Wednesday, August 18, 1999
A student of
Mavs center Shawn BradleyBy Pat Bigold
has been in the NBA for six years
but is trying to learn more about
the game at the Big Man Camp
IT'S been six years since the Philadelphia 76ers made Shawn Bradley the No. 2 pick of the NBA draft.
But there he was yesterday, all 7 feet, 6 inches of him, playing the humble role of student in his second day at Pete Newell's Big Man Camp on the Kamehameha Schools campus.
"I've wanted to come for several years, but I have another responsibility, and that's my wife and kids," said Bradley, who may not be the NBA's leading offensive player but certainly sounds like its leading proponent of the family unit.
"I love basketball, but my wife and kids will be with me the rest of my life," he said as he reclined on a partially opened set of bleachers. "And if they're not taken care of, I can't justify taking time off to come here. This year, I was able to work it out."
Bradley and wife, Annette, have three daughters (Cheyenne, Ciera, and Chelsea) and are devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Ask him where he'd rather be when he's not playing basketball and his answer is somewhat of a novelty among pro sports stars these days: home.
"It's what keeps me going," he said.
Bradley has yet to win a NBA championship ring but he's made a movie with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Tweety.
"I get noticed almost as much for being a guy who was in 'Space Jam,' as I do for playing basketball," he said with a laugh as a long queue of youngsters with programs and balls formed in front of him.
"That was a movie that catered to family, and it was a good, clean movie. There's so much media out there these days that teaches kids negative principles."
He doesn't hold back in expressing his annoyance with the inability of the NBA and other major pro sports leagues to raise the bar on moral behavior.
"I can understand when fans say they are getting sick and tired of the egos and the different things that are going on," he said.
"When I go home and have to completely forget about the talk in the locker room so that I can concentrate on more morally correct issues in my house, it becomes a juggling act for me. But I've been told it's not going to get better."
He foresees dire consequences for pro sports.
"The fans eventually are all going to say 'We've had enough of this,' " said Bradley. "We're going to go watch women's soccer and women's basketball. Look what women's soccer did this year. Clean, good, wholesome. Hopefully, the league can understand that certain images and attitudes aren't appealing to everybody."
But the Dallas Mavericks center, who has been among the NBA's top shot blockers since he entered the league, hasn't checked into Newell's basketball monastery just to philosophize.
"The footwork he (Newell) teaches is second to none," said Bradley. "It's a good camp for learning footwork and balance. If I can continue to improve on those things, I''ll block more shots and feel more comfortable scoring."
Bradley's career scoring average is 11.0 points, so offense is one of the things on his mind this week.
"I seem to be fairly consistent defensively, and now I want to branch out and expand on other parts of my game. Hopefully, this is a way I can do that."
Newell calls Bradley, "a great athlete for a kid his size," and believes his best years are ahead of him.
But he thinks the former BYU star should commit himself more fully to conditioning.
"For a lot of reasons, like injuries and changing teams, he has not been able to get into real basketball condition," said Newell. "His back is hurting him now, and I think that's part of conditioning. There is a direct correlation between back problems and lack of leg exercise."
Newell also said that he wants Bradley to avoid exposing the ball down low.
"He has to make sure he doesn't expose the ball in the double downs," he said. "He has to learn more how to make his feet create the shot rather than the dribble. When you dribble, the little guy has an advantage to snap the ball away. Step-offs, reverses, step-backs, those are the things he'd best use."
Newell said one NBA rule change this season could allow Bradley to make full use of a frame that towers over everyone except New Jersey's 7-7 Gheorghe Muresan.
Allowing strong side zoning would force ballhandlers to deal with Bradley in the paint.
"They're going to try it during the exhibition season," said Newell.
How does Bradley feel the NBA rules treat big men these days?
"I think one thing I'd like to see is a lot more lower body fouls," he said.
"Big men are so big that when we go up for a shot, if someone is getting you low, a lot of times the refs are looking at the arms or the head, seeing if there's any contact up there. If someone has his hand on your hip, staying away from the ball with the hand straight up and pushing your hip, that can make you off balance when you're in the air."
Like other big men, Bradley senses that he cannot get away with things that a smaller player can.
"John Stockton can go through the lane, elbowing and punching, grabbing, pulling, and not get caught," he said.
"But if someone over 7 feet does that same thing, it's a little more noticeable. I know because I've tried it."
At Kamehameha Schools' Kekuhaupi'o Gym:
Big Man Camp
NBA players: Today - Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
College players: Today - Saturday, 2:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.