Jun 20

Workout Notes From June 20

By caseyholdahl

The Portland Trail Blazers hosted one of their final pre-draft workouts Thursday at the team's practice facility in Tualatin. The workout was one of the few Portland has put together that featured multiple first-round picking faced off against each other, which is why it's no surprise that it was the fourth workout team owner Paul Allen watched live with the rest of the front office staff.

A few notes from the workout, which featured centers Steven Adams (Pittsburgh) and Rudy Gobert (France/Cholet), forwards Arsalan Kazemi (Oregon) and Jamelle Hagins (Delaware) and guards Ricky Ledo (Providence) and Will Clyburn (Iowa State).

-- Ricky Ledo knows he's got some making up to do. After having to sit out his first and only season at Providence, teams that are considering drafting the former Jordan Brand All-American are understandably curious whether he has the skills to play in the NBA.

"I definitely feel like I have to show more because everyone else got to prove themselves in college," said Ledo after his workout with the Trail Blazers. "The only time I have to prove myself is here. So every workout, there's something that I have to prove. I definitely have a lot more to show than everyone else."

Ledo was eventually allowed to practice with the Friars despite not being able to suit up, but there's only so much you can glean from watching a player in that setting. So every workout he's in carries a significance that surpasses those of his peers.

But Ledo's interviews might be just as important, as there are two questions he says every team asks. First, they want to know why he went to four different high schools, an impressive feat for anyone whose parents weren't active servicemen and women. And more importantly, they want to know why he chose to enter the draft rather than play even one season at Providence, as he was, presumably, eligible to do. His response?

"I looked at the draft and I looked at who was in the draft and I felt like I matched up well against any guy coming out in this draft. So that's my reason for it. I fell like every day's not promised, so why not go into the draft when I can get drafted this year?"

If Ledo ends up gets drafted in the first round, as he very well may, you'd have a hard time arguing he made the wrong decision.

-- Neither the University of Oregon nor the country of Iran are exactly feeders for NBA talent, as both are far more well known for producing things like football players, pistachios, triathletes and petrolium.

But 6-7 forward Arsalan Kazemi could be make NBA inroads for Ducks and Iranians if he manages to get drafted. The first Iranian-born player to compete in NCAA Division I basketball, Kazemi is trying to take the momentum from a successful senior season at Oregon (he transferred from Rice after his junior year) and turn it into a shot at the NBA.

When asked if Oregon NCAA Tournament run, which concluded with a loss in the Sweet 16 to the Louisville Cardinals, has helped his chances of making the NBA, Kazemi said that his entire senior season, not just a few weeks in March, really made the difference.

"Not just the tournament, but going to the Oregon basketball team, that helped me a lot because Pac 12 is a different competition level. It's much higher than Conference USA. And that helped me a lot. Things happen for a reason so I'm just happy that it worked out and we had a good year."

Kazemi fits the mold of a traditional NBA "garbageman," a guy who out-hustles and out-works more skilled opponents to get the upper hand. It's not the most glamorous role, but it's one Kazemi is happy to fill should he have the opportunity.

"Right now, if I get drafted by an NBA team, when you get drafted as a rookie, unless like you're a lottery pick, you have to earn your minutes by playing defense and bring energy off the bench and I think I have that in me, to play with a lot of energy and bring that high energy to the team and give them an extra rebounding body and just bang on or guard someone outside. I have an ability to do that for the team and that's what I'm going to do."

-- The matchup centers Rudy Gobert and Steven Adams was the main attraction Thursday at the practice facility. Both are international project centers expected to be taken in the first round, but that's where the similarities end.

Gobert, who played last season for French club team Cholet, is a rail-thin 7-footer with a wingspan ridiculous wingspan who describes himself as a rim-protector, while Adams is a rugged, muscular New Zealander out of Pitt who surprised many at the Draft Combine with an improved offensive game.

The media wasn't allowed in the gym to watch the workout, one assumes it was a classic battle of length versus strength. Then again, at this stage in the pre-draft process, you wonder how much these players have left in the tank considering they've been competing in workout after workout for the past three weeks. So it's important, according to Adams, to not try to do too much.

"All I'm doing is taking it workout by workout, taking it day by day," said Adams. "I'm not putting extra pressure on me to do well or anything. Don't get me wrong, I'm pushing myself really hard, but I'm not saying 'I have to do this' or 'I have to do that.' I'm just playing my game, and if I fit in their system, I fit in their system. If they like what they see, they like what they see. I ain't trying to be no one that I'm not."


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