Making a splash
VALENCIA — There is nothing good about the NBA lockout, at least for those whose lives have been put on hold while the team owners and players try to find common ground and work toward a new collective bargaining agreement.
Coaches want to coach and players want to play.
Among the latter are the youngsters who just wrapped college careers, players like former South Medford High standout Kyle Singler.
One of the best forwards in the land while playing for Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, the 23-year-old was selected by the Detroit Pistons early in the second round of June's NBA Draft.
But the NBA shut down league operations on July 1 when the old collective bargaining agreement expired, and Singler's hope of making the team was put on hold.
Rather than wait and wait and wait for the lockout to end, Singler, wanting to remain sharp and fit, launched his professional career in Spain's top flight with Lucentum Alicante (2-1).
He's glad he made the decision to play in Europe.
"Definitely," he said to FIBA.com. "I know a lot of guys back in the states want to play basketball.
"It's unfortunate that the lockout is happening. You have your pros and cons to everything. I'm far away from my family and they're not able to see my play, but, this is what I want to do. I'm having a good time, and it's good basketball."
The signing has paid off not just for Singler, but Alicante as well.
In a season-opening upset of Bizkaia Bilbao Basket, one of the Spanish teams that is competing in this season's Euroleague, Singler poured in 23 points.
He made five of his 10 shots from the floor and was 10 of 11 (91%) at the free-throw line.
Singler finished with a game-high player valuation of 32, a number that takes into consideration a player's entire statistical output.
At Cajasol Blanca Civica in Sevilla in midweek, Singler struggled. He got into foul trouble and played just 21 minutes and ended up with 12 points in a heavy defeat.
On Sunday at Valencia Basket, though, Singler was very good again, scoring a game-high 24 points in a 70-67 upset of La Taronja.
His valuation, which was 26, was the best of all the players.
"He's a good player," Singler's teammate Mo Kone said to FIBA.com. "He has a good basketball I.Q. When you see him play, you know he came from Duke.
"He's going to be a very, very good player."
There is good reason to suspect that Alicante privately hopes the lockout continues.
Coach Txus Vidorreta played Singler for almost the entire game against Valencia, resting him for a little over a minute in the third quarter.
The decision-making process
Lottery picks in the NBA Draft are almost nailed-on certainties to have a spot on the roster. Everything is not straightforward for most players, though, including those at traditional college powerhouses like Duke.
"I knew that I was going to need to work myself into a contract with the Pistons," Singler said, "but my whole my mindset was, 'Let's see what happens with the lockout.' I didn't really say, 'I'll put my name in the draft and then go overseas and play.' That wasn't my thinking. I just kind of felt it out. Kind of when I felt this lockout was going to last a long time, I talked to my agent and set something up."
Exactly when did he make the choice to go to Europe?
"I would say that happened two months ago, two and a half months ago — so it's not been that long," he said. "The reason I ended up at Alicante is that my agent felt like it was a good situation for me. I think he was right. My contract is, once the lockout is lifted, I go back."
In one sense, the lockout has alleviated some of the pressure on Singler. He has savvy, athleticism and a sweet shooting stroke in abundance.
For Detroit fans, Singler is demonstrating that he is adaptable.
"I think that's one of the things that's helping me to have a good time," he said. "I'm able to (make the) transition and play good basketball. I'm happy, and I'm just trying to keep this thing going."
It's going about as well as he could have hoped in Spain.
"I heard it was one of the better leagues in Europe but I had no idea what I was going to get myself into because I'd never seen any of the tape," he said. "I had heard of the players that were in the league and I knew it was going to be competitive. But whenever you have an expectation, it's never what you kind of build it up to be. But it's great to play against these guys, professionals who are well respected.
"I'm having a great time. I'm playing very well. More importantly, I'm able to play basketball, and to be with this group. It's a good group of guys. We're winning, having a good time and playing decent basketball."
A foreign land
While Singler has quickly become the main man at Alicante, he had to overcome the hurdle of living abroad.
"I'd been overseas before," he said, "but it's different here, a different culture, different atmosphere."
Most of his time is spent in the gym.
"The games, the atmosphere in the games, they're great," Singler said. "It's just different. It's not like the college atmosphere, but does have kind of the same feel. You have the diehard fans. You would never see this in the NBA, only in the Finals or something. So, in that respect, it's good."
Singler is focused.
He had to be while majoring in visual arts at Duke, and while playing for Krzyzewski.
"Playing at Duke was great," Singler said. It was one of my dreams to go there and play for Coach and be a part of four different teams. I had a great time, had a great career, won a national championship (2010). It was pretty much all that I expected it to be and I'm glad that I stayed all four years because if I had missed one of those, I would have regretted it."
Perhaps playing for the legendary Krzyzewski, a man who has been at Duke for more than a quarter of a century and won four NCAA titles, has helped Singler in his first year of professional ball.
"The one thing that I've always taken from Coach is his willingness to learn, (despite) how well respected he is and how much he knows about the game, and just how hard he prepares," Singler said. "Those two things I always respected him for and I've tried to implement them in my life."
Krzyzewski also coaches Team USA and will be at his second Olympic Games next season when they are staged in London.
Singler, who competed for the United States at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in 2006, would love to play for the senior team.
"I had been a part of some of the USA teams," Singler said. "If it works out to be able to play for the USA, it would be awesome."