They wake up everyday to get to the gym on time. Daily, they get taped and tie the laces on their sneakers tight. Practice is about to begin. Someone might even have a game tonight.
This isn’t happening here in the United States since the NBA cancelled the preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season. Basketball is being played elsewhere in the world and NBA players are going where the doors aren’t locked.
More than 60 players signed to play overseas while waiting for the lockout to end. The list includes two Boston Celtics. Rookie E’Twan Moore signed a one-year deal with Benetton Treviso. Recently, Avery Bradley signed a one-year contract to play with Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem. Both players signed contracts that include out clauses if the lockout is lifted during the season.
Gilbert Brown, a rookie forward out of the University of Pittsburgh, drew interest from the Celtics before he signed with S. Oliver Wurzburg in Germany.
While Moore and Bradley wait for the NBA, they’re gaining valuable experience that will prepare them better than any opportunities stateside.
It would be easier to join their NBPA brethren playing in exhibitions across the country. It would be so fun throwing alley oops to Kevin Durant. Or maybe hangin’ with Brandon Jennings around California looking for the next hoop hot spot is the way to stay in the game.
But these options have no benefits besides staying in shape. The structure in Euro Basketball will make Bradley and Moore better than the playground-like games they would play if they didn’t take the opportunity to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
Before signing with Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem, Bradley worked out at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas and participated in the Lockout League. But with a shot at becoming Rajon Rondo’s backup, Bradley has to do more than just improve his ball control and jumper. Bradley will make greater strides under the scrutiny of a coaching staff.
Bradley can improve his execution and his understanding of the point guard position with Hapoel Midgal Jerusalem. Bradley probably will never become a true point guard, but he can improve his timing to run plays as drawn. He will play under real pressure to produce in games that actually matter. Bradley wouldn’t get this level of intensity playing in glorified exhibition games.
Most valuable to Bradley will be the scrutiny he gets from a coaching staff. He will get plenty of personal instructions on how to run the offense during practice. As one of the star players, Bradley will get plenty of minutes to apply what he learns in practice to games.
Benetton Treviso is 1-1 after two games. Moore has chipped in an efficient 18 points on 57 percent shooting and eight total rebounds. Offense isn’t expected to be a problem for Moore, as he was good offensively for Purdue. What he is not is gifted athletically.
It’s expected that Moore will struggle defensively once the NBA is back in action. Until that day comes, Moore is adjusting to the European style of play. He won’t be allowed to get as physical as he did during his Big Ten days.
The first seeds of playing defense with your head are being planted in Moore’s brain. Proper positioning and anticipation become more important when you can’t body an opponent to slow him down. With the referees calling games tighter than NBA games, Moore will have to become smarter defensively.
If Moore gets the chance to play regular minutes for the Celtics, he will be better prepared for rookie disrespect and superstar treatment. Becoming a lockdown defender probably isn’t in his future, but Moore can reach a level where he’s not a liability.
One thing for certain is Moore won’t get on the court if he can’t defend. Boston is a defense-first team. Until Moore can play defense at an NBA level, he will remain on the bench. Moore will have a better chance of getting in the game with Boston after studying abroad.
Too bad JaJuan Johnson didn’t go the same route as Bradley and Moore. Boston’s first-round draft pick opted for spending his time working out with respected trainer Tim Grover. Johnson will add weight to his 220-pound frame and try perfecting his all-around game.
But it’s not the same as game action. Johnson can rehearse his improved post game and shoot 1,000 shots a day with a defender on him. He can become automatic in all of his spots with repetition. But can he do it with the game on the line, with three seconds left on the clock, on the road and in front of a raucous crowd? It will be a long wait to see Johnson prove his worthiness. He’s missing out.
The lockout remains in place and pessimism is growing. 100 games have already been cancelled. The next round could extend though Christmas Day, cancelling marquee games: Boston at New York, a rematch of the NBA Finals between Miami and Dallas and Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers.
While hundreds of players wait nervously, basketball is being played elsewhere. Some players have games to look forward to.
Randolph Charlotin writes the sports blog at www.randolphc.com. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.