If you were walking around Chinatown the last few weeks of the regular season, you may have seen a 6-foot-9, 275-pound man cruising along on a Segway. There was no need for alarm. It was simply Wizards rookie Kevin Seraphin making the rounds, abandoning his gas guzzler and taking a greener, two-wheeled approach to transportation.
“I got a good deal. Pretty good deal,” said Seraphin, who even rode out to Georgetown after one practice. “I was chilling in my house and I said, ‘Let’s make a tour of D.C.’ I go to Georgetown, go to the monument. People say, ‘That’s cool.’ I got some people that stopped me.”
Seraphin didn’t stop to chat for long on his journeys through town, and he’s hoping that he won’t find many impediments leading up to his second season in the NBA. It wasn’t played up very much, but Seraphin, the 17th overall pick of the draft last June, had to overcome several obstacles as he averaged 2.7 points and 2.6 rebounds in his first season in the league.
“It was a learning season for him,” said Charlotte Bobcats forward Boris Diaw, a native of France who spoke with Seraphin over a few dinners this season. Diaw was excited about possibly having Seraphin on the French team this summer. “He’s quick, got a big body. He’s very strong. He’s got good hands, usually. He’s got to keep working with his game and he’ll get better.”
Seraphin, a native of French Guyana, spent the first half of the season trying to adjust to a new language while learning how to play in the NBA. He had a quality about him reminiscent of “Bam Bam” from the Flintstones since he hardly knew his own strength. He plowed through so many players, flooring them with vicious screens that were often called offensive fouls. He also admitted to falling for the lure of American junk food, which forced him to bring in a personal trainer from France who helped him lose some weight and get his diet back on track.
But the toughest challenge that Seraphin dealt with was working his way back from a sprained knee suffered last season with his French team, Cholet. The injury made it impossible for him to work out for teams and kept him off the French national team. “That was very, very difficult. That was my first time with injury,” Seraphin said. “When I came back, I don’t have the same game. That was difficult. I start training camp. That was very hard. I got my knee drained. I don’t play for five months. This is the NBA, so that was difficult. I stopped playing, so I stopped moving. You can’t run. You can’t shoot. Can’t do anything. Now, this year, if I’m on the French national team, I’m going to have more experience.”
Seraphin displayed soft hands and feet, and dropped a nice little jump hook, with either hand, from time to time. But he often frustrated the Wizards coaching staff when he failed to secure rebounds, which was really inexcusable for a player with such huge hands.
Now that he has survived the season without any injuries, Seraphin is hoping to use this offseason to get better at “everything. On my defense. offense. Everything.”
He started to get more comfortable with his surroundings as the season progressed, and even decided to visit a tattoo parlor in March. He got a huge tattoo of an angel with wings on his back, which he said represents the meaning of his last name. He also feels more secure with the language. “I have to keep working on my English, but I understand what they say. When they tell me how to make the screen, I understand, so now, I don’t think.”
Seraphin said he would like to one day have a game that resembles Denver Nuggets center Nene, a bruiser from Brazil who also had some difficulty adjusting to the NBA as a rookie. He is optimistic that he will improve and he expects the Wizards to do the same. “Next season, we’re going to be good. We’ve going to be very good, because we were young this year and we don’t really know each other. Next year, we’re going to know each other and improve on everything. We can make the playoffs.”
If only it were as easy as riding a Segway.