Sept. 30, 2005
By Danny Martin
Bill Bailey said his younger brother, Kyle, has dreamed of playing in the National Basketball Association since he was 8 years old. Kyle Bailey's dream took a giant step on Tuesday when the former standout point guard for Lathrop High School and Santa Clara University signed a contract with the defending NBA champions, San Antonio Spurs.
"It's real great, obviously, to have the opportunity to play," Kyle Bailey said from San Antonio on Tuesday. "But at the same time, I haven't fully realized it yet."
Bailey, who spent four weeks in tryout sessions with the Spurs in San Antonio, said he signed a standard-scale, one-year contract for a free agent who is in his first year out of college. He didn't disclose the terms of the deal, but he said, "I won't be pressed for money."
The money, though, will be reality if the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder makes the Spurs' final roster, as his contract isn't guaranteed.
"It's a very unstable situation, as far as they can cut me anytime between now and the start of the regular season," he said. "It doesn't mean I'm on the team."
It does mean he'll be in training camp with the Spurs when it opens Oct. 4 at the St. Thomas campus of the University of the Virgin Islands, and that he may get the opportunity to play in the preseason opener against the Miami Heat in Florida on Oct. 10.
"Going to the Virgin Islands, playing the Miami Heat in an exhibition game and getting to see American Airlines Arena and (Heat guard) D. Wade and (center) Shaquille O'Neal," Bailey said. "It's going to be crazy."
The contract with the Spurs also means the 23-year-old is in rare company, as he's the first player from the Interior to sign an NBA contract, and only the third Alaskan to do so.
Former Duke University stars Trajan Langdon of Anchorage and Carlos Boozer of Juneau were respective draft picks of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The 29-year-old Langdon, an East Anchorage graduate and 11th overall pick in the 1999 draft, spent three seasons with Cleveland and the last three seasons with pro teams in Italy, Turkey and Moscow. The 6-4 guard is entering his first season with CSKA Moscow.
Boozer, 6-8 and 258 pounds, was selected 35th overall in the second round in 2002. He spent two seasons with the Cavaliers and signed a free-agent contract in July 2004 with the Utah Jazz, with whom he's entering his second season.
Bailey admits it's overwhelming to be practicing with Spurs stars like forward Tim Duncan and guard Michael Finley, but he's battling for a roster spot among four other point guards. He said the team is expected to carry only two point guards on guaranteed contracts during the regular season.
"I can't be intimidated by the fact that these are NBA players,'' Bailey said. "I still have to go out and perform. But at the same time, playing with all those guys is unbelievable.''
Bailey was in another NBA city--Seattle--when he got a tryout with the Spurs.
Bailey said he tried out for a pro team in Japan but didn't get called back. On Aug. 31, he was on his way to Fairbanks to visit his family when he had a layover at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. A scout with the Spurs, who had seen him play for Santa Clara, contacted him there on his cell phone and invited him to try out with the Spurs in San Antonio.
About a week after visiting with his family, he headed to Texas for his first tryout.
Spurs officials were impressed and invited him back a week later for another tryout. A third followed and then a fourth, during which he was offered the contract.
Bailey said a Spurs assistant coach told him San Antonio's coaching staff was impressed with his work ethic and character as much as his athletic ability.
Bailey finished his career at Santa Clara as the Broncos all-time leader in games played (127), minutes played (3,897) and three-point attempts (679). He ranks second all-time in three-point field goals (225), third in steals (196) and fourth for assists (452). He was a first-team All-West Coast Conference selection in 2001-02 and an honorable-mention selection last season, when he was the team's assists leader with 4.2 per game and second in scoring (14.8), less than a point a game behind team leader and then-senior guard Doron Perkins, a Bartlett graduate.
"There's good people on this team," Bailey said of the Spurs. "All the players speak to you and there's no prima donnas. They're all pretty much jeans and T-shirts type of guys and the coaches are the same way--down to earth.
"Being from Fairbanks, Alaska, I fit in with that mode."
He hopes, too, to fit in playing wise and earn a final roster spot.
Bailey said that even if he's cut, he'll cherish the opportunity to fulfill a dream.
"So many people have big dreams and not everybody pursues them or gets an opportunity to pursue them," he said. "Whether I made it or I didn't make it, when I'm an old man and I can't walk, I look back on this and know that I had the opportunity, I had a dream and I went for it."