NBA executives understand why top players skip combine

NBA executives understand why top players skip combine

The NBA Draft Combine is a battleground of sorts for two different yet equally understandable ends of a spectrum, with the draft a matter of weeks away.

There’s the top players who don’t see the need in going through the drills, measurements and competition are on one side, while the executives and scouts who’ve made the trek to Chicago would ideally like to see every available player put on a jersey and go through at least some of the drills.

But prospective top picks Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson and most of the consensus top 10 weren’t in attendance. Fultz came to Chicago but wasn’t at the combine and it presents an issue of sorts.

It was highlighted by Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant blasting the usefulness of the combine as a whole, considering he couldn’t bench press 185 pounds as a skinny teenager from the University of Texas before the 2007 draft.

Durant went second overall and is on his way to a Hall of Fame career, so his words about the memories from what seems to be a humiliating experience holds some weight.

Teams also sit down with players through the week to get a feel for them, something that isn’t guaranteed after the combine considering players can refuse to work out for a team because it isn’t a desirable destination or if they believe the team won’t be in a position to draft them.

CSNChicago.com spoke to several league executives and scouts in attendance, and while the opinions varied, they certainly understood the position players — or more specifically, their agents are in, at least in terms of the workouts.

“I want to see guys compete,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “Even if he misses every shot, going against a guy who’s a mid-round pick and watching how they handle the competition tells you part of their mental makeup. Their body of work won’t be discounted over two days here.”

A Western Conference President agreed but said if he had a son or a client who’s slated in the top 5, he would advise him against coming to the combine.

“It can’t do anything but cost you money. That’s the honest truth,” he said. “We have better just done all of our homework when it comes to making the right selection. It’s on us.”

“I don’t care if they play or do the 5-on-5 stuff,” a longtime executive from a playoff team said. “They’ve done enough through the year, but every team should have physicals from every player available in the draft, whether they work out and play or not.”

It sounds rather simplistic but every team has its own criteria for physicals and if a player refuses to work out for a team, the team is without valuable information that could aid it in selecting or passing up on a top prospect. The NBA doesn’t mandate universal physicals for incoming players and due to college prospects not being members of the players union, it puts the league in a tricky position it can’t control.

Agents can sometimes protect their clients from damaging information getting out, which is why players sometimes slip late in the draft process if a medical evaluation is red-flagged.

Former Celtic forward Jared Sullinger’s back was red-flagged before the 2012 draft, and he went from a lottery selection to being picked 21st. Bulls first-round draft pick Denzel Valentine was thought to be a top-10 selection last year before his knees were deemed a concern for the top teams, as he slipped to the Bulls toward the end of the lottery.

“Tell me one thing they get out of it?” queried a Western Conference executive. “If I was an agent, and I have a guy like Josh Jackson (Kansas), what good is it that Josh Jackson comes in? He’s gonna go in the top 2-3 anyways.”

“He’s not gonna play. None of them are gonna play. He’s gonna interview where he’s (likely) gonna go.”

The draft lottery is next week, where teams will know where they’ll be slotted for the June 22 made-for-television extravaganza. In a spirited conversation between the executive and a former coach, they both seemed to sit on the same side of the fence, while also acknowledging their interests at the same time.

“Here’s the problem the league has, it’s taking control away from them and they don’t like it,” the executive said.

The coach responded.

“If the physical is gonna hurt the agent’s client, why would he give it access to everyone?”

The executive continued.

“And he’ll slide 10 spots and lose out on guaranteed money. But for me, oh yeah, I wanna see everything. I’m not mad at the agents. Everybody’s talking about how it should be, it’s self-serving interests for us. You want access to as much as you can get.”

Kendall Gill, Ice Cube give their predictions for Mayweather-McGregor

Kendall Gill, Ice Cube give their predictions for Mayweather-McGregor

This story originally appeared on Big3.com. Hear from Kendall and Ice Cube as they give their opinions on the Aug. 26 fight in the video above.

Timing really is everything.

When I went to Las Vegas for the BIG3 combine and draft back in April, I liked my chances. Sure, I was one of the oldest guys there, but my training as a boxer (I fought professionally after my NBA days) keeps me in great shape.

So I was pretty shocked when I didn’t get drafted.

I tried to be positive about it. I figured maybe the man upstairs was saying, “Just sit tight. I gotta put you on the right team.”

So there I was, sparring in the gym the other day. I get out of the ring and there’s a text waiting for me from Corey Maggette, asking me if I want to play for Power.

He didn’t have to ask twice!

Next thing I know, I’m getting a call from Power’s coach, Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler. I looked up to Clyde my whole career, looked at him as a big brother. To play for him in the BIG3 is the perfect scenario.

So it was great to be in Philadelphia last Sunday and help Power defeat the Ghost Ballers in my BIG3 debut. I thoroughly enjoyed playing with Cuttino Mobley, DeShawn Stevenson, Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams and Paul McPherson.

I was a bit rusty on the offensive side, but my defense -- which has been a staple for me throughout my career -- my rebounding, passing, that was all on point. I found Cuttino and DeShawn for a couple of shots when we forced them to double-team down on me. I had Mike Bibby on me in the post, and they knew that he probably couldn’t guard me down there.

So it was a pretty good first day. Now that I’ve got that under my belt, here comes the fun part. Everybody was excited when I was finally added to a team, and when they found out we were playing in Chicago they got twice as excited. When I got off the plane from Philadelphia on Monday, I had about 50 messages waiting for me – friends and family asking for tickets to the UIC Pavilion for Sunday’s games.

And since I work Chicago Bulls games for CSN Chicago, the network is excited, too. They want to mic me up and follow me around for the day, go behind the scenes. Radio stations have been calling me for interviews about the BIG3 coming to Chicago. It’s exciting. But when it comes time to play, I’ve got to forget about all that and go out there and play.

A lot of people think I’m biased because I was born and raised here, and still live in Chicago, but if you look at the number of pro players that we’ve produced, there’s really nowhere else that can compare to Chicago as a basketball town. You look at all the number one picks in the draft. Look at the top five picks in the NBA Draft throughout history. I think you’d have to say Chicago is probably the number one producer of NBA players – and college basketball players for that matter.

Only a few fortunate kids make it up the ranks to college and the pros. For most kids growing up in Chicago, at least basketball can be an important recreational activity that helps keep them off the streets and out of trouble. But there’s so much more we can do. When I was preparing for the BIG3 draft, I was practicing with Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education. Duncan, who has played competitive 3-on-3 with USA Basketball, is doing some great work with underprivileged kids in Chicago.

For my part, I donated a home in Champaign-Urbana (home of my alma mater, the University of Illinois). It’s the Cunningham Children’s Home and it helps disadvantaged kids in the region. We just had our annual golf tournament last week. We’ve been doing it for 28 years and have raised more than $1 million for the home.

While Arne Duncan is doing great work with Chicago youth, I’m grateful for the work he put in with me on the basketball court. He showed me a lot about how to cut, do a lot of pick and rolls away from the ball. In 3-on-3, those aspects of the game are very undervalued. Some guys have a tendency to play too much one-on-one, which I saw in some of the other games I was watching Sunday. The 3-on-3 game is very easy if you do it right, like we did. I think that’s why we won that game. We did a lot of cuts, and it worked well for us.

So after the disappointment of not being drafted, I’m thrilled to be where I am now – playing for a Power squad that is 3-1 and looking good for the playoffs. Which got me to thinking…

I really love boxing – not just training and sparring myself, but watching it. Boxing is the sweet science.

If we are fortunate enough to make it to Las Vegas for the BIG3 championship game on August 26, there just happens to be a pretty big boxing match taking place that night, right down the road. You may have heard:  Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor.

Personally, I don’t think McGregor has a chance. I’ve seen Floyd train in person and I’ve seen all his fights at least 10 times. He’s one of the greatest fighters to ever live. Now a guy who has no boxing experience whatsoever is going to get into the ring with him? Not happening.

But it’s gonna be an event. Believe me, I’m planning to buy the Pay-Per-View.

Unless I’m in Vegas that day and get to see it in person. You know, right after we win the BIG3 title.

Wake-up Call: Rose returning to Chicago?; Willson Contreras takes over; State of Cubs-Cards

Wake-up Call: Rose returning to Chicago?; Willson Contreras takes over; State of Cubs-Cards

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Thursday: 

Is #TheReturn getting a reboot? Report says there's a possibility Derrick Rose comes back to Bulls

This is becoming Willson Contreras' team, whether or not Cubs add Alex Avila or another veteran catcher

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

Why Blackhawks fans might want to tap the brakes on Alex DeBrincat

That escalated quickly: Cubs just a game back of Brewers, could be in first place as soon as this weekend

Ping-pong balls everywhere: Where do the Bulls rank among projected lottery teams?

Joe Maddon's prime-time message: 'Help or die'

Report: Derrick Rose is considering teaming up with LeBron James, Cavs

Cubs Talk Podcast: State of Cubs-Cardinals rivalry and what lies ahead

Why Adam Engel came up with his unique batting stance, and how he's tweaked it since