Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Foote and the NBA


Spencer-Van Etten graduate Jeff Foote got his first run at a legitimate NBA career last week when he was invited to Portland Trailblazers camp. The seven foot tall center has had an unparalleled basketball journey and this was his most interesting stop yet.

However, it wasn’t one of his longest. The week prior Foote had signed a deal to play with an NBA Developmental League (D-League) team the Springfield Armor. Two good showings in D-League games allowed him to get an invite to an NBA camp. It was Foote’s first time at an NBA camp.

Due to the NBA lockout caused by a prolonged contract dispute, several things that normally would have already happened were instead condensed into the month of December. Thus free agency and training camps were held concurrently. In Foote, a Cornell graduate who helped bring his Ivy League team of non-scholarship athletes to an NCAA Sweet Sixteen berth, they saw a possible big man who could at least match up in scrimmages with the players they already knew to be on the roster.

His growth in skill from play in Europe and the D-League meant he stood a shot at making the 15-man roster, but it largely depended on what the Trailblazers were able to get in terms of free agents. With 16-year veteran Marcus Camby slated as the starting center, Foote would have been considered to provide depth. They resigned former first round draft pick Greg Oden, whose history of injury didn’t preclude retaining Foote as a fallback plan. To provide some further depth they signed veterans Kurt Thomas and Craig Smith. Signing Jamal Crawford over the weekend filled up the Blazers’ 12-man active roster. At this point, Foote would have been considered for the last of three spots on the roster, which can’t play in an NBA game unless swapped out for a player on the 12-man roster.

Foote, essentially a rookie to the NBA, was at a little bit of a disadvantage. The fans seemed to like him, but in the end there just wasn’t room on the roster. Foote and three others were cut on Saturday, leaving the Blazers one last player to cut before the end of the preseason. Foote did not get to play in one of the Blazers two preseason games.

The lockout worked both to Foote ‘sadvantage and disadvantage. First, Foote proved to be an easy and cheap way to get a seven-footer into camp who can rebound and move the ball around. Since there was little time between the free agency and trade periods started before camps opened, getting bodies into camp to practice was tough this year. Foote had the skill to play against NBA players, even if it was just in practice, and was brought in to fill out the opposing scrimmage team for the starters.

However, if the free agency period was the only thing shortened, and not the preseason itself, Foote might have gotten into something approximating real NBA action by playing in an exhibition. Since the regular season will include over 60 games in a condensed time period, it’s important this season to get stars out on the court early to get them acclimated. Add to that the fact that NBA teams were still adding players the week before the season starts and the important of exhibition minutes for starters increases. Foote got to play in the fan fest scrimmage and showed what he could do, but it was mostly against other rookies or players with little NBA experience.

What does this mean for Foote now? It looks like he’s returned to the Springfield Armor to play out the season as he currently appears on their roster, and did not appear there while he was with Portland. If he plays well he might get signed by an NBA team with an emergency need for a big man, but most likely he’ll get an invite for a full camp next year.

If you want more of the hardworking seven-footer, you can catch him in clips from the third and fourth days of practice on Trailblazers.tv and you can also see photos from galleries from those same days. Being invited to a preseason camp is an honor just below being drafted, and there are many players who have played for several years in the NBA who were never drafted. Time will tell with Jeff Foote.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where's the part of the story where they actually ask Foote about his time with the Blazers?