The Sixth Man (cont'd)
The 6-foot-9 Frenchman is averaging 17.5 points and eight rebounds as his Wizards try to survive injuries to John Wall and Nene. Seraphin, 22, played in the Olympics for France last summer.
He was introduced to basketball as a 14-year-old in French Guiana.
"I used to play soccer," he said, "and one day I was at the school and somebody asked me if I wanted to try basketball. And I just say, Yeah, why not? I was tall, I was 6-foot-4 maybe.
"But I was not taking basketball seriously at first because I wanted to be a fireman. It was because one time I saw them save somebody who got in a crash on the motorway. And I was like, Yeah, I want to be like them. And I wanted to become a fireman.''
He was playing for the youth team of French Guiana when he accepted an invitation to enter a basketball academy in Cholet, France. "First I was shooting almost like Rashard Lewis,'' said Seraphin, coiling his hands back behind his head in demonstration. In Cholet, they taught him to shoot as he does today, releasing the ball straight above his cocked right elbow.
He learned to respect demanding coaches.
"When I was young, my dad and my mom were really tough with me," he said. "If somebody was not tough with me when I was young, I didn't really respect them. So my parents were tough with me, and then I had a coach from Turkey my first year, a professional coach, and it was hard to deal with him. He was a coach that, if you're hurt and if you don't have blood or something like that, you can play -- you know what I mean? Then I got a Serbia coach, and he was crazy, too. And now I got [Wizards coach Randy] Wittman, and I had Flip [Saunders].
"So that's OK for me. I know they're doing the best for me."
He was losing confidence until last January, when Wittman replaced Saunders.
"I wasn't playing, then Wittman becomes the coach," Seraphin said. "He tells me, 'Now is your time. You have to play now.' I'm an opportunity guy, so if I get an opportunity I will take it, for sure."
Seraphin averaged 14.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 21 starts last season, including a handful of those games alongside March trade acquisition Nene, whose style Seraphin had tried to emulate over the previous two years.
"We are both mobile, both big, we have movement," Seraphin said of the agility they both developed before they learned to play basketball. "We have almost the same story: He used to play soccer before, and I played soccer, too."
He loves basketball ... maybe too much.
The best thing about being an NBA player?
"The life," Seraphin said. "Everybody looks at you like you're their hero, so that's a good feeling. You can't complain about the life. You got money, you got everything, so you have just to enjoy it. That's why I don't want to mess up that. Just be a good guy, just play, just do what they want you to do. I enjoy everything. My life is good.
"I love basketball, for sure. During the summer some players told me, 'You have to stop playing,' because they don't want me to get too much basketball. But I can play all summer. When we finish the Olympics, I take three days and then I have to play again. Because I love basketball too much."
"It's just that now you treat everybody like they have on white gloves and pink drawers. It's just getting old, but it's just the way the league is now.''
-- Hornets coach Monty Williams, referring to the policy that forces him to bench rookie Anthony Davis, who suffered a concussion
Williams would go on to explain last Saturday that he understood the logic of erring on the side of caution when dealing with players who suffer a concussion.
"When you're dealing with the brain, I guess what's happening in football, it's impacted everybody,'' said Williams who was fined $25,000 for his comments. "I'm not saying I don't like it -- we've got to protect our players. I'm sure I had four or five concussions. When I played, it didn't bother me. The NBA is doing what's necessary to protect the players, but this is not the NFL. You don't get hit in the head that much. I understand it, but as a coach I'm a baby about it. I want my guys ready to play.''
People in the NBA have an opportunity to show leadership on behalf of players, coaches and administrators in high school and younger grades. While Williams meant no harm, his statements demonstrated that coaches and players in all of the pro leagues -- led by the NFL -- are going through a transition of understanding brain injuries. The old approach of playing through concussions is worse than unacceptable. It is dangerous.
NBA coaches and players need to show an understanding that concussions are more serious than other injuries. They should make it clear that courage and masculinity are no longer relevant to players who are dealing with brain injuries. Young people are particularly susceptible to long-term damage from concussions, and NBA coaches and players need to do more to help create awareness among the players, youth coaches and administrators who look up to them.
Miami at Memphis, Sunday, 6 p.m. ET. An NBA scout breaks down this matchup of the Grizzlies' size vs. the Heat's perimeter stars.
"The Grizzlies are pretty good when they're playing through Marc Gasol and he's passing out of those double teams," the scout said. "He's good enough to hold deep position, he can step out to hit face-up jumpers, and he can hit the cutters. He won't take the ball into trouble on the dribble; instead, he'll take what the double team is giving him and pass out of it.
"If the Grizzlies play through Gasol and the ball is moving, then I've got to believe the Heat are going to have to double-team inside. Because Chris Bosh is going be on Gasol, which means Shane Battier is probably going to be starting on Zach Randolph. Z-Bo is a bull down there under the basket, and I don't know how Battier is going to guard him.
"Miami has some big guys on the bench that they don't tend to use, but I'm pretty sure that they'll have to use them in this game. They might think they can play LeBron [James] at the 4 -- but not against this team, because I think he'll be in trouble trying to guard Z-Bo. Z-Bo is a bear with his back to the basket in the low post. I think Memphis will have him attacking Battier if Miami starts it that way.
"Then it will be the exact opposite deal at the other end -- Memphis will have to get back in transition, and Z-Bo will have to get out to the perimeter because that's where Battier will be. This will be a test of the two philosophies and which one can exist longer.
"I think Miami's the better team, obviously. They're as good as they were last year. For them, this season is going to be about their ability to focus and complete the schedule and be physically and mentally ready come playoff time. But for this one game, if Miami isn't hitting jump shots, then the team with the post-up players will win."
Former Lakers guard Derek Fisher has long been considered a future candidate for public office (if his contentious experiences as union president haven't drummed the interest out of him). Here are current NBA players who appear to be suited for campaigning in the next decade or two.
C Spencer Hawes ... an outspoken conservative
F Shane Battier ... a future senator?
F Grant Hill ... a future governor?
G Steve Nash ... easy to imagine him running for office in Canada
G Chris Paul ... has the personality of a mayor
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Johan Franzen scores two as Red Wings pound Devils in Detroit