It is common on draft night for NBA general managers to address the media and reel off selling points for each of their picks. On June 20 of last year, after taking Rui Hachimura from Gonzaga with the ninth overall pick, Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard took a unique angle.
Sheppard remarked how Hachimura had less mileage than other draft prospects not only because he picked up the game of basketball at 14, but because he did not come up through the AAU ranks. AAU basketball has become notorious for grueling schedules and Sheppard is among those who feel it plays a factor at the NBA level.
NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh and I set out to take a deep dive into Sheppard's theory. We interviewed a host of subjects in the NBA, ones with AAU experience and ones without, plus people from Hachimura's past.
With the story out today, I wanted to highlight a section which includes some honest thoughts from Wizards head coach Scott Brooks.
"A lot of these programs play 60 games in a summer and four games in a day,” Brooks said. “Two things; the wear-and-tear on the body and the win-losses don’t really mean as much. If you lose a game at 10 a.m. it’s ‘Hey, don’t worry we’re going to come back at 12:30 [p.m.].’ If you lose that game [it’s the same thing], so there’s no value in playing for the win because you’ve got a game in two hours. When you grow up in that, then it becomes [meaningless].
"Good players and good teams, the losses hurt. You can’t live in it and dwell in it, but you’ve gotta learn from it. It has to hurt and then you move on.”
While some might look at Brooks’ comments as the complaints of a long-time NBA coach, it’s much more than that for the basketball lifer and father of two.
"I think it’s too much,” Brooks said of the AAU workload. “I know I wouldn’t put my kids in that situation to play that many games at that young an age where their body is still growing.”
Brooks has been in the NBA since 1987 when he joined the league as a player. He has been a coach for nearly two decades. He has seen how AAU has changed the NBA and he clearly has some concerns.
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