Last month, the San Antonio Spurs were within mere seconds of being NBA World Champions. Instead, the Miami Heat claimed the title, beating San Antonio in an incredible NBA Finals that went seven games.
Although it’s hard for any team to make it back to the Finals in consecutive years, former Sun Devil Jeff Pendergraph will get at least two shots to make it with the Spurs, after signing a two-year contract with the team.
Pendergraph and his family still reside in the Phoenix, Ariz., area in the offseason. He’s been putting in extra work over at Weatherup Center on the ASU campus, getting himself fit and right for the upcoming grind that is an NBA season.
“It’s like a second home,” Pendergraph said of coming back to Arizona. “Ever since school got out, I knew I wanted to live here and now I have a chance to, so every chance I get, especially living in places where the weather’s not that good, it’s nice to come back where the sun is always shining, and it’s something people underestimate.”
Pendergraph couldn’t be more amped up to join Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the Spurs and become an immediate contender for a world title.
“Oh I can’t wait man, I’ve been dreaming about it, ever since [I] signed I’ve been so anxious to get out there and I want to start working,” Pendergraph said. “I’m nervous too. It’s not like you’re going to a team that needs help or doesn’t have expectations. You don’t have to be a starter for Coach Pop [Gregg Popovich] to expect something from you.”
“It’s a great program, and everyone is held accountable and everyone on the team makes sure they’re accountable,” Pendergraph said. “Coach doesn’t have to police it, everyone polices themselves and that’s a great atmosphere and that’s how you create championship basketball.”
It’s hard to find an NBA team, other than the Heat, who are at the pinnacle of basketball like the Spurs are, which is why Pendergraph believes he’s in a great spot right now in his young career.
“I was thinking, ‘Man, there’s only two other teams that I could’ve tried to get on that were better than where I was at [Pacers], it was either the Heat or the Spurs,’ and I was blessed to be on the Spurs,” Pendergraph said.
“I’m so getting butterflies,” Pendergraph said. “I talk to my wife about it every day. We’re both kinda nervous but excited, especially with a newborn baby, but we’re glad to be back in the West.”
Pendergraph and his family are looking forward to more trips back here to the state of Arizona and to the state of California, where Pendergraph was born and raised.
It’s a great program, and everyone is held accountable and everyone on the team makes sure they’re accountable
Guys like Tim Duncan and Tony Parker don’t have the longevity they have in the league by sheer luck. They work hard at it year round, and it shows. With the extra time he’s putting in over the summer, Pendergraph feels it will give him an added boost when it’s time to report to Spurs camp.
“I’m out here trying to work, trying to get better,” Pendergraph said. “I gotta wait to see, when we get there, how working my [tail] off is gonna pay off, but that’s definitely one of the best places to go.”
“If you work hard, Coach is gonna repay you,” Pendergraph said. “He doesn’t just let you sit there and work your [tail] off and not repay you. If you’re out there putting in the time, their tools they’re gonna have can help you become an even better player.”
It’s hard not to be starstruck if you’re a rookie coming into the NBA and you’re lining up next to Tim Duncan, which is just what happened to Pendergraph in his first and only season with the Portland TrailBlazers back in 2009.
“I was so caught up in it that I got scored on easy because I was in a fan mode,” Pendergraph said. “But being around and seeing these guys work and seeing him still do it, it’s gonna be an honor to be there and learn as much as I can from him.”
One of the things Pendergraph wants to have “dialed in” before he heads to San Antonio, Tex., is his shooting. That’s one of the main things he’s been focusing on this summer, along with his handles.
“My range is improving, but I want to fine tune it and I want to push myself hard enough to where you can just make them in practice or in a drill. You got to put yourself in a game situation, so when the game time comes, you’ve already been there.”
“All the shots you’ve been putting up all summer is for that last second, you need a win jumper,” Pendergraph said. “So you’ve already put yourself in there, you shoot it like it’s nothing, like you’ve been in the gym doing it.”