A couple hours later, after a Hornets game next door at the Cox in which Bachynski played well – a block, a steal and six points in eight minutes of work – one of the best-ever big men chats with reporters, towering over them.
“He’s just got to want it,” says Patrick Ewing of Bachynski. The Hall of Famer turned Charlotte assistant coach goes on: “Do the things that he’s been doing his whole career. Block shots, rebound. As a big, those are the things that will stand out. People drive to the basket – step up and block shots. Defend the rim.”
A monk-like summer, in the gym and on the court, lays ahead for Bachynski back home in Phoenix, where he lives with his wife and newborn son. A night of Netflix is as wild as it will get. The real audition is this fall at training camp, where he is ready for “more intelligent basketball,” he says.
Making it is about providing for his young family. Bachynski feels buoyant.
“Just showing the coaches what I can do, and what I can possibly be,” he says. “I’m getting a good vibe. I love it here.”
‘Stauskas – rookie of the year’
The story of Stauskas, whose draft stock steadily climbed until he cracked the top 10, has become a Canadian hoops fable. The backyard court his dad installed in Mississauga, Ont. A young Nik shovelling snow in winters. Shot after shot after shot. It’s the basketball mirror of the backyard rink Walter Gretzky made each winter for his boys.
Stauskas is a highly efficient shooter, an assassin. So he’s stereotyped: White guy can shoot. Larry Bird. Can he defend? He’s an affable 20-year-old – but takes it as an insult. To him, saying a ballplayer can’t defend is like saying he can’t shoot.
“I know a lot of people have questioned me,” Stauskas says. “I’m showing I’m a capable defender at this level.”
The believers are confident. Among a small contingent of diehard Kings fans in their purple jerseys, one holds a sign: “Stauskas – rookie of the year.” On Monday afternoon, he looks like a contender. With a minute left in the first half, the game tied, Stauskas has an open-look three in the corner and rises for the shot before rifling a pass to a teammate under the hoop who finishes with a dunk. Before the half ends, Stauskas puts up a three, and hits.
‘Show us the dunk! Show us the dunk!’
Wiggins, a 6-foot-8 athletic wonder, has just pulled off one of the feats that lead people to pin so much promise on his 19-year-old shoulders. Monday night, on the baseline in the second quarter of a game in which he’s been a nonentity, he drives to the hoop, busts out a crossover spin move and trampolines to hammer home a dunk.
Immediately thereafter, Wiggins bolts down the floor and swoops in behind top prospect Nerlens Noel of the Philadelphia 76ers. Wiggins bounces into the air and, like a ninja, swats away the ball as Noel lays it up.
“Show us the dunk! Show us the dunk!” A fan wants a replay of Amazing Part 1. He keeps up his solo chorus for several minutes until his wish is granted, the replay put on the big-screen on the wall. The full-house crowd roars. Sport is about spectacle and this is awesome.
Never mind Wiggins finished the night with only 10 points. The replays, on the Internet, Twitter and elsewhere, are everywhere, instantly.
The day before, Sunday, Wiggins missed most of his shots and sometimes looked listless. ESPN, grading the top names daily, gave him a C+: “You can see how the narrative about the lack of a ‘killer instinct’ got started.” Monday’s display, however, was the stuff most players can only dream of, and ESPN awarded an A-, even on an otherwise so-so night: “All we’re going to talk about is that dynamic dunk off Wiggins’s dreidel move.”
When the game concludes, Wiggins lingers in the makeshift locker room. He has his knees iced, wrapped in plastic, his left wrist too. He then exits, passing through reporters and into a service elevator. He descends one level and sits for an interview with nba.com. He then proceeds to get his visage and body scanned for the video game NBA 2K.
Wiggins is going to be a star. No, he’s long been a star. He was a YouTube sensation at 14. He’s a quiet kid but is not shy. When he went No. 1, dressed sockless in a suit to kill, his smile easy, he publicly announced his goals: rookie of the year, NBA all-star, all-defensive team.
Summer League, for Wiggins, is merely prelude.