Perhaps there'll be no easy way for Kris Humphries(notes) to emerge from one of the most peculiar public romances of this reality-television age and simply slip back into the character of the NBA's relentless rebounder. As his estranged wife Kim Kardashian debuts a fresh season of "Kourtney & Kim Take New York," Humphries is far away, training in Minnesota, waiting on a new team, a new life.
If the resumption of the show happens to resound with a most unflattering portrayal of him now, Humphries' job is to counter NBA executives with a far calmer, sensible, grounded truth on the eve of the opening of training camps.
Here Humphries was on the phone with Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday night, in his first interview since the divorce filing, talking at the end of his daily double session of workouts, trying desperately to talk basketball again.
"The same people have seen me here at the gym for seven years, and they know how I come to work and prepare myself for the season," Humphries said. "I approach my job, my life, in the same way that I've always done here. There's not much different for me.
" … Being in the pop culture [light], and being known by people who don't follow basketball, maybe some of them don't realize that basketball has been first to me. I've always been putting in the time. That's my life. That's what I do."
Per his prenuptial agreement with Kardashian from that most ill-fated of 72-day marriages, Humphries won't speak about her, the split or the public and private fallout. As the rest of the world sees his public image descend into checkout-line tabloid hell, Humphries is determined to convince NBA executives that his signing will be long on rebounding and defense, and short on personal drama.
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Off the best season of Humphries' seven-year career, he's coming out of the NBA lockout and into free agency in his best shape. He's trying to push past it now to reassure executives and coaches that his play last season with the New Jersey Nets deserves the long-term, guaranteed millions of free agency.
That's what's lost in everything: Humphries proved himself by averaging 10 points and 10.4 rebounds last season, sharing the NBA's second-best per-minute rebounding rate with Dwight Howard(notes). The Nets have a desire to keep him, but they're chasing frontcourt stars – Nene and Tyson Chandler(notes) – and that could ultimately force Humphries elsewhere. Nevertheless, there's demand for Humphries, a legitimate market, and that wasn't the case two years ago when the Dallas Mavericks made him a throw-in on a deal to New Jersey. His future could come with the Nets, the Denver Nuggets, the New Orleans Hornets or a score of other possible suitors. It will all become clearer once the elite players make decisions and the dominos start to fall.
Whatever the chaos surrounding Humphries' life – however the world gets to watch that leak into public on that culture-killing TV train wreck – Humphries has a body of professional work to rebrand himself in the NBA. Perhaps eventually, an annulment of the marriage could free Humphries to tell his side of life with America's most shameless family. For the good of his NBA career, for the comfort level of front-office executives and coaches who don't want to sign the circus when they sign Humphries, this isn't the worst time for him to resell and reshape himself as a basketball player.
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The tabloid culture has gone into overdrive on Humphries now, but he won't touch it, won't play defense on the Kardashians and the vicious personal attacks. "I'd like people to focus on who I am as a person for the work I've done with my foundation, for the commitment to the communities that I've lived in, the commitment to the teammates that I've played basketball with," he said. "Those are the things that I value, and I'll let other people talk about the rest."
Sooner than later, Humphries will be leaving home with a new contract and perhaps a new NBA team. For now, he tries to push past Kim Kardashian, the TV show, the tabloids and tries to keep pushing in those workouts in a quieter, serene Minnesota. He still loves to run in that frigid Minnesota air, loves the feeling that comes with "pushing yourself in an extreme situation, feeling like you're giving yourself an edge," he said.
No one has done extreme like him in the NBA and pop culture this past year, and yet, for now, Humphries knows he needs to keep pushing toward a new team, a new life, a new reality.
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