The lockout has added upheaval to every phase of the NBA’s off-season, but the process has been particularly tumultuous for incoming rookies. The lucky rooks have been able to establish some kind of contact with their team (preliminary conversations with coaches or general managers, introductory press conferences, etc.), but there are plenty of other first-year players that were left out in the cold by the strict barring of contact between players and teams, isolated by the lockout’s iron curtain.
Miami point guard Norris Cole, the No. 28 overall pick, lies somewhere in the middle. He’s smiled for the cameras and shaken hands with Pat Riley, but the lockout had prevented Cole from actually meeting any of his teammates-to-be until a recent phone call put him in touch with one of the Heat’s most powerful employees. From Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:
Despite playing four years at Cleveland State, the speedy point guard said he had never met or spoken with LeBron James until receiving a phone call last week. It was James, extending an invitation to work out if Cole would make the short trip from Cleveland to Akron, James’ hometown.
“He welcomed me to the family, the Miami Heat family,” Cole said Wednesday. “He found out I was in the area. He asked if I wanted to come work out. He said I could come work out any time he’s in the area, and I said, ‘OK,’ and I took advantage of it.”
Together, the two ran drills, with James filling in Cole on the Heat’ approach. Until that session, Cole said he had not met another member of the team since he was drafted in June. “It was good just to see how he worked out, how serious he takes the game,” Cole said. “Reaching out, it shows how sincere of a person he is, of a teammate he is.”
LeBron inviting Cole to work out with him doesn’t exactly make him a saint, but it’s still a nice gesture to a rookie without a country. NBA vets should all be more or less on the same page once the lockout is lifted, but a rookie getting acclimated to the NBA game, a new home, a new coach, and new teammates is in for quite the challenge. The more familiar Cole is with the players around him and the way the Heat go about their business, the easier it will be to deal with the steep post-lockout learning curve. No need to make LeBron’s workouts with Cole any more than they are, but those little bits do help in the grand scheme of things, even if only in offering the rook a few points of reference for his first real day on the job.