Where you land as a rookie has a tremendous impact on your career. First of all, there’s the depth chart. If you are Mo Bamba and Orlando just gave Vučević a huge contract, you are looking at replacement minutes at best. That’s not good.
Then there is the organizational culture you enter. If your owner and/or GM don’t have a clear vision of what the team should be, then you start your career in Sacramento or Phoenix and have 6 coaches in 6 seasons. Even if you are DeMarcus Cousins or Devin Booker, get a lot of minutes and the team is built around you, that can hamper your growth.
Then, we have veterans. There is a reason teams are chasing Vince Carter to sign with them, and it is not just his on the court performance. When Atlanta signed him last season, Vince understood his leadership and guidance are as important (if not more important) than his on-court performance. So when he had his first meeting with the coach and GM, Vince asked: “what do you need me to do, who do I mentor?”
If we are to believe Jayson Williams, Charles Barkley was the complete opposite in Philadelphia. Williams was on the VICE Sports “Cookies” podcast and talked about his experience being drafted in Philadephia and his experience as a rookie with Barkley on the team:
Charles Barkley was probably the strongest man from the bellybutton down. Never would lift the weights, but let me tell you something man. You knew he wasn’t going to win the championship.
He was the worst person to play with as a rookie because when you went in you got all the bad habits from him. You stayed out all night and then you couldn’t figure out why you didn’t have it in the game. It’s because when Charles came to practice he didn’t practice.
I’ll never forget this story. My second day of practice we’re out there running up and down. Charles Barkley comes in about 5-minutes late. He comes in and he has a big McDonald’s bag. And he goes and he sits down on the bike. And like a chemist. You know a guy over there cutting up lines or something. You know? He’s just making – he’s got his back towards us and he’s doing stuff – I’m like what the hell is he doing? So he takes the eggs, and he takes the pancakes, the sausage, maple syrup and butter, puts it all in one, warps it up with the pancake and gets some extra syrup. And the butter’s oozing out. And I’m going wow, you going to eat that then and come run with us? Hell no. He’s going to eat that while he’s on the stationary bike. Peddling one mile an hour going “You sons of bitches! Run the floor! You lazy bastards! You f—ers! That’s why we ain’t never going to win the game!” And pancake is spitting out his mouth.
Williams also mentioned that in his first two years with the 76ers, Barkley practiced about three times. While we are sure Barkley worked out more than that, but it does paint a picture of why those 76ers team never reached the potential they had.