Setting lofty standards

Basketball : The towering Satnam is slowly gaining ground at NBA, one of the most demanding basketball leagues
Last Updated 20 February 2016, 18:38 IST

‘One step at a time. One punch at a time. One round at a time,’ says Rocky Balboa, enacted by the Sylvester Stallone, to his trainee Adonis Johnson (Michael B Jordan), the biological son of his one-time fiercest rival Apollo Creed, in ‘Creed’ -- a 2015 spin-off to the world-famous movie franchise ‘Rocky’.

This is not only a training approach adopted by many boxers across the globe but a few others, who have very little to do with the sport and endorse this ideology in their life. Satnam Singh belongs to the latter category.

Having made it into the National Basketball Association league (NBA) through the 2015 draft, Satnam has found it difficult to match up to the standards that one of the finest leagues in the world demands. His presence in the Development League, where he represents Texas Legends, too has been limited. Having started just two of the 13 games that he has played so far, the numbers also do not favour the Indian. But that hardly seems to have affected the towering centre.

“It’s been a while since then (the draft). But I don’t see it the way many would do. One needs to understand that the game here is very quick and fast paced. To reach that level I need some time.

“I am putting in a lot of extra time in the training. Working on my reflexes, my body movements, footwork, my positioning, movement off the ball and so on,” says Satnam who knows the journey from being a draft pick to establishing himself as a regular fixture for his NBA side is long and daunting.

Standing head and shoulders above the rest at 7’ 2’’, the Punjab player made the headlines in India when he became the first-ever from the country to be drafted into the NBA. Satnam was roped in by Dallas Mavericks as the 52nd pick overall. He believes that the draft has not only given him the a glimmer of hope of playing in one of the finest leagues in the world, but is also an opportunity to show the world that even Indians can be good at the game.

“It’s been amazing. I couldn’t have asked for more. I know this is the best opportunity I will get to make a name for myself and also show to the world that we Indians too can be good at basketball,” he tells Deccan Herald.

“I know back home, we do not have that much basketball craze. But I am trying to help make a name here so that Indian kids will look up to me and play basketball. I want to ensure that I make the most of this chance. And I can assure you that I will give my best every time I step on to that court. Be it the summer league, the D-League or the NBA.”

 Satnam, much like most of his fellow draft picks, was soon sent to the D-League, a place where a newbie into the world of NBA is polished before he can take the stage alongside the big names in the game.

And for Satnam, the Texas Legends has been an apt place to work on his game. Under the watchful eyes of Nick Van Exel, the 20-year-old has been toiling hard to realise his potential in the big league. “It’s been great working here. Things are a lot different here. I have been working a lot on my body. Basketball is a very physical game and unless you have a fit and a swift body you can’t reach great heights. Even my coach emphasises on that factor,” he explains.

While Satnam is busy working on developing his strengths, he is also aware of his weakness, something that he is eager to weed out of his game. “Being a huge guy, I am very slow on my feet and I know that.

“I take a long time to move from one end of the court to the other. But having said that, I am working on improving my speed. I want to show that Satnam can not only score points, but also track back to help sort out the defence in no time,” he stresses, spelling out the areas that he is working on to improve.

Double-edged sword

Being big can mean a double edged sword for many. While it can come in handy for a player to dominate the game with his physical presence on the court, such players are also the once who fall prey to injuries more often than not.

“It’s risky, but I can’t do much about it. I see it as God’s gift and I want to make the most of it. Being tall and nicely built can help you in the game. You can dominate the opposition, but on the other hand you are also prone to injuries. And the best thing to avoid that is to do the right things both on and off the court. Stay healthy, eat healthy, play a fair game.

“On the training front, I am working on strengthening my legs. I am very protective about my knee and my ankles. I know if those areas get a hit, I am done. And the NBA also has a history that shows 7+ guys haven’t lasted for long. So I am very cautious in my approach. I am here to stay for a long time and stay away from injuries,” he continues.
Being a part of the Dallas family has also given Satnam an opportunity to train with one of the legends of the game, Dirk Nowitzki. And the Indian has been quick to learn from the German great.

“A guy who you can blindly trust to give you baskets after baskets, that’s how I see Dirk. And that’s something that I am learning from him, being a reliable shooter for your team -- a workaholic, a guy who sweats it out in the training. That’s something that caught my attention when I was with Dallas Mavericks. And I was like if someone like a Dirk gives in so much to be the player he is in the NBA, what is stopping me from putting in those hard yards,” reveals Satnam as he is determined to take that hard route to glory in one of the finest leagues in the world.

(Published 20 February 2016, 15:28 IST)

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