Navigating business, basketball awaits incoming NBA rookies
BOSTON (AP) ��� Sixty NBA draft hopefuls will hear their names called Thursday night as members of the 2017 rookie class.
For many of the top picks it will mark the start of the transition from college underclassman to instant millionaire.
It is the ultimate finishing school. A journey that continues to evolve for NBA newcomers that has trended younger during the one-and-done era.
Boston's Jaylen Brown , San Antonio's Dejounte Murray , and Golden State's Patrick McCaw are fresh off that experience, having gotten an opportunity afforded few rookies: Adjusting to the NBA grind, the pressures of life as a wealthy pro athlete while being called upon to contribute for teams that made deep playoff runs.
"I got a lot accomplished and learned a lot this year. I still have a long way to go," said Brown, last year's third overall pick. "I'm not satisfied, but I am OK with this year from a foundation standpoint. I'm just going forward. I definitely have a lot of room to grow."
But before a rookie even sees a basketball court, the first step for them is handling basic things like securing a place to live and setting up utilities - tasks often new to many 19- and 20-year-olds fresh out of college dorm life.
While past rookies have enlisted close friends or family members to act as de facto assistants during their initial transition, many are taking even more ownership of their off the court responsibilities.
In Brown's case that meant leaning on a network of advisers he first built around him prior to beginning the draft process last year. The group included Cuonzo Martin, Brown's coach at Cal, as well as fellow Cal alum Hashim Alauddeen, a founder of one of Oakland's elite AAU teams.
Thanks to Alauddeen the group also includes NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, who Alauddeen worked for as director of basketball operations when Thomas was coach at Florida International.
Brown has called them his "sounding board" and invaluable in helping him embrace the less glamorous side of professional basketball.
It's also helped that Brown has always been intrigued with business, having interned with a firm in the Bay Area while at Berkeley. An avid chess player, Brown surveyed the NBA landscape process like a chess board and ultimately decided to forgo hiring an agent to negotiate his first contract.
It taught him about "maximizing your value" and he adapted that on the court, where he worked his way into the Celtics' playoff rotation and found himself guarding LeBron James in the Eastern Conference finals.
Though it's something many rookies could have never imagined, Brown said because of the work he's put in it all felt very plausible.
"I probably would say, yeah, it sounds about right," he said.
McCaw was taken 38th overall in the second round last year by Milwaukee, then traded to Golden State on draft night. While he never expected to find himself on a championship contender this quickly, he stayed grounded by keeping in constant with his support network of his parents and five siblings. He consulted them almost daily.
While his mom, Teresa, expressed some trepidation about him being on his own for the first time, landing on a roster full of 20-somethings helped immensely.
It culminated in the playoffs when McCaw found himself playing in critical moments during the NBA finals.
"At first, kind of nerve wracking," McCaw said. "I just got comfortable, the guys have a lot of confidence in me to play my game and take the shots when they're there. That's what I did."
It's all in stark contrast to what rookies experienced even just a decade ago.
Boston's Gerald Green and current Celtics teammate Amir Johnson were two of the nine players selected out of high school in 2005. It was the largest group of high schoolers taken in any single class.
"It's a challenge," said Green, now 31. "For me, I was coming out of high school and didn't really know too much. Kid straight out of the 'hood, don't really have any money, now you've got some bread. So I kind of had to adjust to that."
Many in the 2005 class quickly became NBA journeymen.
"When you're out of college as a rookie it can be difficult, but I think if you can set yourself up with the right people...it can come out to be a good thing for you," he said.
Murray said Spurs veterans like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green kept him grounded.
"They all just give me advice, from the top guys all the way down," Murray said. "It's always good to have veteran guys who have been there and done that."
Brown, McCaw and Murray are all expected to get their first glimpse at the incoming NBA rookie class during Summer League play.
It there's any advice Brown said he has to impart it's that everything - both on and off the court - requires effort.
"I liked it like that," he said. "I think a lot of rookies have (an expectation) of stuff being laid out for them, and that's fine and everything. But I'm so happy the way the Celtics did it with me. I had to earn everything I got."
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