Chiefs' Gonzalez looks good in Heat summer leaguePosted: Wednesday July 10, 2002 7:07 PM
Updated: Thursday July 11, 2002 9:47 AM
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Tony Gonzalez, a tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, showed Wednesday that he can compete in one of the NBA's summer leagues.
Although Gonzalez's shooting was off -- he was 1-of-7 from the field and scored two points -- the three-time NFL All-Pro was all smiles afterward.
"It was fun. I had a great time," said Gonzalez, who played basketball for three seasons at California before opting for the NFL draft. "I was a little nervous at first, but once you go up and down [the court], it's basketball."
Miami assistant coach Stan Van Gundy paid the power forward the ultimate compliment: "If we were flat-out playing, with no other objective than to win, he would be playing [a lot], based on what he showed tonight."
But the five-day Orlando Professional Summer League isn't about winning; it's about giving rookies a taste of pro ball and providing free agents a forum to showcase their skills.
Gonzalez didn't play in the Heat's first game Tuesday. However, he began contributing soon after Van Gundy called his name late in the first quarter.
Gonzalez missed his first two shots, both mid-range jumpers, but he redeemed himself with solid defense in the paint.
Indiana forward Dickey Simpkins, an NBA veteran with three championship rings, got the ball on the high block and tried to shake Gonzalez with a series of head fakes and body pumps. But the 256-pound Gonzalez held his ground and didn't bite on the fakes, and the taller Simpkins was forced to pass.
Simpkins finished with five points, only one coming in the second half when Gonzalez was on him almost exclusively.
After halftime, Gonzalez dominated as Miami came from behind for the win. He had eight rebounds -- three on one possession -- and was the Heat's defensive stopper.
"I think he's great defensively because he's got great speed and great lower-body strength," Van Gundy said. "So, he can hold his position -- nobody's going to move him -- and he's quick enough on rotations and blitzes to be very good."
Gonzalez proved so disruptive, his benching midway through the final period prompted a Pacers scout to shout from relief, "Get him out of there!"
He earned his way on to the Heat's summer team during a tryout camp earlier this month. Miami's team also competes in Long Beach, Calif., next week, and it's undetermined whether Gonzalez will play there before the Chiefs open training camp on July 25.
"But they way I'm thinking now is, if they want me to play, I'll play," he said.
Basketball is, Gonzalez said, neither a last-minute whim nor a ploy to jump-start stalled contract negotiations between him and the Chiefs.
"I didn't decide to do this six months ago," said Gonzalez, who has caught 242 passes over the past three years. "I don't care how gifted your are -- you better put some time, work and planning into this."
In May, Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson angrily publicized the fact Gonzalez had turned down the biggest signing bonus and the most money ever offered a tight end.
A Chiefs spokesman said Wednesday that no coaches or administrators were available to comment on Gonzalez's foray into basketball.
Gonzalez says his love for basketball ranks a close second to football. That's why, he said, he's playing for no money in Orlando while risking an injury that could cost him millions of NFL dollars.
"I'm just trying to make the most of my opportunities in life, and if I have a dream I'm going to go for it," Gonzalez said. "I don't go out there and fear getting hurt, I don't fear going out there and mess up my chance to get a good contract with the Chiefs.
"I'm just letting it all hang out and having a good time."