July 21, 2008
I had been committed to Phoenix for the longest time. So long, in fact, that I was listed as a Sun on the Vegas Summer League official roster. It wasn’t until four days before the summer league kicked off that I found out that I had also been invited by Toronto. I decided to go with the Raptors because I knew I’d have a great opportunity to play.
When I got to the Palms Hotel, and checked into my room, I had to ignore the beautiful people all around me and go to bed. I knew that the next day we would have two practices and I needed to do well on that day if I was to lock up a very attainable starting spot.
The first practice was all about instruction. Head coach Sam Mitchell made it very clear to all of us that our focus would be defense, so I was making every effort to be in the right spot and to talk. Only an idiot would do otherwise, I thought. Still, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t escape the ridicule that seemed to catch up with everyone who failed to employ the correct defensive tactics. If there was one thing I learned from coach Sam during that first two hours, it was that he doesn’t accept anything less than perfection.
The second practice was more fluid than the first. We got right into the scrimmage situations. I felt like things were going well. I wasn’t doing great, but I was definitely being very active on defense. It was about 30 minutes in that my entire Vegas trip took a turn. I was trying to protect the paint while Joey Graham drove the lane for a layup. On my way up to block his shot, his elbow caught me right in the jaw. The entire left side of my face was numb for the next 10 hours. This is important to note because just a few plays later, I was battling for a rebound when I hyper-extended my right knee attempting to stay in bounds with the ball. Since my jaw was numb with pain, I didn’t recognize the pain of my knee and continued to practice for the rest of the day.
The next morning when I awoke, I got up to brush my teeth and fell onto the floor with my first step. My right knee had no strength. I visited the trainer who explained that I had sprained my MCL. I sat out of practice (which coach Mitchell made a note of because one of the assistants called my name for the starting five) and visited with a doctor later that day. He confirmed that it was a grade-2 sprain and that a few days off, at least, would do me some good. It was basically confirmed right then that I would miss at least one or two games of the Vegas Summer League.
I now had two missions for the Vegas Summer League: to get healthy and to get buckets. Both were cast in a shadow of doubt and only time would tell if I could recover in time.
Rod Benson is a Cal grad who played for the D-League's Dakota Wizards. When he's not down in Vegas, he blogs one or two times a week on Ball Don't Lie. Read his archive, pay a visit to TooMuchRodBenson.com and always support the Boom Tho movement.