Irving concerned about body fat
CHICAGO -- The saying was simple, but true: "hungry and humble."
That's the message Kyrie Irving was spreading from the start at Duke, where he arrived last year as a highly touted point guard from New Jersey with no inclination that he could become the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. With approximately a month remaining before that dream likely becomes a reality, his mantra took on a whole different meaning when the results of the predraft camp were publicized on Friday.
He was humbled by how his own hunger factored into his conditioning, as Irving measured in at 10.2 percent body fat and became part of an unflattering class of draft prospects that could stand to get in better shape before the big day arrives on June 23. Of the 54 prospects measured, Irving was one of the seven whose body fat percentage was 10 percent or higher.
To be fair, likely No. 2 pick, Arizona small forward Derrick Williams, had 10.8 percent body fat. Former Georgia power forward Trey Thompkins was the worst of the prospects who are expected to get first-round consideration, as his body fat was at 15.5.
None had as good of an excuse as Irving, though, as he missed approximately three months last season with a toe injury before returning to action in March.
"I'm still a work in progress, and it's kind of embarrassing that [the body fat is] at 10 percent, but it's something that my father has told me I can't really worry about just based on the body of work," Irving said. "I had to maintain when I was out for three months, and coming back I was around 193 [pounds] and that was something I was nervous about just based on [the fact that] I never gained so much weight eating and not working out.
"My body fat being 10 percent is something that I am worried about, but it's something that I'm working toward getting better every single day."
Irving is at his preferred playing weight of 193 pounds right now, but he agreed that he needs to put more muscle on and not gain any more fat. In truth, it's not likely to be a factor for Cleveland when they make the top selection next month.
Irving, who did not participate in drills at the camp or take part in interviews with the teams, took his unwelcome news in stride while showcasing the personality that goes well beyond basketball.
"I sing all types of music," said Irving, who named his favorite singer as John Legend. "I played an instrument (the horn baritone) for eight years, so I've always been around music ever since I was younger."
Former Duke teammate Nolan Smith, a point guard who is expected to be a late-first-round or second-round pick, knows more than anyone that Irving can hold a tune.
"He sings all the time," Smith said. "He probably could go on American Idol if there's a lockout. I think I could see him doing that. He's always singing, always cracking jokes.
"I sing backup for him, but he's the lead singer. He's a fun guy to be around. He takes his Bible with him on every road trip. He's just a good person ... He's the type of guy [who], whatever city he goes to, he's going to be loved."
Before the senior season of Kenneth Faried began, the Morehead State forward known for his unmatched rebounding prowess received a phone call from the unlikeliest of life counselors. Dennis Rodman, the Hall of Fame player with whom he had so often been compared, was on the phone that was being handed to him by his former high school coach as they sat at lunch.
"He just encouraged me to keep playing hard, keep hustling and keep doing what I do," said Faried, who attended Newark Technology High in Newark, N.J., before setting an NCAA career record by grabbing 1,673 rebounds. "He [was] a real positive influence. I was going through a lot of problems, and he said to just be like him on the court, a hustle guy, real tough, and don't let everybody scare you and think you can't play at that level ... Just play your heart out."
Faried did just that until the end of his collegiate career, overcoming Rodman-like disadvantages in size (Faried was measured at 6-7½ in shoes, while Rodman is 6-7) and school (Rodman also played at a little-known school called Southeastern Oklahoma State) to gain national attention for his play. He averaged a career-high 14.5 points rebounds per game and 17.5 points in his final season, all while dealing with a personal battle that has since become a blessing.
At the end of his junior season, his mother, Waudda, had recently undergone surgery related to the lupus disease she has dealt with for most of his life. Meanwhile, he had kept news from her that he had a baby on the way for fear of concerning her during an already-trying time.
"I had a daughter, and I didn't know how to break it down to my mother that I had a child," said Faried, whose daughter, Kyra, was born on March 12, 2011. "It was just hard for me to comprehend things, but I worked through it and talked to my parents and they still love me to this day and they love their granddaughter, so it's nothing that's going to change that and I'm just happy about everything."
Faried is expected to be taken in the mid- to late-first round.
Even the highest-profile players have questions to be answered about their respective games this time of year, and Williams is no different.
After playing power forward for the Wildcats in large part because of team need, the player who was measured at 6-8¾ in shoes at the combine has been outspoken about his desire to play small forward at the NBA level. But his size and perceived lack of defensive ability have led to doubts that he can guard the position. Unless, of course, Williams is the one being asked to share his opinion.
"When you think of [small forwards], you think of LeBron [James], you think of Carmelo [Anthony]," said Williams, who is expected to go to Minnesota at the No. 2 spot. "But in the league, you really can't stop them. It's really about containing them and just trying to do your best.
"If you want to play the three, you've got to guard the '3,' and that's how I look at it. I have a lot of confidence in myself. Whatever I say, I just like to back it up, and hopefully I get a chance to."
Steve Kerr, the Arizona great and former NBA player/Phoenix Suns basketball president who is currently a TNT analyst, isn't so confident in Williams' defensive abilities.
"I think he'll be at his best as a hybrid four, because he rebounds well and he can shoot it," Kerr said in March. "I don't think he's a three. I think he'd have a tough time chasing guys off of picks and that stuff, so a small '4.' He's got to improve his defense.
"He doesn't really have a turnaround jumpshot or a jump hook, a go-to move down on the block...Eventually he'll have to round out his offensive repertoire. He has got to get better defensively. He's not very good coming from the weak side when he's helping."
It's fair to question how Williams might fit with the Timberwolves, as Minnesota has a glut of young talent at the forward spot in Kevin Love, Wesley Johnson and Michael Beasley. Sources said this week that the Timberwolves are considering trading the pick, but Williams' view on being used as a small forward is not expected to factor into their decision.
"A lot of [teams] are agreeing [with his assessment], but really it's just about making an impact," Williams said. "If I'm going to make an impact at the 4, I'll play the 4. If I'm going to make an impact at the 3, I'm going to play the three. It's really all about impact, and just being an impact player. I think that's what I am."
Considering the path taken by Texas small forward Jordan Hamilton, he was due for a break.
He didn't play basketball during his senior year of high school because of ineligibility issues at Cal State Dominguez High in Los Angeles, and has since faced serious skepticism about his attitude and immaturity during two years with the Longhorns. Yet after spending two days telling teams that he has grown emotionally, he learned that he may have grown physically too.
His height was previously thought to be 6-7 but was measured at 6-8½ in shoes. It's the sort of slight difference that could help his stock, as the dynamic scorer who averaged 18.6 points per game last season is expected to be taken mid- to late-first round.
"I don't think people knew how good of a person I was, and in my interview that's what I want people to see, that I am a good person, that my character shouldn't be questioned at all," Hamilton said. "I think what a lot of people don't understand is that I'm so competitive that sometimes it looks like I have an attitude ... I'm frustrated because I want to win. I'm serious about me changing. I definitely think I got better toward the end of the season.
"Things were rocky for me, but then I got a year under my belt and was listening to coach [Rick] Barnes. He kind of made me the team leader that year, and it was better for me."
• The next stop in the predraft tour is in Minneapolis, where more than 20 prospects will work out on Monday and Tuesday. Williams will not take part, as he is only taking part in individual team workouts.