Last week the rookies and several other young players in the NBA gathered in the New York area for the annual — and required — Rookie Transition Program. The event is designed to help rookies transition to the realities of being a professional athlete and make them aware of the pitfalls and traps that pro athletes sometimes fall into.
It started with the rookies getting their photos taken in full jerseys for their Panini basketball cards, but the point of the week is this business. The rookies, notably, heard from former NBA player Chris Herren who was featured in the fantastic ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Unguarded.
Maurice Harkless was one of the few non-rookies that were in attendance last week. Harkless missed last year's Rookie Transition Program as he recovered from a surgery to repair the sports hernia that kept him out most of the summer (and hampered him at the beginning of last season).
Harkless though received many of the lessons from veterans on last year's team, particularly J.J. Redick. Harkless related these lessons from Redick to John Schumann of NBA.com:
Any time I had a question about anything. J.J. [Redick] was there to help me. He always was helping the young guys get through whatever issues they had.
The first couple of weeks into the preseason. J.J. sat down all the rookies individually and talked to them about finances, how important it is to save, make the right decisions with your money, don’t give anyone power of attorney and stuff like that.
Harkless said he had more than a few family members pop out of nowhere once he made it to the NBA. Some of those stories are true.
Stories like this are exactly why the Magic wanted veterans on their team throughout the whole rebuild process. And not just veterans, the right veterans who would understand this important role and set an example for the young players.
J.J. Redick was certainly one of those players. He rose up from a guy who could not get off the bench to one of the most trusted players in the rotation of a championship-caliber team. He really grew into a strong NBA player and a leader in the locker room.
Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis also embodied the professionalism and leadership the Magic wanted from this roster. It had an impact on the rookies and young players. They were already hard workers and the right kind of guys the Magic want on their roster. Having veterans as a resource to reinforce those tendencies are important for their growth and development.
That is why the Magic went after Jason Maxiell and Ronnie Price in free agency. This season is still about growth and development of the young players.
Someone has to replace the lessons Redick taught these young guys.