After an outstanding three-year career at Kansas, which included a 2008 NCAA Championship and three Big 12 titles during his tenure, Cole Aldrich was a Lottery pick this June. First selected by the Hornets before being trading to the Thunder on Draft Night, the Bloomington, Minn. native gladly returned to the Midwest. So with everyone’s expectations for the Thunder going through the roof this season, we decided there was no one better to turn to for the inside scoop on life in OKC. In his third entry, Cole talks about rookie hazing and life in the NBA D-League.
Four words can sum up my life since I last checked in: A lot has happened.
After I thought I got off pretty easy in terms of any rookie hazing, Royal Ivey changed that. I don’t know how Royal got the idea or anything, but he came on the plane when we were headed to Milwaukee on the road trip and just said, “Here’s your new best friend. You gotta carry him around everywhere you go.” At least a frog’s better than anything else. I asked people on Twitter to help me out with a name, but some of them were pretty bizarre. Frank the Frog just flowed together. Whatever you do, don’t tell Royal he’s not in Tulsa with me right now.
Then there’s the packing peanuts. We were playing at home (I don’t remember who), but after the game Royal got me again. He came to me and was like, “We’re gonna talk to you about some of your rookie duties,” and I already knew something was up because everyone was there. Everyone walked out of the arena with me and had cameras. I don’t know how they got that many packing peanuts into my car, but it was filled almost to the ceiling! It kind of became a pain in the butt to take ’em all out, so I shoveled ’em onto the ground for like 10 minutes and then just opened the windows, hopped in the car and drove home. They started flying! To tell you the truth, I think I still have some in there.
I’d love to get him, back but I’m not going to. You just continue to take care of the vets on the team. You just gotta go along with it.
Also, you may have heard that I’ve been playing in the D-League for the Tulsa 66ers. GM [Sam] Presti came to me one day and told me he thought it would be a great opportunity to get back on the court and get some serious minutes again. With the number of great post guys we have, it’s tough to crack the rotation. Not many people think about it this way: Going 11th in the Draft to a 50-win team isn’t the norm. Usually when you go in the Lottery, you go to a struggling team. The Thunder are a very successful team and I love being a part of it. But it’s also nice to get some minutes in on the court.
The drive to Tulsa from Oklahoma City is about an hour and a half, so I just took one of my cars. It’s nice to have it for going to practice and if I want to go out and go to the mall or go back to my house. I went back on Saturday night to get some laundry done so that’s a nice. Before I left, I made sure I had my basketball and shower shoes and everything I need on the court, and packed a bag or two of stuff that I needed off the court â€“ clothing, shower kit, computer, iPad, Xbox 360.
Right now, I’m staying in a hotel in Tulsa. It’s actually a really nice hotel. It’s not home, but it’s my temporary home for another four or five days. The other guys on the team share apartments with roommates â€“ two guys per place. I’m the only one in the hotel, and they haven’t seen it yet. They’d probably be a little jealous. It’s actually a suite, so it’s like a one-bedroom apartment. I have a kitchen with a stove, refrigerator and all that. But for Thanksgiving, I went over to our coach’s house (Nate Tibbetts) and had a nice meal. You know, turkey, stuffing and all the good stuff.
Even though I’m away from the team, I still talk to a lot of guys on the team. I talked to Kevin [Durant] for 20-30 minutes the other day, as well as Royal, Mo Pete and Byron [Mullens]. As I’ve said before, everybody’s really friendly, but Kevin always looks out for me. It’s tough missing the games. I watched the game last night on TV in Tulsa. You gotta watch the games to see what the team’s doing defensively and offensively. I’ve been cheering hard for the guys and want us to win every game. It’s hard not being there, so I’ve been working my butt off here.
In practice, we do all the same stuff and run most of the same plays. It’s real similar. The biggest difference is that the locker room showers are cold! Other than that, the locker room is not quite as spacious and the floor’s a little dirty. It’s all about going back to the basics. For example, we get about 18,000 people on average in Oklahoma City. In Tulsa we’ve had maybe 500 per game â€“ and that’s probably being generous. We sold out every game at KU, so I haven’t had a game with that few fans for a number of years… probably since my sophomore year of high school.
For anyone that’s ever played in the NBA and the D-League, they know that there’s definitely a difference. One of them is that you can swipe the ball off the rim and it’s not goaltending. I saw one or two guys do that in my first game, and then I figured out it’s a rule. Also, you get called for some things that you don’t get called for in the League. (Ed. note: Cole had 11 fouls in his first two games.) Maybe you get anticipated for a call when you actually don’t foul a guy, or other situations where you just play through in the League.
When we played the Iowa Energy, it was nice to see fellow rookie Gani Lawal and Connor Atchley. I really like Gani. Him and I had a number of battles throughout our high school career, and he’s a good friend of mine. It’s nice going up against a guy like that. Like me, he has to continue to learn and get better. As for Connor, it was cool. I talked to him a tiny bit just before tip-off. We kind of had a rivalry throughout college.
Someone asked me the other day who the best prospect on the team is. That’s tough. We’ve got a few guys that are really good. Probably one of my personal favorites is Ryan Reid, a big guy from Florida State that really works hard. He works hard in practice and every possession in the game. We also have Latavious Williams. Right now he has a minor injury and is trying to get healthy. He’s a good player, and will really help the 66ers this year.
Until next time…
Follow Cole on Twitter at @colea45.
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