Draft Diaries

Draft Diaries: C.J. McCollum

Adam Silver and C.J. McCollum

NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver is interviewed by Blazers rookie C.J. McCollum.

By C.J. McCollum, for NBA.com

NBA Draft week was a crazy, hectic, but ultimately, life-changing experience. Selected No. 10 by the Portland Trail Blazers, everything got off to a running start, but I still had a lot of questions about my rookie year and life in the NBA. On the day of the Draft, I had the special opportunity to get some answers directly from the best source and ask incoming NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on behalf of #DraftDreams, a site chronicling my journey and the journey of six others to the NBA Draft. Read more at www.draftdreams.com.

The interview with Adam wasn’t the first time I put my college degree to use as I have reported for NBA.com and Sports Illustrated before, but this was definitely a new challenge. Adam graciously took the time to talk to me and share his thoughts about hoops, rookie advice, fashion, the future of the league and how to continue honing my journalism skills. It was an amazing experience and I wanted to share our conversation with you, but first, here are the five most important takeaways I learned.  You can read the rest of the conversation after the jump.

1. He has an Instagram account! Follow him @adamsilvernba – there are some really cool photos on there  — he clearly has the best access in the NBA and some great behind the scenes shots.

2. If Adam didn’t work at the NBA he’d be in Silicon Valley at a Tech startup. Technology is so important to everything we do.  I am definitely on the same page there.

3. A good business lesson he passed on to me from Commissioner David Stern is to practice ‘execution and detail’.  Adam learned from David this great business advice as no detail is too small and you can’t cut corners.  That’s true in basketball as well as the boardroom.

4. Adam’s favorite pastime is playing catch with his three and-a-half year old Labrador, Eydie. I wish I could have a dog, but right now I wouldn’t be able to take care of it.  Adam confirmed it’s a lot of work.

5. If I were Adam’s son, “CJ McSilver“, he would have a preference on which NBA team I should play for because he has no favorite NBA team – every team has its advantages and disadvantages. That may be true, but Portland is definitely going to be a team to beat next year! 

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Check out our full conversation below:

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C.J. McCollum: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. While I have my degree in journalism and used to write and edit for my college newspaper, this is obviously my first time interviewing a future commissioner.

Adam Silver: Thanks for being here and congratulations on your degree in journalism!

CM: Thank you. Let’s get started. As a rookie just entering the NBA, what do you think will be my biggest challenges? Do you have any advice you can offer me?

AS: I think the biggest challenge is how much longer and more difficult the schedule is than college, the wear and tear on the body. Most rookies tend to hit a wall around March because your body is accustomed to only playing hard for so long. Because it’s an 82-game season, you have to be sure to pace yourself throughout the year. There is an extensive travel schedule, and the level of competition is the best in the world. There is a lot to absorb, and there is a lot of activity and distractions around the league. David Stern always says to focus on three things: nutrition, sleep and your game. Everything else can potentially be a distraction.

CM: I graduated from Lehigh with a degree in journalism. What do you suggest I do to hone in on and further develop my skills in journalism?

AS: One of the things I’d suggest you do is exactly what you are doing now. Use that degree while you play in the NBA. So that would mean taking advantage of opportunities to do interviews, whether they are with league executives, teammates, maybe fans and celebrities who follow the game. Use the access that you get by the virtue of being a player in the league. Write as much as you can. I think that writing is a muscle — same thing as working out — and I think if you find opportunities to write blog entries, stories and essays throughout the year that it would be great for you. I think that most great writers are also great readers, so I recommend reading as well.  The discipline of writing and sharing what you write with other journalists and writers and asking for feedback, is like asking others to give you feedback on your game. It’s the same thing.

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CM: Thank you, that’s really good advice.

My family has been watching the NBA Draft together for years, and this time I will actually be there! We always see you come out to announce the second round and everyone cheers. Who do you think is going to take over the second round once Commissioner Stern retires and you replace him?

AS: It’s a great question because David still has seven months or so left as Commissioner. We haven’t really focused on my successor or the succession plan. I’ll step into the role of getting the boos and someone else will step into the role of getting the cheers.

CM: After working alongside Commissioner Stern for so many years, is there any advice he has given you to help make the transition easier?

AS: One of the things I take from David — and I’ve worked for him for over 20 years — is what he refers to as ‘execution and detail.’ He is an extraordinarily hardworking person with very high standards for all of the people that work with him, and what I’ve learned is that no detail is too small, that you can’t cut corners; not any different than what I’m sure you’ve learned as a basketball player. You get out of it what you put into it. And so I’ve learned from David that you need to be passionate about what you do, and you can never let up because you never know when that critical time will come, when if you’re not paying absolute attention, you’ll slip up. I’ve learned that and so many other things from David, and I’ve been fortunate to work under him for over 20 years now.

CM: If you weren’t involved with basketball and the NBA, what would you do?

AS: I see you’re reading your questions off your iPad. I love technology. I have my iPad, iPad mini, iPhone and Mac laptop. Because I love technology, I think if I were not at the NBA, I would try to be part of a tech startup company. I enjoy my trips out to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Technology is changing the world, it’s changing our sport, it’s changing the way people are following the NBA. We have fans all over the world that are going to be watching you play on their smartphones as opposed to on a big television. If I weren’t at the NBA, I would be involved with a technology company of some sort.

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CM: What social media are you involved in? As the future Commissioner, do you have a Twitter account? Who do you follow?

AS: I have a Facebook page, and I post a lot of photos on it. I do the same with Instagram because, for example, at The Finals, I get this really special access that I’m sure fans would love to have … the equivalent of a backstage pass. You get to see guys warming up or you get to see guys greeting each other, legends in the green room or whatever else. I like to post a lot of that content. I have a Twitter handle, but right now it’s anonymous because I’m not tweeting. But I do follow about 150 people. If you have a handle I’m going to start following you. It’s a great way to hear directly from players or others in real time what their feelings are about an event. Often, when I’m watching a game, I can sort of see if there is a controversial call or just an incredible play. It’s the equivalent of almost being in the arena and getting the reaction of the crowd.

CM: Taking you back a little … Before Commissioner Stern put the dress code in place, players were wearing du-rags and large chains. I’d like to know how you would you grade my fashion?

AS: Before this interview started — and I mention this so people don’t think this is a setup — I complimented you on your vest. You definitely get an A. I don’t know if I could match checks and plaids the way you have, you’ve got to have a special touch to do that. Actually, I’d probably give you an A+, not just an A. I’m a little old school, everything’s got a looser fit, but you’re in style because everything is a little tighter and that’s the look. But as you go through the NBA training regimen, you’re going to have to leave a little room in the chest and shoulders.

CM: As you know, I went to Lehigh University. I have to bring this up. Did you watch the game where we beat Duke, your alma mater? Are you still a Duke fan?

AS: Yes, I watched that game. And yes, I’m a Duke fan. You scored 30 points. I remember the game, and, well, the best team won. But that was a devastating loss for us. I’m a huge Duke fan. I obviously went to Duke, am a big fan of the program and Coach K, and I enjoyed working with Coach K and his assistants on the USA Basketball program over the last several years.

CM: Sorry, didn’t want to bring it up, but I had to do it (laughing).

CM: Coming in as the Commissioner, is there anything in the NBA you would like to see changed or run differently?

AS:  Well, since I’ve been part of this for so long, if there were something I would have really wanted to see changed, hopefully I would have worked to change it. All I have to say at this point is that I have huge, huge shoes to fill with David Stern stepping down. I’d only be so lucky to continue to grow it in the way that David has over the past 30 years.

CM: What do you like to do for fun or in your spare time?

AS: In my spare time, and you can tell this is my labor of love, because in my spare time I enjoy watching basketball and not just NBA basketball. I watch college basketball and sports in general. I’m also a runner. I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan near Central Park, so I try to squeeze in runs through Central Park when I can. I have a 3-1/2-year-old Labrador named Eydie, so we go to the park as much as we can. She’s coded to retrieve tennis balls, so she gets mad at me when I’m not throwing them.

CM: I want to get a dog, but right now I do too much traveling.

AS: Yeah. After you get a chef, then your next purchase might be multiple dog walkers. It’s a big undertaking.

CM:  Here is my last question. If I were your son, CJ McSilver, what team would you want me to play with? What organization from top to bottom would be best?

AS: It’s a tricky question because I love all my teams equally and I really mean it. I think every city has advantages and disadvantages. I’m a big believer in culture, and one of the things we’ve been able to achieve through collective bargaining and revenue sharing is putting each team in a position where, if they are well-managed and create the right culture, they have an opportunity to win. We’re really proud of that.

Some small market teams have big advantages because they are the only major league team in town, so they draw an enormous amount of attention. San Antonio and Oklahoma City may fall in that category, and then you have big city teams like Chicago and New York. But in big city teams you have that many more distractions; not just for the players, but for the fans too because there are so many different entertainment options competing for their time. I’ve been with the league over 20 years, I’ve known players at every team, I’ve known lots of owners, and lots of general managers. I don’t think there is one single formula for success. I think it’s a fantastic 30-team league, and I know you’re going to make the most of any team you’re on and have an incredible career.

CM: Thank you, I appreciate it.

AS: No problem. Good luck!

Draft Diaries: Anthony Bennett

stern-bennett

By Anthony Bennett, for NBA.com

A Draft Dream

I was extremely excited – and a little bit shocked – when I heard my name called as the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft! Before the Draft, a lot of people were saying there wasn’t a clear choice for the first pick. I heard I could have been drafted third, fourth, maybe sixth, seventh or eighth. So when I heard my name called as the number one pick, it was crazy!

I was sitting at the table with my mom, brother, nephew, agent and best friend, and everybody was so excited and happy…especially my mom. She was in shock and couldn’t even speak; she was just smiling and screaming! There also was a big group of my friends and family who drove in from my hometown of Toronto (about a 10-hour drive) watching from the stands. When I was on the stage, I could see and hear all of them standing up and cheering! I’ll tell you, there was a decent sized section of Canadians out there in the crowd! It was a huge moment for me to shake David Stern’s hand, especially since it was the last time he would be announcing the Draft picks.

My phone started blowing up right away, but I didn’t get a chance to look at it until after I spoke with the media. By that time, my mom came out of her shock and told me she was really proud of me and to keep working hard. As for the rest of the night, we just chilled because I had to catch a flight to Cleveland the next morning.

The whole experience of the Draft was truly unbelievable!

Hello, Cleveland and Toronto
cavs-bennett

The day after the draft I flew on the Cavaliers’ private jet to Cleveland for the team’s press conference. While there, I had a chance to talk to Mike Brown. He was really cool. I actually met him when I was in Cleveland for a few days, right before the Draft. He expressed how excited he was and said he can’t wait for the season to get going. I also saw my new teammate Tristan Thompson; he came by the gym to say congratulations. The rest of the team was either back home or working out elsewhere. People told me that a couple of my teammates tried to hit me up on Twitter, but it was such a crazy day for me, I didn’t get a chance to see it for myself.

After being in Cleveland for the day I had a chance to go home to Toronto for a little bit. I had a huge barbecue with all my friends and family there. It was actually on July 1, which is Canada Day. Since we had a feeling a lot of people would come, we decided to host it at a local school.  It was a great event and I was really happy people came by to hang out and celebrate.

 

Back In Business

I’m in Cleveland now, and I have started my rehab again at the practice facility here. My rehab regimen is not just focusing on my shoulder, but it is also centered on my legs, cardio, and putting up shots. I’m starting to shoot during workouts – but not too much – just to get the motion back. I’m shooting pretty well, and my arm isn’t getting tired. The trainers say my shoulder is looking good and I’ve heard multiple times that I should be playing by the first week in August. I am anxiously awaiting the day when I can get back on that court!

I’ve only been back in Cleveland for a few days, but everywhere I go, fans are showing me a lot of love and asking for my autograph. It’s cool, there’s a lot of fan support here. I went downtown a couple times to walk around and explore a little bit, and I got a chance to catch that Kevin Hart movie “Let Me Explain.”

Next up, I leave for Las Vegas on the 17th for the NBA Summer League. I’m going to watch the games, and afterward I plan on staying out there for a few days to chill out and see some of my friends from UNLV.

I’m also really excited to get a new house! Right now, I’m living in a hotel until I find a place, but I’m going house hunting this week. I don’t really know what I’m looking for, but I’m open to the experience. I’m definitely trying to find a house with enough space so that my mom can come down whenever she wants to visit. I think by the time I get back from Vegas, I should be settled and living in my new house!

It’s really crazy. Coming from a small house, basically in the hood, now I can just live life more comfortably and without any regrets. I can support my family. This all something that every kid works for…I’m so happy!

Check me out on Twitter at @anthonybennett. It’s going to be a busy summer, and I’ll be tweeting about it!
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Draft Diaries: Brandon Paul

By Brandon Paul, for NBA.com

What up guys? Last time I wrote, I talked a lot about the NBA Combine experience as well as my training down in Florida. Now things are crazy workout-wise and I’ve been flying from NBA city to NBA city the past few weeks.

Working out for the hometown Bulls (Courtesy Brandon Paul)

Working out for the hometown Bulls
(Courtesy Brandon Paul)

Since Chicago, I’ve been from New Jersey to New York & San Antonio to Minnesota. From Minnesota to Detroit then back home to Chicago.  After the Bulls workout, I went to New York & OKC.  I blinked & then I was in Memphis,  Houston, Portland, Phoenix, and now in Minneapolis! All of this in 3 weeks! A lot of guys don’t really like traveling all over the place but I don’t mind it at all. I’ve always loved traveling and being able to see different places. I love the different hotels, and I have seen some really cool ones. If you follow me on twitter (@BP3), Instagram (bpaul) or vine account (Brandon Paul), you might have been able to see a few of the places I’ve been. If not, then go check them out right now! It’s okay I’ll wait …

Back yet? Well like I said, I’ve always loved staying in different hotels, and I even worked at one right before I graduated! I didn’t have any more classes my last semester at U of I, so I was fortunate enough to get a job at the iHotel in Champaign, Ill., where I went to school. It was really fun working there and learning about the hospitality industry and business in general. I had a great staff to work with and I made some new friends along the way. So when I’m at these hotels I sort of know how things work behind the scenes and if something doesn’t exactly go as planned I definitely have more patience than others might.

OK, back to the workouts. I think I have been performing great thus far. The training I’ve done my whole life, as well as more recently down in Florida at IMG Academy, has really prepared me for what I’ve been up against. I’m truly appreciative for all the teams that have had me in their workouts as well as the teams that are to come. I especially loved the Bulls trip (since I live about 25 minutes away from where the Berto Center is) and growing up a Bulls fan my whole life. Not only that but having Dickey Simpkins (3-Time NBA Champion with the Bulls) as a mentor & a very close friend since I first stepped foot into high school … but I’ll get more into that with my next blog. I hope other teams don’t hold that against me. Ha! But just being back home was nice, even though it was only for a day.  I am truly enjoying this process but I know once it winds down, there will a sense of relief.  Until next time!

BP3

Draft Diaries: Anthony Bennett

Anthony Bennett (Courtesy UNLV athletics)

Anthony Bennett (Courtesy UNLV athletics)

By Anthony Bennett, for NBA.com

On the mend

I had rotator cuff surgery on my left shoulder about a month ago, and I’ve been rehabbing for a few weeks now. Rehab is going great, and the doctors say I’m recovering faster than normal. I should be back to 100 percent by early August, which is great news.

I’m in my third week of rehab now and I’m starting to try some light shooting and weight training. For the first week in rehab, we were mostly icing my shoulder and doing some exercises to increase the range of motion in the area. Then we added conditioning, so after every rehab session, I got on an elliptical machine to get in some cardio. I’m excited that the process is going well, and that it’s almost time to start getting back on the court. I’m not trying to rush the recovery process, but I’m getting back into it and am on a great road to recovery right now. It’s a process, and I’m taking it day by day. No dunking or showing off for the camera quite yet!

I will tell you that I’m so, so glad that I had this surgery when I did because now I should be back in action in time for training camp. Looking back, it’s really crazy that I was playing at the end of my college season with this injury.

I’m feeling very confident about not only coming back 100 percent, but even better than before! I can’t wait to go out there and perform on the big stage!

Pre-Draft life

I’m living in Long Island, NY, with Ramon Galloway out of La Salle University.  It’s low key out here, which is good because it makes it that much easier to stay focused. The area is quiet, so I spend most of my time going to rehab, resting and slowly getting back into the gym.

The cool thing about living in Long Island is that I’ve been able to visit New York City a bunch of times. I’d been to New York a couple times before for basketball, but this has been the first time I’ve really been able to explore the city. I went to see the Statue of Liberty, which was real cool! I always heard about it, but I finally had the chance to see it for myself. I skipped the Empire State Building though because I’m afraid of heights! I also took a trip out to Brooklyn to watch the Jordan Brand Classic at the Barclays Center. I knew some of the guys playing in it, so I was supporting them.

Final thoughts

My prediction for the NBA Finals is that San Antonio wins it all in six games. They have a lot of veterans on that team that know what they have to do to win. It’s going to be real intense and definitely will come down to the wire. I want Tracy McGrady to get a ring. He used to be a Raptor, and since I’m from Toronto, I have to support him! I’m too young to remember and understand the game when he actually played in Toronto, but I’ve seen the highlights.

The Draft is just a couple weeks away, and I’m excited and anxious. Anybody can go #1; that spot is open and available. Even if I’m not drafted where I’m hoping to be selected, I’m happy to be part of this process and have the opportunity to play in a league full of great players.

One thing I have left to decide is what I’m wearing on Draft night. As long as I’m looking good on TV, then I’m cool!

Follow me on Twitter @anthonybennett or Instagram at ab3nnett. I make jokes, show off my outfits, a little bit of everything. And for more on my journey to the NBA Draft, visit www.draftdreams.com.

Draft Diaries: Brandon Paul

Brandon Paul

Brandon Paul

By Brandon Paul, for NBA.com

NBA Combine: Back Home

Well, sort of. I’m from Gurnee, Ill, a suburb of Chicago which is about an hour away (depending on traffic) from downtown. It was truly a blessing to be able to participate in the NBA Draft combine a couple weeks ago, as I have watched it the last few years as a college student-athlete.

Brandon Paul shoots

Brandon Paul shoots at the NBA Draft combine.

Getting there, I saw a lot of familiar faces, guys I played against in college as well as seen on TV. I also got a chance to see some guys that I played with/against at prestigious HS camps such as the NBPA Top 100 camp (in which my team won the championship) as well as the LeBron James Skills Academy (in which my team also won the championship). Throughout all the interviews and workouts and meeting new people, I had a great time. I felt like I played really well and did a good job showcasing my talents. I only had a couple interviews, but they went well.

Training @ IMG Academy aka X-Mansion- Xavier School for Higher Learning

For several weeks I was fortunate enough to get a chance to train with some of the best (players & staff) and I definitely think I have improved a ton since I got down there. I call it the X-Mansion because it is a huge campus and has tons of tons of different things there, and it truly is for the gifted. Doing workouts about four times daily takes a toll on your body, but with all the trainers on staff, different equipment to help you recover and the great food that’s served, you learn to love it! Everyday when I’m down there I look forward to the workouts because I know it’s a chance to get better & work towards my goal!

What’s next?

My agent Jim Tanner & his team have been working non-stop on my behalf and I feel like choosing him was one of the best decisions of my life. They recently finished my schedule that shows my upcoming workouts with different teams as well as teams that could be added. So far I have done five workouts (a combination of group and individual) and have at least nine individual workouts remaining. I know these workouts are giving me a chance for me to continue on this journey to the NBA.

Draft Diaries: C.J. McCollum

By C.J. McCollum, for NBA.com

The Graduate

CJ McCollum and family

The proud graduate with his family.

When I saw the look on my Mom and Dad’s face as I crossed the stage at graduation, I knew all the hard work and late nights in the library were worth it! I graduated from Lehigh University a couple weeks ago, and not only did I feel a great sense of pride, but I had a lot of fun! My whole family was there to see me graduate. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Aunt, and almost all of my cousins were there. We did miss my brother, though, who is overseas playing professional basketball in Greece. I hadn’t seen my family since Easter, so it was nice to spend time with everybody and enjoy the end of a fun, exciting chapter and the start of a new one with them.

NBA TV was on-site documenting the whole thing. They started taping my family and me before we left the house in the morning and then captured more footage at graduation. They also interviewed my teammates and coaching staff at Lehigh. It’s supposed to air when it gets closer to the Draft. Oh, and I took a selfie with the school president as she handed me my diploma, which was hilarious – I hope NBA TV got that on film!

A lot of students and their families were asking for my picture and for an autograph. It took my Mom and I about an hour and a half to get from the field where we had graduation back to the car since I kept stopping to talk to people. It was definitely fun for me, especially because I can clearly remember a time when nobody wanted my autograph. In the last two years, as I’ve progressed in basketball and made more of a name for myself, I realize I get that request more and more often and I take a lot of pride in that.

The whole graduation experience was filled with mixed emotions. It was great to celebrate and get together with my friends one last time in a college setting. I felt content with my college career because I did just about everything I wanted to accomplish, except winning a National Championship of course. It was tough, but all of the hard work was definitely worth it!

Front Row At The Draft Lottery

I had a chance to go to the NBA Draft Lottery, which was awesome! I went with Anthony Bennett and Michael Carter-Williams, two fellow Draftees I’ve spent a lot of time with since I started training in Long Island. Not only were we sitting front row, but I also got the chance to meet Damian Lillard, who was the 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year. We’ve been in contact over the last few years, so it was good to finally meet him in person. I had a chance to speak to him privately about his experience transitioning from a smaller school to the NBA. I also was interested in hearing how he stayed consistent and dealt with the ups and downs of his rookie season.

After I spoke to him on the side, NBA TV taped Anthony, Michael and I picking Damian’s brain a little bit, asking all kinds of questions about life in the NBA.

Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, top picks in the 2012 NBA Draft, were there too and it was real nice to meet them. They were cool and happy to share their experiences with us.

We also met and shook hands with Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner, soon to be Commissioner Adam Silver. I hope to be shaking Commissioner Stern’s hand again very soon at the Draft!

I’ve always watched the NBA Draft Lottery on TV, but to be there live and in a situation where the Lottery will dictate which team will Draft me … now that’s very interesting.

Eye On The Prize

We’ve been tapering down our training a bit so nobody gets hurt, especially since we’re traveling to a lot of team workouts. Of course we’re still getting in our reps, but it’s just not as intense.

It has been nice to see all of the positive feedback from teams and the media. Sometimes I look at the player rankings, but I don’t read into it too much or let it alter my mindset. The path to the Draft is a long process and all you can control is how hard you work and how well you prepare yourself and I feel like I’ve done a good job with both of those things.

It’s actually been easy for me to stay focused and on the right track because I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time. I’m almost there, I can taste it … the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp, the NBA Draft Lottery, next thing I know it will be Draft night, so it’s all business right now. I have been able to enjoy myself a little bit though. Last week I took in a Yankee/Mets game, which was great.  Special thanks to the Lehigh Alum who took care of us at the game. We have a great alumni network and I’m proud to now be part of it! Aside from the baseball game and a barbeque on Memorial Day, it has been all about basketball!

As for my mindset now, I’m fully recovered from my injury, and my body feels strong. I have my college degree. I’m looking forward to the next opportunity and hope to reach my dream of not only getting drafted, but also becoming an NBA mainstay and building a legacy in the league. I’ve worked extremely hard, and I’m ready for the next step!

I’m not sure if I’ll be blogging again before the Draft, so make sure to follow me on Twitter @CJMcCollum and on instagram and vine @3JMCCOLLUM to catch the latest on my journey. Wish me luck!

Draft Diaries: Cody Zeller

Cody Zeller (Pete Monsanto photo)

Cody Zeller (Pete Monsanto photo)

By Cody Zeller, for NBA.com

Livin’ The West Coast Life

Hi, everybody! Last time I blogged I was finishing up classes and finals at Indiana University. Today, I’m blogging from the comfort of my temporary home in Los Angeles. About a month ago, I moved in with my agent and his family, and I’m living here while I train for the upcoming NBA Draft.

It’s going great living here in LA! I’ve made myself at home, and I feel like I’m part of the family! I was even helping my agent’s daughter with her math homework the other night. Let’s see, I believe we were learning about obtuse and right angles. I’m trying to help out where I can! Since I like things to be neat and organized, I’m making sure my room is clean.

I usually work out in the morning, so I have the night pretty open. I’ve been hanging out with one of my buddies who used to play at Indiana and recently got a job in Los Angeles as a video coordinator at UCLA. We’ve seen a couple movies — Great Gatsby and Iron Man 3. Between my friends and living with my agent and his family, I always have the open invite to tag along with someone!

Another thing I’m loving about this city is In-N-Out burger! We don’t have that where I’m from! I’ve been there about three or four times since I got to town — and come to think of it, I really need to go more often! I usually order a couple double cheeseburgers and a shake. It sounds like a lot but I’m a big boy, I can handle it!

Working Hard

Don’t get me wrong. While I really like it out here, I’m also extremely focused on basketball and working really hard to prepare for the Draft. I’m living about 20 minutes from the practice facility, but with this crazy traffic, I leave early so I don’t get stuck in it. I’m working out with Ed Schilling, a trainer from Indiana that I’ve worked out with before. My brother Luke also worked out with him when he was in Indiana. Ed is also training fellow Draftee Allen Crabbe, and he does a great job helping to prepare guys for the Draft.

I’m continuing to work hard and get better every single day!

 Rewind to Chicago

The Chicago Pre-Draft Camp was fun and went well for me. It was a very busy week with a lot of interviews, but I knew what to expect since my brother Tyler went to the camp last year and I asked him a lot of questions about it.

The interviews were a big part of it for me. I interviewed with 14 NBA teams within a couple days, and each interview was about 30 minutes long. It got pretty intense! They asked me a number of different things — from my strengths and weaknesses on the court to my personal life. Each team pretty much asked the same thing, so by the 14th time, I knew all the questions and the answers!

I didn’t participate in the skills section (based on my agent’s recommendation), but I did do the weight testing, agility drills and vertical measurement. I saw a stat that my standing vertical of 35.5” was the highest ever recorded for a player 6’9” or taller in the last 10 years or so. Some people seemed pretty excited about that. For me, I am always striving to get better, so I won’t settle for those numbers.

Chicago was a great experience and it was also fun to hang out with the other guys attending the camp. We all know each other pretty well from playing against each other in AAU, high school and college. I roomed with Reggie Bullock, who was a familiar face. This class is a great group of guys!

Thanks for reading. I’m sure I’ll have more to tell you next time!. It’s all about hoops for me, so make sure to track my journey to the 2013 Draft on DraftDreams.com and follow me on Twitter @CodyZeller.

Draft Diaries: Reggie Bullock

 By Reggie Bullock, for NBA.com

The Chicago Report

I’m back in Long Island, NY, where I’m training for the Draft, after spending almost five days in Chicago for the NBA Pre-Draft Camp. I’m writing this blog in between workouts, so I’ll tell you about as much as I can before I get back on the court.

Reggie Bullock (Jeffrey A. Camarati, UNC)

Reggie Bullock (Jeffrey A. Camarati, UNC)

I had never been to Chicago before last week. It is a great city, and I look forward to getting back there soon to see more of it. I did have a chance to grab some meals and check out some of the shops on Michigan Avenue, but when we had extra time, I was mostly in my room relaxing. Those were tiring days! Luckily, I was able to watch the NBA playoffs at night.

Speaking of the NBA playoffs, my prediction is that the Spurs win the series against Memphis in seven games. In the East, I like watching Paul George match up against LeBron. I know some people may not agree with me on this, but I think the Pacers are going to beat Miami.

Back to Chicago. On the first day of Camp, everybody was pretty nervous, but then we settled into our games and started feeling more comfortable. The same went for me — once we were on the court doing drills, I started to calm down.

I am happy to report that I felt pretty good about my performance at Camp. I was told I had one of the better shooting percentages of the group, which is my strongest skill. I was also happy that I measured well (I’m 6’7” by the way!) and excelled in the athletic testing, which includes bench press, agility test, vertical leap and sprints. Another part of the process was interviewing with NBA general managers and some of their staff. I had never done an interview like that before, but since I had three years of experience doing media interviews back at University of North Carolina, I felt pretty confident about it. My agent also helped prepare me for it. I was nervous for the first interview, but then I started feeling really energized and comfortable. Overall, it went really well!

It was a blessing just to have been in the position to compete against the top players in the country and meet a lot of different NBA team executives. I went into it feeling very prepared, with a positive and focused attitude. I try not to listen to what people say about which round I’ll be drafted or where I’m ranked. I’m just playing my game, and I hope that a team picking in the first round will think I’m a great fit for their franchise.

The Stack Connection

NBA player Jerry Stackhouse has been in my life since I was in 6th grade, and he has been like a big brother or father figure ever since. He and I grew up in the same town in North Carolina (Kinston), and went to the same high school (Kinston High School) and college (UNC). We even signed with the same agency. Stack has obviously been ahead of me with all of these things. As a younger player from his hometown, he really took me under his wing.

We talk almost every day, and I can call him anytime I need advice or want to talk about something. With the Draft coming up, he has been helping me out a lot. Aside from telling me he believes in me, Stack encourages me and continues to emphasize the importance of showing great character, keeping good company, staying focused, performing at a high level and just playing my game.

I really admire and respect Stack for the player and person that he is. Not only can he play well at multiple positions, but he always carries himself with professionalism off the court. I’m so grateful for my relationship with him!

I’m working hard so that I’m conditioned and prepared for my team workouts. I am feeling confident!

Okay, time to get back to my workout. Thanks for reading and I’ll check back as we get closer to the Draft!

Follow me on Twitter @DaBully35! For more on my journey to the NBA Draft, visit www.draftdreams.com.

Draft Diaries: Mike Muscala

By Mike Muscala, for NBA.com

On The Move

Mike Muscala (Courtesy Bucknell University)

Mike Muscala (Courtesy Bucknell University)

I graduated from Bucknell University on Sunday– what a feeling. I posted a Vine video from graduation on Twitter to commemorate the day, so check it out here: You can find me @mikejawz.

It was a great day where I ended one chapter and turned the page to the next. It was great, but a little bittersweet. I had an amazing time at Bucknell on and off the court, and it is truly a special place that I will miss. That being said, I’m definitely excited for all that is to come.

The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. I was at Bucknell in Lewisburg, PA, a couple weeks ago finishing up classes and taking a final. Then, it was back home in Minnesota for my little sister’s confirmation. Last week, I flew out to Chicago for the NBA pre-Draft camp (more on that later), and I came straight to Lewisburg on Saturday night to make it in time for graduation on Sunday. In between all of that, I’ve been working out and getting ready for the NBA Draft in Long Island, NY. With graduation behind me, I can now completely concentrate on basketball and am looking forward to traveling to different cities to work out for NBA teams.

Pre-Draft Recap

I knew coming in to the Chicago combine that I had a lot to prove. I’ve always worked hard and had confidence in my game, but coming from a smaller school with less exposure, I wanted to make sure that I performed well. While it’s easy to think that  being from a small school can hurt you, , the coaches I played for and the system I played in at Bucknell put me in this position to make the NBA.

Truth be told, I am happy with my performance in Chicago. Of course, you can always look back on every game or workout and wish you had done even better, but overall it was a very good week. I was proud to hear that I had the best shooting percentage in the combine on Thursday. When we did conditioning tests, I came in first place and I felt like I played well in the competitive aspects of the camp. I think I surprised people with my athleticism,  strength and agility testing. It was a good experience, and a challenging one, which I knew it would be going into the weekend. It was a good month of training leading up to it, so I felt prepared. Even though I’m happy with how I did there, there’s a ton more work to do, so I’m moving on to this next phase.

The Off-Court Chicago Experience

All of the guys in the camp stayed at the same hotel. I roomed with C.J. McCollum, who I am also working out with in Long Island.

When all of us first got there, people were a little more reserved. But by the time we finished up on the court on Friday, guys were a little more relaxed. It was great to get to know different guys’ games, and a positive experience off the court as well.

muscala-selfI had a chance to see my friend Nate Wolters, who is also a Minnesota native. We were in the same high school class. He went to South Dakota State University, but we have kept touch every now and then and followed each other’s progress. I also saw Trevor Mbakwe, another old friend from Minnesota. We grew up in different parts of the state, but I knew him because we played in a lot of summer leagues together.

While in Chicago, we interviewed with the NBA teams. There we were, all of us in these nice, well-tailored clothes, and before you knew it, we were all nervous and sweating. We were teasing each other about it, but everybody was experiencing the same thing, which was reassuring in a way. I was a little nervous before my interviews, but I didn’t think it was too bad. The experience was good for me.

Anyway, when I wasn’t at the gym, I was back at the hotel catching up on sleep and having some time to myself. It was nice to be able to mentally relax a little bit. We went out to a few dinners, but the biggest thing for me was to relax and stay focused on the task at hand.

I watched as much of the NBA playoffs as I could (if I didn’t fall asleep first). One night, some of us went to watch the games at Jimmy Greens, a restaurant in downtown Chicago. It’s exciting and interesting to watch the amount of defensive focus and intensity that the guys in the playoffs are playing with … every shot they are making or taking is a contested shot. If anyone were to say there’s no defense in the NBA, tell them to watch these playoffs!

Next Up

Now I’m back in Long Island working out. I’ll be flying back and forth to have workouts with different teams up until the Draft. I’m really focused. I try not to get too up or too down. If I have a good day in the gym, I take it for what it is and move on and work hard the next day.

I’m feeling confident. I really like the people I am training with, and I know I’m in good hands working with good people. As long as I keep working, I think good things will happen!

Thanks for reading my blog, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @mikejawz. For more on my journey to the NBA Draft, visit www.draftdreams.com.

Draft Diaries: Allen Crabbe

Allen Crabbe was a standout performer at the University of California-Berkley.

Allen Crabbe was a standout performer at the University of California-Berkley. (Courtesy UC-Berkley)

By Allen Crabbe, for NBA.com

I was at Berkeley last week for the men’s basketball awards banquet. It was almost a month since I had been at Berkeley. I left for L.A. shortly after declaring for the NBA Draft. Going back was great, though it was a little weird. The guys on the team filled me in on their new workouts and how they’re improving and I was able to let them know what I have been doing. The coaches told me that even though they wish I had stayed for my senior year, they will always support my decision and will be rooting for me.

At the banquet, I received the team’s MVP award, voted on by my teammates. It meant a lot to me to know that my teammates thought that highly of me. It was quite a nice surprise since I did not realize I had won until they called my name at the banquet. A lot of players on our team were capable of receiving the award, so it truly was an honor.

Looking back at the three years I spent at Berkeley, I made a lot of new friends. I played with some of the guys on the team for all three years, so it was kind of tough to only have a couple hours with them last week.  When it is all said and done, I am happy with my decision since getting drafted to the NBA is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I will miss everyone, but my relationships will always be there.

Putting in the work

Since leaving school, all I’ve been doing is working out at the gym. Right now, I’m working with a few trainers doing two-a-days which include strength training and basketball workouts. We’re really focusing on my ball handing, working off the dribble and creating space. The rest of my workouts are focused on the strength aspect — getting quicker laterally, getting more athletic and explosive. We are definitely making progress, and I feel my body changing. All of this preparation is helping me gain confidence. I recently changed my diet and I am learning to eat more vegetables and stay away from fried and fast food. There aren’t too many options in college, so it was hard to eat healthy every meal, every day. Now I’m eating the right foods and I definitely like the results!

After workouts, I’m so tired that I usually go home, watch TV and catch up on the playoffs. I’m living in an apartment in Santa Monica, about 10 minutes away from my family’s house in Los Angeles. When I get bored, I just hop in the car, drive down the street and I’m there. It’s my first time living alone, so it can get boring pretty fast! My mom does a lot of cooking for me and she’s a really good cook. My favorites are her steak, lamb chops, vegetables and pasta but pretty much anything she makes is great. She always makes sure to send me home with a lot of leftovers!

Chicago, here we come

This week, we’ve been preparing a lot for the Chicago pre-Draft camp. I have to do the best I can, relax, keep calm, go hard on all the drills, compete … and do what I know how to do, which is play ball!

I’ve been dreaming of playing in the NBA since I was a little boy. And now that the opportunity is here, it feels like it came so fast! I am both nervous and excited!

Want updates? Follow me on Twitter @allencrabbe and on instagram @Aye_cee23 and see my Draft journey at draftdreams.com

The NBA Draft is June 27 in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center.