Not that former GW star Pops Mensah-Bonsu needs my advice, but this is what I'd tell him: if you're trying to make an NBA roster, don't run full speed into the child of your potential future coach, leaving him crumpled on the floor.
That's what Pops did yesterday, chasing after a loose ball and then spearing Avery Johnson Jr., serving as a ballboy, who was slammed into the Gatorade cooler and then pinned under Pops. It looked bad, but to his credit the kid popped right back up, and immediately began toweling up the spilled Gatorade, which shows real dedication to his craft. I asked whether it hurt--"no, it didn't," said young Avery, a tougher man than I--and later, I asked Pops whether he thought that was a solid career choice.
"I don't think you saw, but I made sure he was all right," Pops pointed out. "Hopefully [Avery Sr.] gives me a couple points because I hustled. But I had to make sure he was good. It was definitely a big shot. Tough kid, tough kid."
As for Pops's career, he bounced back and forth from the D-League to the NBA last year, appearing in 12 games with the Mavs and making the D-League all-star team, and he and J.J. Barea are both competing for roster spots this week. Pops had 24 and 10 in an exhibition opener, went for 10 and 13 in the team's Summer League opener and got 13 rebounds against the Nuggets yesterday, although his offensive game looked sort of, well, confused (2-11 shooting). Still, he's leading the Summer League in rebounding, and speaking all serious-like about his future.
"It's a desperation situation for me. This determines whether or not I'm going to be here next year, so I've got to play as hard as I can every night in and night out and make sure I show the Mavericks that I can bring something to the table," he sad. "I think it's all up to me whether I make the team or not. If I don't perform, then I think we all know what's going to happen, but if I do make the most of this opportunity then I'm obviously going to have a good chance to make the team. Like I said, it's all in my hands right now. It's not like they're giving my position away; it's up to me whether I throw it away. I've just got to make sure I do the right things and keep it."
[Apparently, he let Greg Oden get to the basket when the Mavs played Portland, and later heard about it from friends.
"It was pretty funny, I got a couple calls, people telling me I got out of the way when he went to dunk it," he said. "Anybody who makes me second guess going to block their shot, I've got to give them respect and tip my hat to him. I think he's going to be a good player. Once he gets a little more upper body strength, I think he's going to be a force. "
He said he hasn't much considered what he'll do if the Mavs don't pick up his contract and he becomes a free agent, and he said he's hoping to play for Great Britain's national team later on in the summer. As for the fact that within a two-hour span, he played on the same court as Wiz Summer Leaguers and former GW teammates J.R. Pinnock and Mike Hall, Pops was guarded.
"I think it's going to be a little more cool if we all make the NBA," he said. "That's when I'm going to be real happy, if we're all in there together. I'm glad to see everybody here, but I'll feel a little bit better if we're all in the NBA together. There's a good chance that will happen. I know how [Spurs Summer Leaguer Regis Koundjia] plays, I know how Mike and J.R. play and I obviously know what I can do on any given night, so I think our chances are pretty high to make it. It just depends on how we perform."
[By the way, in other GW news, Coach Karl Hobbs now has a blog, if you can call something that opens with one 2,800-word entry and promises bi-monthly updates a blog. But welcome to our world, sir.]