Part of Kevin Seraphin would’ve loved to have been on that stage in Slovenia on Sunday with fellow NBA players Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw, hoisting the Nikolai Semashko trophy and drowning under a gold confetti shower as they celebrated France’s first European Championship title.
But Seraphin had made up his mind months ago that he needed to take some time for himself, to advance his NBA career, rather than commit another summer to his country. The decision was difficult and was greeted with some backlash back home, but Seraphin has no regrets, even after watching his friends finally emerge as the best team in Europe with an 80-66 win over Lithuania.
“I’m glad for them,” Seraphin, a native of French Guyana, said of his countrymen. “It was not I didn’t want to. Of course, I wanted to be with them on the national team. Sometime you have to make sacrifice. And I had to make sacrifice this summer to get better, to step up my game and that’s what I did.”
Seraphin will be a restricted free agent next summer and elected to stay in Washington to work on his game and improve his conditioning as he enters his fourth season.
The results are already apparent from a physical perspective, as a more svelte Seraphin flashed his dance moves on Tuesday with kids at Capital City Public Charter School during a fitness initiative with several Wizards’ teammates. He has slimmed down to 277 pounds and claims to have trimmed his body fat down to 9.5 percent.
“I’ve been working out,” Seraphin said, flashing a smile. “I’m looking good right now. Now, I’m more explosive, I’m more quicker and I can play longer at a higher intensity.”
The Wizards will need an improved Seraphin next season, especially after the team lost starting center Emeka Okafor for an indefinite time with a herniated disc in his neck.
“I was upset, because ‘Mek is a really good guy. He’s always working out. He’s a hard worker. He always try to help me out and give me advice on the game. Like Nene does,” Seraphin said, when asked about his initial reaction. “I just appreciate that, when I heard about it, I text him right away, because I was just like, ‘Wow. That’s crazy.’ I asked him, ‘How did this thing happen?’ Now I have a chance.”
In some ways, the situation is similar to last season, when the Wizards opened training camp with Okafor but without Nene and planned to lean more on Seraphin, who had a promising finish to his second season. But instead of breaking out, Seraphin had very little carryover and battled with inconsistency.
“Last year, I wasn’t really ready, because that was really my first season,” said Seraphin, who received little playing time before JaVale McGee was traded to Denver in March 2012. “I didn’t know what to expect. Before I was just playing and right now, I know what it is. I know how everything works. I have a season to see that. I’m more prepared and more mature about it.”
Seraphin chronicled his summer in Washington on social networking sites Twitter and Vine, posting goofy photographs and videos of his adventures under the hashtag, #KevinSeraphinLife. But he was serious about his approach to the upcoming season, and his teammates and coaches have taken note, raving about the work that he has done. After he went down, Okafor expressed his confidence in Seraphin’s development.
“I think Seraphin, he has one thing that you need in this league and that’s confidence,” Okafor said.” He has plenty of that. And he has a workmanlike attitude. He has great touch around the basket and a desire to learn. And I think all of that is going to bode well for him. And he had a pretty good offseason. He was focused. He worked hard. And I think that he’s going to get some confidence early and get going pretty good.”
The Wizards didn’t add any notable big men to the training camp roster, which means that Seraphin, Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely will all get an opportunity to fill the void left by Okafor. Seraphin added that Al Harrington is also in the mix and that he believes the team can withstand the absence of its defensive anchor.
“We’ll see,” Seraphin said. “I cannot say what the future is going to be. But hopefully, it will be enough and I just hope Mek will come back soon.”
After playing for France in the previous two offseasons – and helping his country finish sixth in the London Olympics in 2012 – Seraphin said he spent last summer working on being more consistent with his shot and becoming more of a ball hawk as it relates to rebounding. The coaching staff also gave him video of Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert to study how to hold his position and defend without fouling.
“As a big man, I have to get better,” Seraphin said. “This league is all about opportunity. Now I have to step up. I may play more, so now I have to prepare for it. Just get ready for the beginning of the season.”
The hard work came at the expense of possibly winning a championship with France, but Seraphin doesn’t want to second-guess his decision. “I never had any doubt. I know now I have to make my own decision,” Seraphin said. “For sure, I wanted to be there, but it’s like that.”