By James P. Hill
Every summer, people from all over the world travel to Memphis to party on Beale Street, search for Elvis Presley, or just eat barbecue. And for the second time in as many years, at least 19 professional basketball players have traveled to Memphis to take part in the Grizzlies' summer camp.
Jerry West, Grizzlies president of basketball operations, explains why summer leagues are great for free agents, rookies, and veterans alike. "We want to get a read on our younger players and any player we want to invite to training camp," says West. "We have a bunch of veteran players here, but it's still to be determined who and what we need to do with some of our other free agents."
As Grizzlies management continues its makeover of the roster, basketball standouts from leagues worldwide are here, hoping for a chance to prove themselves. You know about Drew Gooden (fourth pick overall out of Kansas) and Robert Archibald (second-round selection from Illinois), but there are several players at camp you may not be too familiar with, such as 6'5" guard Rico Hill (Illinois State).
"I was fortunate enough to be drafted in 1999," Hill says. "I went in the second round [to the Clippers]. But my mentality wasn't where it needed to be and I took my opportunity for granted. I got cut and I got a lot of bad rumors put on my name because of that," he adds, shaking his head. "I want to reach my full potential, and until I sign, I'm not gonna stop working. And when I sign, it's gonna get that much stronger. I'm just hungry."
Gooden may be a lottery pick with a guaranteed contract, but he's also excited to be in Memphis and wants to improve his game on the hardwoods. The former college All-American has already set some goals for his new team. "I want to just show guys I can play at this level, " says Gooden, "and make a statement that we are a team that can make the playoffs next year."
For the Grizzlies' coaching and scouting staff, summer camp and games are a great way to measure the potential, progress, and skill levels of several players in a short period of time. "Drew and Robert will be involved in those games right away, and I think it's a great learning experience for them," says Tony Barone, Grizzlies director of player personnel. "Shane [Battier] did a great job last year in the summer because he could come and play. Pau [Gasol] couldn't [get here]," says Barone.
This year's camp format is called "daily doubles." Players work out for two hours in the morning and for another two hours in the afternoon. Fatigue can be a factor for players who are not used to the grueling NBA workouts.
"You're starting to see which guys prepared for this and which guys took it for granted," says Hill. Hill played for the Dakota Wizards in the CBA last season, averaging 11.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and 3.7 apg.
According to Grizzlies team officials, only 12 players will be selected to represent the team during summer-league competition. The Grizzlies begin playing games July 7th in the Southern California Pro Summer Basketball League held annually on the campus of California State University-Long Beach. The Grizzlies first game? The Los Angeles Lakers, featuring rookie Kareem Rush out of Missouri.
Memphis will also play in the Rocky Mountain Review Summer League held annually in Salt Lake City, Utah. The schedule has Memphis playing Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, the L.A. Clippers, Portland, Cleveland, Utah, Chicago, and Denver. The games will be something of a barometer for the talent the team has assembled. But for most of these players, the goal is not so much winning as being invited to remain in Memphis for fall camp.
By Ron Martin
John Daly's down-to-earth personality makes it easy to like him. It's a Southern thing. His "you never know what you're going to get" life is just as compelling. It's a human thing.
The moment Daly set foot on the grounds of the TPC at Southwind for the FedEx St. Jude Classic last week, he was the crowd favorite. If he had received a cut of the gate, it would probably have surpassed his week's prize money. When he finished his round Saturday, most of the fans deserted the course. Only a sprinkling of spectators remained at 18 when the leaders approached. They came to see Daly and got what they paid for -- almost. If they came to see a train wreck, they saw one; if they came to see him give it his best shot, they should ask for a third-round refund.
Daly's third-round collapse was more than a matter of losing his game. He lost his will to play. By the ninth hole, Daly was just walking the course, hesitating for brief moments to hit his ball. The only thing he was aiming for was finishing -- and getting into the clubhouse. He paused longer to sign autographs at the 18th hole than he did when he addressed the ball. If this were a baseball game, he would be the player who failed to run out a grounder. Oddly, if this were a baseball game, he would have been booed. But this is golf; Daly's lack of concern for the ticket-buyer was mostly met with polite applause -- and some quiet grumbling.
When he left the final green on Saturday, you had to wonder if he would even wake up in Memphis on Sunday, much less return for his final round. He did show up, and, for that, he should be given a little credit, even though he played the round as though his pants were on fire and with little or no regard for his score. A man who cared what people thought about him would have been embarrassed, but Daly has never worried about what people think of him.
He proved that with his lack of professionalism during the third and fourth rounds of the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Daly played Sunday without a partner. When he finished, less than two hours later, he was still alone and alone in last place. There wasn't much of a gallery to witness the debacle, at least not when compared to earlier rounds. Apparently, a 7:45 a.m. tee time is too early for Daly's fans, even those who come to see the train wreck.