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Veterans missing at training camps
( 2003-10-02 11:32) (Agencies)

There's a new rule in place at NBA training camps: No vets allowed.

Players with more than three years' experience are not reporting for the first three days of camp, their absence mandatory under terms of a deal struck in February between the league and the players' union.

Several coaches have voiced their displeasure with the rule, which came as part of a tradeoff in which the union agreed to extend the first round of the playoffs from best-of-five to best-of-seven.

Next year, the veterans get five days off before having to report.

"In ideal circumstances you'd like your team to start intact and hit the ground running from square one: same time, same day," New York Knicks assistant coach Lon Kruger said Wednesday.

But that's not the case at the 29 NBA camps, where many coaches are working with only three or four players they expect to have on their opening-night rosters.

Many veterans loath the first few days of camp with their two-a-day practices, and the union wanted a concession from the league for the extra wear and tear from two extra playoff games. Commissioner David Stern conceded it was a valid issue when he announced the deal at All-Star weekend in Atlanta.

"A lot of people from the teams would prefer not to have it work this way, but that was the deal," NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said, adding that the league and the union will review the policy during the upcoming season.

"We have to explore whether this is the best solution or not. For players who want to get physically ready, being taken away from working out for five days may not be the best thing."

If there is an upside to the new rule, it could benefit some undrafted rookies and free agent hopefuls signed to fill out training camp rosters.

Matt Carroll is one of them, having gone undrafted last June despite being Notre Dame's sixth all-time leading scorer as a four-year starter. Carroll is trying to earn a spot on the Knicks as a backup shooting guard, something New York currently does not have.

"I think it helps us because you get more individual attention from the coaches and also you get to learn more. So when the veterans do come who know all this stuff, then you've already picked it up and you're not a step behind them," Carroll said.

All summer long, Memphis Grizzlies president Jerry West couldn't acquire a center despite his best efforts. On one of the first few days of autumn, however, he got what he wanted.

West acquired center Jake Tsakalidis and forward Bo Outlaw from the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday for backup guard Brevin Knight and little-used players Cezary Trebanski and Robert Archibald.

"It's obviously pretty hard to get a center, it really is," West said. "We feel we did the best we could, getting someone young with size who has some potential."

If the trade seems a bit lopsided in Memphis' favor Tsakalidis started at center for Phoenix last season it was because of the Suns' luxury tax concerns.

Phoenix will save about $2 million in luxury tax costs in the upcoming season and is no longer liable for Outlaw's $6.5 million in 2004-05. The trade will open up minutes for the Suns' big men Scott Williams, Jake Voskuhl, Tom Gugliotta and rookie Zarko Cabarkapa.

The Grizzlies, who have been without an interior presence since Bryant Reeves' third season in Vancouver, now have a big body along the front line to confront Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Olowokandi, Yao Ming, Rasho Nesterovic and many other big centers populating Western Conference rosters.

"Strength is a huge factor here," West said. "We're an athletic team, but we don't have a lot of bulk with those people. He's played pretty well against Shaq in the past, and he's also played well against Yao Ming. From our perspective it bodes well for us."

 
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