Depending on who's being interviewed, NBA initiation traditions elicit grins or grimaces. Expect laughs from veterans, sighs of relief from second-year guys and gotta-grin-and-bear-it smirks from rookies.
Such was the case around the Utah Jazz in their first week of the season.
TAKING IT EASY?
Utah's 2011 lottery picks, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks, haven't had it too bad. Yet.
Kanter bought pastries once and is required to hand out jerseys. Burks has to get Al Jefferson a Five-Hour Energy Drink before every game.
"That's my rookie hazing," Burks said, smiling.
The rookies did have to dance at the scrimmage and sing happy birthday to coach Tyrone Corbin on the team charter Saturday. (Jazz radio voice David Locke tweeted that the duo won't be getting a singing contract.) They're last on the team bus, too.
Added Burks: "It hasn't really been that bad because of the short season."
Or so he thinks.
Lugging around teammates' bags is a common NBA tradition for rookies, but Jazz players added a twist. They get children's backpacks for their youngsters, which explains why Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans hauled around pink princess totes last season.
"Me and Jeremy were pretty excited that we didn't have to carry those anymore," said Hayward, who has a dark blue backpack for NBA Year No. 2.
Another bonus to graduating a grade?
"I finally don't have to answer to 'Rook' or anything like that," the 21-year-old said. "It was a good day."
"I got lucky," Derrick Favors said. "I didn't have to do it last year."
The backpack part, at least. Before being traded to Utah, carried bags for Nets vets Joe Smith and Stephen Graham, and was forced to serenade strangers celebrating birthdays in restaurants.
"I had to do a lot of crazy stuff," he said.
Hayward took his rookie ribbing well. That don't-fight-it approach helped C.J. Miles tone down the wrath of one Greg Ostertag six years ago.
Instead of sleeping in until 8:30, the 18-year-old had to wake up an hour early to deliver shoes and a newspaper to Tag's hotel room.
"He'd be like, 'Thanks,' and throw them on the floor and go back to sleep," Miles said. "He did that to me twice and then left me alone. I did whatever he said. (Then) he just left me alone. It wasn't any fun (for him) because I didn't fight it."
Gary Payton was Earl Watson's "veteran," and The Glove kept him busy (if not sleepless in Seattle) in 2001-02.
"I basically had to pick him up whenever he called me, which was sometimes very late at night," Watson recalled, smiling. "I had to pull the bags off the plane. I had to always give him Gatorade at practice with ice. Where you going to find ice during the middle of practice? It's always something difficult."
But a lifelong friendship emerged.
"He was good with me," Watson said. "He ended up becoming my mentor =85 one of my big brothers still to this day. I'm close with his family. It's a bond that's built forever."
Unbeknownst to rookies, initiations aren't quite over.
"I think there will still be things coming," Hayward said. "But that's not really up to me and Jeremy. We're only second-year players, so I don't know if we have much authority."
Oh, but they do.
Hayward, Evans and Favors are "rookie captains," Miles said. As such, they get to pick out cute carry-ons for Kanter and Burks.
"They gotta go shopping," Watson said. "It's kind of a gift they really want to give. It's the gift that keeps on giving."
Added Favors: "I'm going to let the veterans take care of that, but when I get up to five, six years, all hell's going to break loose."
Miles wants the second-year guys to enjoy the experience, but he'll make the Walmart trip to buy Dora the Explorer or Power Rangers bags if necessary.
"It's kind of like payback," Miles joked. "It has to happen soon. Nobody's really had time because we've been practicing, (playing) games and going back and forth."
ALL FOR FUN
The coaching staff hasn't placed restrictions on what can or can't be done.
"I think they kinda enjoy it too," Miles said. "They kinda see what we're going to come up with."
Miles couldn't help but laugh when thinking about this season's first rookie ritual. Burks showed some decent dance moves, but Kanter was caught completely off-guard in front of 10,000 fans at the open scrimmage. He only managed a few shoulder shrugs.
"I think Enes is still shook from having to dance — well, not dancing," Miles said, chuckling. "He was just like, 'I don't know what (to do).' He was uncomfortable."
Which, in a fun-loving way, is exactly the point.
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