Draft Notebook: NBA workouts beginning to take toll on prospects
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LAS VEGAS -- If Jordan Williams could pull off a Dirk Nowitzki-esque performance right about now, it would provide a much-needed boost to his draft stock.
As he sat courtside at the Impact Academy in Las Vegas on Thursday discussing the newfound rigors that come with this welcome experience, Williams began to resemble the sickly version of the Dallas star that was on display in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
He coughed repeatedly, wiped his nose with a towel, and spoke with a husky and weary voice. Somewhere between Cleveland, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Denver, Indianapolis, New York or perhaps the other locales he'd recently visited but couldn't seem to recall, the team workouts that are so key to a young player's prospects began to wear him out.
"I'm good," insisted the big man out of Maryland who is expected to be taken in the second round. "I'm just a little overtired, a little run down. I've got to rest up and I'll be good. I've been with eight or nine different teams ... It's tough."
And it's even harder for the players who have so much more to prove.
There is typically a direct correlation between where a player is projected and how many workouts he'll take part in. While the lottery types can set their own schedules and be selective about which teams they will work out for, others like Williams and former Tennessee teammates Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris don't have the same luxury.
They need to do as many hoops job interviews as possible, giving the cliche 110 percent at every stop while hoping to find the one team that falls in love with their talents. But the drastic change in lifestyle is nothing to sneeze at for the players themselves.
Giving in to the fatigue factor could spell disaster for a player's value, as the talent evaluators aren't grading on a curve no matter how many workouts a prospect has endured. Players like Harris and Williams have an even greater challenge, as they're both big-bodied young men who need a regimented diet to stay in playing shape. Life on the road, of course, doesn't make that very easy.
"You learn to take care of your body, watch what you eat, eat the right foods and really prepare yourself for each workout going in, have the right mindset, have the right focus," said Harris, the 18-year-old, 6-foot-8 forward who trimmed down from 238 pounds to 223 this season after an ankle injury led to an increase in weight. "The main thing with me is eating enough food and continuing to eat once you're traveling and getting tired, staying hydrated."
Williams, who is listed at 6-9 and 250 pounds, is struggling to keep his weight down while on the road.
"I can look at food and gain weight," Williams said of his metabolism. "I gained ... three or four pounds traveling on the road. It's been tough, because here [while working in Las Vegas] I was in a routine every day, eating the same things every day, same habits every day.
"To go from that to being on the road, where you're always picking up something quick -- you can't ever make a meal like you can out here. It's definitely tough. Really, really tough."
Hopson -- who has had workouts in Minnesota, Houston, Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey, and has Boston, Miami and Sacramento coming up next -- is embracing the experience.
"I enjoy it," said the likely second-rounder. "I always loved traveling. There's a little fatigue, but if you set your mind to it, get your rest, eat right, and do the proper things necessary as a pro, you'll be fine."
For Mark Payne, it's the uncertainty that is so unnerving. The 6-7 point guard who played five seasons at UC Davis would be ecstatic if he is selected in the second round, and he'll get his chance to make that happen in upcoming workouts with Cleveland (54th pick) and Sacramento (60th).
And while his travel schedule isn't nearly as hectic as most of his counterparts, this month has been a major adjustment nonetheless.
"It's a little stressful some times, just because for the last five years I knew my routine," said Payne, who has been training at the Impact Academy for the last seven weeks but was scheduled to travel to Davis on Friday for his college graduation. "Now it's just like I could be anywhere. I could [play] in a different country [next season], could be in Cleveland. I just kind of want to know where I'm going to end up."
Kawhi Leonard continues his impressive rise up the draft board ranks, and his workout in Washington on Tuesday continued his ascent.
The 6-7 small forward out of San Diego State had a strong performance with the Wizards at the expense of Texas small forward Jordan Hamilton, this after playing well in his first workout in Charlotte on Sunday. He has scheduled workouts in Cleveland on Monday, Toronto (No. 5) on Wednesday, Sacramento on June 17 and Utah (No. 3 and No. 12) on June 19.
When Leonard was still undecided on his future during the Aztecs' run to the Sweet 16 in March, he was considered a mid- to late-first-round pick. His consistent shooting, ball handling and offensive awareness have helped his case, but it's his ability to defend multiple positions and rebound at a high level that has NBA executives deeming him one of the few prospects who could contribute immediately on most teams.
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