Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tongue and groove

There are a ton of scouts from the NBA and overseas here in Las Vegas trying to pick up any and every piece of information about current or potential players. Their tendencies, their work ethic, whether or not they're in shape, the way they receive coaching and so on. They see things most of us gloss right over.

But while I an certainly no scout, I do manage to notice a few things here and there. Case in point: While watching the Blazers during the summer league, I've noticed Petteri Koponen (or "Pete" as many of the players and coaches have started calling him) does something a little strange when shooting. Koponen sticks his tongue out, almost without fail, when he shoots.

"I have done that since I was a kid," Koponen said after practice today. "When I focus on something, I always put my tongue out like this (puts about a half inch of his tongue out of his mouth)."

Sticking out your tongue, while considered rude or immature by some, is no big deal for the average Joe, but for someone in Koponen's position, it draws an unwanted comparison.

"Everybody is like, 'You want to be like Michael Jordan,” but it’s not like that. It’s just when I focus, like if I’m drawing or writing, I was like that (sticks out tongue again) in school. I don’t know how it’s like that, but it is."

There are worse things than being compared to MJ, but it's not much of a compliment in this instance. And aside from the accusations of mimicking His Airness, Koponen's tongue wagging also presents a potential health risk.

"My coach in Finland use to tell me that you will get hurt someday if somebody hits you there," said Koponen. "There are like, lots of pictures from Finland when I take a shot, my tongue is like (sticks tongue out the side of his mouth)."

Koponen has played well so far in Las Vegas, showing an ability to drive, kick and shoot from long range even while sticking out his tongue, so maybe if it ain't broke, there's no point in fixing it.

"It’s funny but I can’t help it," lamented Koponen. "It’s natural."

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