Prospects get prodded before being picked in NBA draft

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 26, 2014 - 12:01 AM

UCLA point guard Kyle Anderson doesn’t seem thrilled to be saddled with the nickname “Slo-Mo.”

Photo: Julie Jacobson • Associated Press,

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NBA team representatives have endlessly interviewed and measured, poked and prodded every prospect for Thursday night’s draft, some of their ploys more memorable than others.

Oklahoma City General Manager Sam Presti tested the court sense of interviewees at last month’s Chicago draft combine.

“They handed me a marker and said, ‘There’s five seconds to go, you’re down by two, make a play,’ ” Duke small forward Rodney Hood said.

So did Hood draw up a play for the point guard to win the game?

“I had to go with me,” he said, smiling.

A Memphis executive asked Michigan shooting guard Nik Stauskas something about a baseball bat and a baseball and the cost differential between them if one was worth so much.

“I don’t think I got it right,” Stauskas said. “It’s a weird question. Some things you just need to see on paper.”

And the Timberwolves were at the frontcourt in those Chicago interviews, asking pretty much every prospect out of the blue during a conversation how many pennies are in a million dollars.

“I said a lot,” Arizona forward Aaron Gordon said. “They timed me. After 22 seconds, I said 100 million.”

So just what’s the point?

“I think they ask it just to see if you went to class,” Hood said.

Lending a helping hand

NBA scouts might question Michigan State’s Adreian Payne’s old age — he’s 23, you know — but they don’t question the bounce or the reach of the “stretch” power forward and his 7-4 wingspan.

Those long arms have led him to the NBA, and provided a life spent helping people reach items high on a shelf.

“Yeah, I have people always ask me to do things like that,” Payne said. “You know, I’m a nice guy, so I help them out.”

What’s in a nickname?

UCLA’s Kyle Anderson in a unique player in this draft: A point guard in a power forward’s body who impresses with his vision and playmaking despite a lack of athleticism that has given him this nickname:

Slo-Mo.

“I couldn’t tell you who was the first one,” Anderson said, referring to who started calling him that.

Do they call the potential mid-first round pick Slo-Mo because of the way he moves or the way the 6-9 point forward sees the game?

“Um, I’ll take it as how I see the game,” he said, not sounding very certain with his answer. “That’s the positive way of looking at it.”

Perks of the job

Prospects’ path to Thursday’s draft isn’t all early-morning flights and countless workouts leading to their big night.

Kentucky forward James Young — whom the Wolves will consider if they keep their 13th overall pick — sat next to singer Rihanna in courtside seats at a Brooklyn playoff game in April, and photographers captured images in which he appears to be staring at everything but her eyes.

“It made it look like I was staring at her, but I wasn’t,” said Young, a 6-7 swingman who was at the game being wooed by Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports agency. “I was staring at the ground. I talked to her a little bit. She’s real nice and real sweet.”

Above the crowd, really

This year’s draft offers three prospects — Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid and Duke’s Jabari Parker, in no particular order — who stand out from the rest.

None of the three appeared at last month’s Chicago draft combine, but Wiggins’ camp made sure he wasn’t forgotten when they tweeted a photo of him one day that week displaying his 44-inch vertical leap.

“Crazy, I retweeted it,” said fellow Canadian Stauskas, revealing perhaps one of the biggest signs of respect given from his generation. “He’s a freak athlete. I’ve seen him since he was 13. He was doing that when he was 13. That’s when I knew he was special. We’ll see it soon enough, when the summer league and the season come around.”

For the Birds

Creighton’s Doug McDermott is the next in a growing line of top draft prospects being compared to the great Larry Bird because, well, probably because they’re both white.

McDermott said he understands the tendency to compare him to other shooters such as Kyle Korver and former Wolves star Wally Szczerbiak, but he won’t make the leap to Bird.

“I’ve heard that, but they’re crazy,” said McDermott, a 6-8 forward who played for his father at Creighton and posed with cheerleaders for a Sports Illustrated cover that replicated one Bird posed for when he starred at Indiana State long ago. “There’s not enough Larry Bird, I don’t think in my mind. If I could do half of what Larry’s accomplished, I’d be just fine.”

McDermott could be selected as high as ninth overall to Charlotte.

 

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