Monday, March 17, 2008

NBA D-League Profile: Lance Allred

You might say that the story of D-League Call-Up Lance Allred is slightly... different. For starters, he came out of Weber State. He's white and slightly gawkish. He plays chess often, and has a passion for the game. And though he won't talk about it, for fear of grandstanding, he's als0 suffers from 80% hearing loss, rendering him partially deaf and forcing him to use hearing implants. And he's certainly had his share of adversity. Through all of this, Allred has shared the same dream of many D-League players: Playing in the NBA.

Allred went to Weber State, averaging 18 and 12. He then entered the NBA D-League, and has consistently been averaging double doubles for the Idaho Stampede. He's known as a tireless worker and a terrific teammate. He's been at or near the top of projections for NBA Call-Up, and went late into the rounds at the Boston Celtics summer camp. He was one of the last cut, though, and the dream fell through. He returned to the Stampede and became a D-League All-Star, consistently wowing scouts with his impressive mobility and offensive range.

I spoke with Lance at the All-Star game in New Orleans, and you could tell there was a certain level of frustration turning into resignation over his prospects of getting called up to the NBA. It seemed like the dream would never quite pay off for him.

Until now.

On March 12th, 2008, the Cleveland Cavaliers called up Lance Allred for a 10-day contract. I had a chance to catch up with Lance as he got a break from the hectic schedule he'd been on since first being signed last week, and he was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions for Hardwood Paroxysm.

Lance, first off, congratulations. This is something we know you've been working towards your whole life.

Allred: Thanks, you much as I'd like to credit myself, it's been all the people in my life that have gotten my story out and help me get to the forefront. I know outside of basketball I can do a lot for people, and I'm just grateful for the opportunity and excited to finally be in the NBA.

HP: Where were you when you got the call?

Allred: Actually, it was perfect timing. We were down in Utah playing Utah Flash, where my family is from. I was actually going to have dinner with family, when I got the call. I got to walk in the door and tell the folks that I'd gotten a job. I couldn't have been happier.

HP: Take me through what you were feeling when you got the call.

Allred: Relief, joy, happiness, it was a pure moment of happiness. No expectations about tomorrow, or grief about the past, purely in the moment. It's one I will remember always.

HP: So what's your schedule been like the last couple of days for you? You were signed on the 12th, right?

Allred: That's right, it was the 12th. They actually put me on a plane that night. I had to fly out of Salt Lake City at 11:45, transfer from New York to DC, and then meet the team in Washington for the game. I don't sleep well on planes, so I got no sleep that night. Then I had tons of paperwork to fill out that day, and finally I headed to the arena. I got some shots in with the coaches, and talked to them about where I might fit in. So I got a workout there. And I'll tell you, from the get go, I was very impressed with how professional and welcoming the whole organization has been. You hear stories through the grapevine (in the D-League) about people in the locker room, about guys who you don't want to step on their toes or get in their way. But everyone was very professional and very welcoming. Even on the bench, it was so positive during the game, even when we were losing. Such a different feeling of pressure. The D-League is a different experience. You've got guys constantly trying to see where they're at for call-ups, coaches, trying to balance politics with the experience. Coaches want jobs. Players want jobs. Every game is life and death there. Here in Cleveland, it's relaxed and positive. The feeling is always never too high, never too low, because you play 82 games. But at the same time, these guys (Washington) are a mean, physical team, so we were doing everything we could to win. You hear flak about NBA players not playing hard, but last night, that was not the case. It was a great night to get my feet wet, and get used to chemistry and how the playing time breaks down on the team.

Then, after the game, we got directly on the bus and flew home on the team plane. Man, let me tell you, that was quite a big difference from the D-League. The charter planes for the NBA are unbelievable. You've got so much room to stretch out. I'm not going to say who, but I will say that it was both entertaining and amazing to watch someone lose $30,000 in a poker game on the plane last night. I've never seen so much money in my entire life, and these guys weren't even phased. They asked if I wanted to play, and I said, "No thanks, that's my entire salary for a year."

So we landed at 4 a.m. I got about 3 hours of sleep, then I was up the whole day, doing physicals at four different doctor's offices. Another practice, where we walked through plays and I was given the playbook. Coach has this gigantic, thick playbook he gives me. And the names of the plays! "RubDHO3-slice." Get me some shoulder pads while you're at it.

The practice facility is off the hook. Everything at your disposal. Icing, sauna, cold pool. Quite a leap from the D-League. It's been great. You always knew that was coming. It comes with the territory. Looking back, though, I won't be satisfied with what I've accomplished. I've done the best I can, and I 'll continue to do it, whether it's 10-day contract or a season contract next year. But it's most important just to enjoy this whole experience. I've put some pressure on myself, and the show might only be here for 10 days. So I'm just trying to be professional and do what I can.

HP: With the way the Cavs have struggled with injuries, can you tell me anything about what the coaches have said to you about your role?

Allred: Well, Ben Wallace is back. Ben and Anderson, defensively, they're out of this world. They brought me in mostly for the pick and pop, since that's my specialty. They brought me in for that with Z out, but now that he's back, that's been filled. I'm just trying to help with the team in any way I can.

HP: Are you expected to get much playing time in the next few games?

Allred: For right now I'm getting acclimated, to be honest. I 'm not getting my hopes up, but if I get my chance I'll be ready.

HP: I've heard you talk a little about your love of chess. Do you play a lot of chess?

Allred: I love chess. I would play it every day if I can find someone that would play with me. My dad would never go toss a ball around, but he would play chess with me and give me history lessons. The knight is my favorite piece. It's the only piece a queen cannot capture when it moves in striking range.

HP: Talk a little bit about the pressure of trying to decide whether to stick with the D-League for your shot at the NBA or going overseas for the money.

Allred: You know, it's hard, when you choose this to be a living. You can't make a living off of D-League salary. When you're someone like me who's long-term goal-oriented, and you get older, you feel time running out. When you pay off your bills, and realize you don't have nearly anything at all, you get pretty anxious. The reason I've been so successful is because of my patience.

I have high standards of myself, and I take accountability for my actions. I expect great things for myself. Because I have those expectations, when I'm in the D-League I want to play well, but it's so much stress because you're worried about each game. It's a platform league, to get a better job next year. That's the whole point of the league. For me, it's been the true pinnacle of what it can do for someone coming from obscurity to having a chance to play in the NBA. You know my teammate, Cory Violette, has made really good money overseas. But I wanted to play in the NBA, so this is what I've stuck with .

Having this happen right now is so great. It's such a relief, just a little break to have some money, and maybe this summer, I can put some money down for a home, which is really important to me.

HP: Some other D-Leaguers have been called up to lottery teams, like the Clippers, and others have been called up to borderline playoff teams, like the Hawks. Are you glad you ended up on a playoff team's roster, or would you rather have gone somewhere where you were guaranteed more playing time?

Allred: When I heard it was Cleveland, I was thrilled. There were other teams my agent was telling me about and some of them were borderline playoff contenders, some of them weren't. But when I found out it was Cleveland, I was like, "Let's go play some basketball. " I've always been a big fan of Mike Brown. Cleveland's modeled after a team-oriented defensive structure, which is how I like to play basketball. I was thrilled and felt privileged to get to come here and play. Even if I wasn't eligible for the playoffs, that's fine, I'll take it.

HP: Would you rather go somewhere winning, or get playing time?

Allred: Yeah, obviously I'm not going to be playing as much as I would elsewhere, but to have your first experience be a positive one, where you're winning and there's not the negativity of losing? That's better for me, personally.

I mean, sure, I'd love to go out there and play 30 minutes and do my thing, but you know, I've had to come up from the very bottom of the ladder and pay my dues. And I'm at the point where I'm at the bottom again. But I've done it once, and I'll do it again. I'll do my job and just be a good guy and good teammate and see what happens in the off-season. I'll happily wait around and see what happens. But the fact that I might get to be a part of the playoff experience? That's something I have that others don't.

HP: Before I let you go, looking back on the D-League experience and your career up until where you are now, what are some of your thoughts on how far you've come? And if for whatever reason your 10-day contract isn't extended, do you plan on returning to the D-League or heading overseas?

Allred: Getting into the NBA is the hardest part. I was passed over a lot this year because everyone said I didn't have any NBA experience. But that was frustrating, because how was I going to get NBA experience if no one called me up? So the fact that I've finally been invited is just such a huge break. Even if, God forbid, my career ended tomorrow and I blew out my leg, I would have no regrets, and I'd have done my best. I have to keep my perspective through this whole thing. If I got cut, I'd go finish off the year strong and help Idaho win a championship. Any time you get a chance to do that it's really special. But for the rest of it, I'm just taking it one day at a time and trying to continue working to get better and achieve my goals.

HP: Thanks so much for your time, Lance, and good luck.

Allred: Thank you.

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