never really thought of coaching before so you need to take some time and decide if it’s what you want to do?

A: I never really thought of coaching but I always knew that I still wanted to be a part of the game somehow or some way, whether it was creating a foundation for the young kids and still being around the game or even having my own basketball camp one day. I am taking this into consideration because it is going to be a great opportunity for me. My brother’s still at Baylor and to still be a part of a great program.

Q: When do you think you’ll decide?

A: In the next week or so.

Q: Do you have a leaning right now? What does your gut tell you?

A: My gut’s telling me to take it because I love the game of basketball and I love teaching.

Q: I get a sense you want to do it.

A: I do want to do it. But at the same time I have to think if I’m going to have enough because I do want to graduate (with a projected 2016 finish) and do as best as I can in my classes.

Q: If there’s no NBA as a player, what do you want to do?

A: Get into public speaking. I want to share my story with as many people as I can and just try to inspire them to push through the obstacles in their lives.

Q: You’re going to bring a lot of attention to awareness and treatment of Marfan. That’s obviously something that is more than a job to you at this point. What message would you like to send to people?

A: Just to stay positive and if you have signs of Marfan to get tested early because it is a life-threatening syndrome and we would hate for anybody to have a fatality because they didn’t get checked out and they continued to play sports.

Q: You’re sounding incredibly positive in what must be a difficult time in a lot of ways because you came so close to one of your goals. Are you positive that you’re going to be as much of a success in another field as you once thought you would be in basketball?

A: Yeah, definitely. I have all the confidence in the world in myself and I know I have the right people around me to be able to become a successful businessman one day.

Q: How does this story turn out?

A: I don’t know. But I know I’m going to live a happy life.

At Draft, time to move on … for most

By Scott Howard-Cooper,

BROOKLYN, N.Y. –- The 76ers want to keep dragging it out, running a Four Corner stall on their fans and whatever portion of the roster actually makes it into uniform. They are now routinely acquiring top prospects on draft night who can’t or won’t play anytime soon, building toward 2017 at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league is moving forward. There was a draft Thursday night at Barclays Center, a trade a few hours earlier and, right in the middle of the first round, a great moment for basketball that wasn’t about basketball at all. A lot of immediate impact was made on a day seemingly about patience.

Stall ball was out. Effects that will be felt in 2014-15 were in.

Even for the sev … en … ty … six … ers.

VIDEOThe Bulls selected Jusuf Nurkic, who was later traded to the Nuggets

The Nuggets make a playoff push

Acquiring Arron Afflalo from Orlando at a very low price — Evan Fournier and No. 56, probably makes Thursday a good day no matter what. But Denver followed up by trading down, turning No. 11 into 16 and 19, and still coming away with Jusuf Nurkic, a lottery candidate and the second-best center prospect in the draft.

Giving up Doug McDermott, the 11th pick, was big when the shooting boost would have helped, but the Nuggets got a lot deeper, more physical and possibly added two starters, Afflalo and Nurkic, a strong inside presence who projects as a dependable big man. The question is whether he will fit with the preferred Ty Lawson/Kenneth Faried up-tempo pace.

Denver missed the playoffs last season by 13 games, a sizable gap to close in the ultra-competitive West. But if Danilo Gallinari is healthy for the start of the season and soon able to play without time restrictions, that’s basically two veteran additions along with first-round picks Nurkic and Harris.

VIDEO: Joel Embiid may be the best talent in the draft … but he may not be able to play for a year

The 76ers’ slow-speed chase

Each addition would have been understandable by itself: Nerlens Noel via the lottery last June despite a knee injury; Dario Saric at 12 this year in a trade with Orlando despite expecting to be in Europe two more years; and Joel Embiid at No. 3 despite recovering from a fractured back and suffering a foot injury that could easily keep him out all 2014-15. They’re all talented players.

But Philly went from the Noel patience play directly into another with Embiid and Saric. The Sixers essentially spent three top-12 picks in two years on players they knew had a chance to miss at least one entire season. Going for the Embiid-Saric double had emerged as a possibility before the draft, except that the Sixers couldn’t really do that before Noel spent a day in uniform. Could they?

They did.

It’s difficult to say a team that went 19-63 may not improve. A franchise that goes backward from that has to be trying to be worse.

But welcome to it. Maybe it pays off in the long (long, long, long) run. The immediate impact, though, is Philadelphia will be very bad again and expect a lot of people to sit through it.

VIDEO: Julius Randle is ready to help out Kobe Bryant in L.A. right away

The Lakers get help now

The Lakers didn’t find a trade to add a veteran to avoid a rebuilding job and Kobe Bryant‘s glare. But Julius Randle was the best possible outcome if they found themselves stuck with the seventh pick.  He can be good now, equipped to stand up physically to most NBA power forwards despite being 19 years old, able to score inside though he played only one season in college.

Randle won’t get outworked, won’t get pushed around and you can throw him the ball in the post. That’s not a bad starting point. The prospect with a high motor just has to add a mid-range game to become a problem of All-Star proportions for defenses.

Randle isn’t just part of the hoped-for bridge to the Lakers’ future. He is someone who can help now. He is one of the leading candidates for Rookie of the Year.

VIDEO: Elfrid Payton figures to make Orlando a much better team next season

Another step forward for Orlando

Needing a point guard after playing Victor Oladipo out of position last season, the Magic got out of the way of the Dante ExumMarcus Smart decision,  instead using No. 4 on power forward Aaron Gordon. Then they circled back for the point guard.

Elfrid Payton, the 10th pick acquired from Philadelphia as part of the Saric deal, was the best true distributor in the draft, impressing teams with size, defense and bursts of speed to be rated behind only top-six choices Exum and Smart at the position. Oladipo will move to shooting guard for his second season, where he will need to relocate the dependable jumper from his college days at Indiana. Gordon steps in at power forward. Nikola Vucevic returns at center. That’s a good foundation for a playoff team.

By late Thursday night, the inexperienced Magic had the chance to immediately become a challenger. Oladipo will defend. Gordon will defend. Payton will defend. Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Kyle O’Quinn and Payton will rebound. This is a building team, and a team building a personality.

VIDEO: Adam Silver welcomes Isaiah Austin to the podium

The commissioner’s credibility boost

Adam Silver, the emcee of the Draft for the first time, didn’t need the votes. He already universally won high marks for the handling of the Donald Sterling ouster, heard plenty of cheers when he appeared on stage to begin the proceedings Thursday (in an obvious jab at predecessor David Stern) and has said and done all the right things since taking over as commissioner in February.

But then came Thursday. Silver, at the podium, announced that the league had drafted Isaiah Austin from Baylor. Austin stood up from his table in the Green Room (actually an area on the floor in front of the stage), accepted a blue cap with the NBA logo on it and everybody stood and cheered.

Less than a week after learning he had Marfan syndrome and that his career was over, the Baylor power forward — projected as a second-round pick — was wiping tears from his eyes as he walked on stage for the traditional handshake and pictures with the commissioner. The audience kept applauding. And when Austin followed that with stops for TV interviews, just like all the other top picks, the draft was halted so people in attendance could hear and allow Austin to promote awareness of the disease.

The league struck exactly the right tone. Everyone came off looking good. It was an immediate impact.