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CDR: 'Buckets' of Confidence...Even at #40

If Chris Douglas-Roberts is still angry about being picked at #40 on Draft Night, might we offer a few dates for him to circle on his calendar.

On January 15, the Trailblazers arrive at the IZOD Center. Portland passed on him four times.

If that doesn’t work for him, he could always pencil in December 5 against the Timberwolves or January 12 when the Thunder pay their inaugural visit or perhaps, April 15, when the Bobcats drop by. Each of those teams passed on him three times.

It doesn’t take much to get CDR, aka "Buckets", to recall the indignity of dropping into the second round, not that many weeks after being named First Team All-American or Conference USA player of the year, after playing in the NCAA Championship game.

On the day the Nets introduced him to the media, Douglas-Roberts admitted that he was "extremely angry" when he fell into the second round. "Being picked 40 is horrible and I don't know what people were thinking, but overall I'm happy."

"That is the biggest motivation ever," he continued. "I have the biggest chip on my shoulder. I’ve had a chip on my shoulder forever, but now, it’s huge. I’m gonna prove a lot of GM’s wrong. A lot of them are going to lose their jobs."

Strong words, but...

"His history at every level is that they said he couldn’t play and he wasn’t going to be successful," agreed Kiki Vandeweghe at the same press conference. "Well, somehow, he did it and that’s quality. That’s a quality you can’t teach."

And if you think the last three months have mellowed him, listen to what he said last week at a State-of-the-Nets event for prospective ticket-holders at the Nets' training facility.

"I was highly recruited when I went to Memphis, but I always had doubters. That’s been the story of my life. That’s been my motivation…to prove everybody wrong and that’s what I did at Memphis."

And what he intends to do again.

"I'm not sure I'll be in it," he said a month ago when asked if he would be in the rotation after first saying "Yes. I will be in the rotation," then taking it back. "But I'm going to prove it all in practice, I'm going to show them I deserve to be on the floor. That's all I can do. The rest I'll leave up to the coach."

As Andrew Katz wrote in Dime Magazine this summer…

"It should come as no surprise to learn that CDR crafted his slick game on the basketball court one story above Detroit’s legendary Kronk boxing gym, where he mixed with Emanuel Steward, Tommy "The Hit Man" Hearns and "Iron" Mike Tyson. While Chris only ventured down to the Spartan gym to pop the heavy bag a couple of times, his hoop game is predicated on a read-and-react arsenal of leaners, floaters, scoops and hooks no different from a boxer’s toolbox of jabs, uppercuts, and haymakers. Combine his knowledge of the sweet science with a 6’ 7" frame and an electric first step, and Chris Douglas-Roberts has a puncher’s chance to be the steal this summer’s NBA Draft."

"The boxers tried to come up and play, but I was always telling them, ‘Stay in the gym, man. Stay in the ring.’ Nah, but I used to go down there too and do little stuff," he told Katz. "I never got in the ring, but I hit the bag or jumped rope with some of the boxers just for the fun of it."

From there, it was onto Detroit’s Cass Tech, one of America’s legendary high schools, whose alumni include: actresses Lily Tomlin and Ellen Burstyn; singer Diana Ross; TV news anchor Ed Gordon; comedian David Allen Greer; and enough jazz musicians to populate Bourbon Street. At Cass Tech, as a junior in 2003-04, he averaged 28 points, 10 boards and six assists with a high game of 54 points. He transferred his senior year to another Detroit high school, and averaged only 14 points, dropping him just a tad in some recruiter’s eyes, but not those of Memphis coach—and former Nets coach—John Calipari.

"If you’re not mentally strong for Coach Calipari, you’re going to quit," Douglas-Roberts told Katz. "Coach is crazy, and he’ll play mind games with you the whole week. Your numbers could be real good, but he’ll still play mind games with you. If you’re not mentally strong, you can’t play for him at all.

"Out of everybody on the team, he’s always been the hardest on me. No matter if I was a freshman or, he was always the hardest on me. I remember in the Tulane game I had 20 points in the first half, and I missed one layup. The whole halftime speech was about me missing that one layup. "You’re going through the motions! You’ve gotta be kidding me!" I’m looking around, like, "Is he talking to me? It’s halftime and I have 20 - come on coach, you can’t be serious." But he was just doing that to make me better."

Another reason: CDR had a reputation of being the nice guy on a team of bad boys, aka a leader.

Calipari returns the favor, noting on Draft Night, that CDR’s supposedly "unorthodox" game had resulted in 104 wins in three years. It wasn’t all Derrick Rose this season, either. Until the NCAA’s, Douglas-Robert was viewed at the Tigers’ best player.

"If we would have drafted like that when I was there, I’d still be coaching the Nets," Calipari quipped that night, adding it was great pick for both sides. "I love those guys up there, Lawrence, Rod."

So what’s the problem with his game?

It seems the NBA’s collective wisdom is that CDR’s game won’t translate, despite his great games against players drafted ahead of him. His teammate Rose calls his game, "old man moves." A collection of "old man tricks" is how’s Pat Forde describes it. Using his gangly 6’7’ frame to penetrate, Douglas-Roberts likes to "twist his body into the lane to hoist up runners from extreme angles" as one writer described it. But they do go in.

His new point guard agrees. Says Devin Harris: "Chris has like an old man's game. He makes a lot of tricky shots and things you wouldn't think (are makeable), but he makes a high percentage of those shots. Things of that sort -- where to get the ball for certain guys."

Brandon Rush of Kansas, who guarded him in the NCAA Finals, called his game "awkward" but added, "You just don’t know how to guard it."

The fundamental issue appears to quickness. Is CDR somehow compensating for his lack of quickness by employing those "old man tricks"? One NBA blog criticized the Nets for taking both Brook Lopez and CDR, claiming neither have NBA quickness...although this well-watched YouTube clip would seem to belie that.

Jalen Rose, another Detroit swingman of some repute, said before the draft that's all baloney.

"He’s going to be a big-time player in the NBA," Rose told Katz. "A few people are sleeping on my guy. When I see people talking about who’s about to become the top players coming into the League, I haven’t heard his name mentioned as much as I would like. But he’s going to be one of the top young players in the NBA."

The criticism didn’t bother Vandeweghe, either. He quietly let it be known even before the draft that Douglas-Roberts’ workout was the best of any of the prospects.

"I would say he’s very deceptive in that he doesn’t look great when he walks out onto the court but he just gets stuff done," he said the day of CDR’s workout. "I think he’s more of a throw back type player that just knows how to play. He’s a little unorthodox but he’s very effective. He has a great mid-range game and is a little bit better shooter than you think. I like him."

Gregg Polinsky, then chief scout and now the Nets official in charge of developing talent, was even more encouraged. He saw value in the lack of orthodoxy.

"Even here you can see that he has a very intuitive style of play. He’s a guy who has unique and somewhat unorthodox way to score the basketball. He’s worked in the weight room and has gotten better. He’s very competitive. I think he’s a guy that deserves a first round look."

The Nets in fact did give him a first round look…or two. They considered him at #21, instead going big with Ryan Anderson. Then, they say, they initiated talks to pick up another first round pick but it didn’t work out.

Finally, after the Bobcats took Kyle Weaver at #38 and the Bulls took Sonny Weems at #39, the NBA's Adam Silver announced the Nets had selected Douglas-Roberts, leading to celebrations at the by-then sparse crowd at Madison Square Garden and in Nets chat rooms around the internet.

"Steal of the draft", the pundits wrote, but that didn’t help mend CDR’s psychic wounds. (In spite of what was published in Pistons’ blogs, he wasn’t at home in Detroit that night. He was flying back from Memphis where he had helped Calipari out at a coaching clinic. The same blogs and a couple of Detroit sports writers castigated him for refusing to work out for the Pistons, calling him too arrogant to consider he might be available at #29.)

So far, so good, since then. The Nets gave Douglas-Roberts a contract, three years at $1.8 million, that is close to a first-rounder's. He was the Nets’ most consistent performer in both summer leagues and the Nets have decided to adapt Calipari’s dribble-drive motion offense next season…the same offense CDR has played for the past three years.

He said, in fact, that Lawrence Frank had told him on Draft Night they were planning to use his old college offense.

"It’s gonna be great for us," CDR told Dave D’Alessandro this month. "We have athletic guys who can get to the basket, and that’s what this offense is about. It’s a drive-and-kick system, it’s perfectly suited for guys who can get into the paint, so it will open up a lot of opportunities for Vince and Devin"...and him.

In camp, he has won the confidence of players like Carter and Keyon Dooling.

"And this kid Chris Douglas-Roberts -- I just don't know how he slipped that far (to No. 40)," said Dooling on Media Day. "I don't want to put pressure on him, but he has a really nice game. And he has the attitude and work ethic to be very successful in this game."

Dooling’s also told his new protégé that draft position means nothing.

"Like I told him, the best player in my draft (2000) was a second-rounder," Dooling said, referring to Michael Redd. "So it's not where you start, it's how you finish."

All this gives Douglas-Roberts more confidence, as if he needs confidence, that things will work out right for him and his team.

"Oh yeah, we’re gonna be a good team," he said after the meeting with season ticket-holders. "This is a young players’ league right now and that’s what we definitely have…youth."

Should he have doubts, all he has to do is take a look at the tattoo on his right arm, the one featuring the first three verses of the 37th Psalm: "Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity."

Sounds to us like a description of NBA general managers and those drafted above him.