Palmer is getting his first look at taller, faster, better world of NBAHe was just about to duck his 7-foot-2 inch frame under the gymnasium doors and head for the weight room, when Jazz rookie Walter Palmer was asked if he's going to be playing small forward this year.
"Yeah," grinned Palmer. "Can you believe it?"Palmer is getting his first look at taller, faster, better world of NBAHe was just about to duck his 7-foot-2 inch frame under the gymnasium doors and head for the weight room, when Jazz rookie Walter Palmer was asked if he's going to be playing small forward this year.
Playing small forward is just one of the hard-to-believe things facing the former Dartmouth center, now that he's with the Jazz. There is the difference in location, the new coaching techniques, the number of games and, of course, the level of competition. Palmer and eight other rookies and free agents gathered Monday at Westminster College to kick off a three-day mini-camp.
Friday the big guns come in - Karl Malone, John Stockton, etc. - to officially inaugurate the Jazz's training camp. "We're going to find out real early how good he is," says Jazz Director of Player Personnel Scott Layden.
The adjustments for Palmer will be considerable. Where he once towered over his opponents - in both size and ability - in a league populated by budding molecular physicists and MBA's, he now will find himself with bigger, stronger and faster players at every turn.
"The level of this league is so good," said Layden. "There's just over 300 jobs in the league. That alone tells you how good it is. And out of those 300 jobs, a lot stay 10 years or more. So there aren't a lot of openings."
Despite the odds, Palmer has won some crucial victories already. An unheralded center from Dartmouth, he was drafted June 27 by the Jazz and signed in late August to a two-year guaranteed contract. But signing a contract and playing well in the NBA are two entirely different proposals. Thus, he has been on a five-week training regimen, working out under assistant coach Phil Johnson to improve his skills.
Already a fine perimeter shooter - thus the projection as a small forward - he says he has paid particular attention to improving his footwork and positioning.
"His skills are mostly small forward skills. He has good hands, he can shoot, but it's still early to start sliding him into a position," said Layden.
Then there is his weight. A bony 220-pounds, Palmer hasn't gained an ounce since last summer. Not to worry. Jazz strength coach Rick Anderson has Palmer on a program whereby he has already gained 10-20 percent in overall body strength since arriving in Salt Lake. He has also improved his flexibility dramatically.
But the idea, said Anderson, isn't to put on weight for weight's sake. "We want functioning muscle tissue, not body fat," said Anderson.
Anderson says that at this time next year Palmer should be "at the absolute minimum" 15 pounds heavier. He added that a body of Palmer's dimensions could hold 260 pounds of lean muscle tissue, and at the same time have increased jumping and running ability.
Layden says he isn't looking for a body builder, just a stronger player. "He's never going to turn into Karl Malone, but the idea is to just get stronger," said Layden.
Along with the physical improvements, Palmer said he feels ahead in other areas. "My biggest progress is in the area of knowing the system and knowing how to make adjustments," he said.
Just how far Palmer has come will be revealed in depth when the training camp starts in full. Said Layden, "The big test is when he gets on the floor against the other guys, the veterans."