Spurs see potential in former UMass center Lalanne

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When the San Antonio Spurs selected Cady Lalanne in the second round of last month’s NBA draft, visions of winning a championship crossed his mind once or twice.

But this was probably not what he had in mind.

The former UMass center was a starter in every game played by the Spurs this summer, including Monday night’s 93-90 win over Phoenix in the Las Vegas Summer League championship.

In the title game, Lalanne had four points and one blocked shot.

“We definitely want to win it all,” Lalanne told CSNNE.com prior to the Spurs playing in the championship game. “You want to get better, show teams what you can do, too. But everybody here wants to win, too.”

The Spurs were led by tournament MVP Kyle Anderson, a late first-round pick of the Spurs las year and Jonathan Simmons, who was MVP of the championship game after having spent two seasons with the Spurs’ D-league affiliate.

Simmons was recently signed to a two-year deal by the Spurs.

Both Anderson and Simmons benefited from a Spurs system that has been vital to San Antonio being among the league's elite for nearly two decades.

Lalanne hopes to follow a similar path with the Spurs.

But first he must continue to grow and develop with the Spurs’ Development League affiliate team, the Austin (Texas) Spurs.

“We see a lot of potential there," Brian Pauga, director of scouting for the San Antonio Spurs and general manager of the Austin Spurs, told the Orlando Sentinel. "Like any rookie, it takes time to get up to speed on the system and the speed of the game, but … he's done a nice job of continuing to move in the right direction and get better.

"He's got long arms, a good, strong body for a big guy, (and) he's not afraid to be physical in the paint. He didn't get a chance to shoot a ton at UMass from the perimeter, but we feel with some work and development, he can become a pretty good shooter."

While Lalanne graduated with a degree in sociology, he understands that his basketball education is only beginning.

“I’m still learning the game,” Lalanne admitted. “A team like this really knows how to develop players. That would be a great way for me to start my career, a team like this to help develop me and teach me to play the game the way that they play it, the right way.”

Lalanne was a starter in all 10 summer league games (three in Salt Lake City and seven in Las Vegas) for the Spurs.

In Utah, he averaged 10.3 points and 6.3 rebounds with two blocked shots per game. The competition was stiffer in Vegas which to some degree explained why Lalanne’s numbers took a noticeable dip.

Lalanne averaged 4.6 points and 4.0 rebounds along with a team-best 1.3 blocked shots during his seven games played in Las Vegas.

While there’s no denying the promise that exists for the 6-foot-9-inch, 242-pound big man, he maintains that he’ll continue to play with a chip on his shoulder.

When the college basketball season ended, he was considered an unlikely draft prospect.

But a strong showing at the seniors-only Portsmouth Invitational, along with solid play at the pre-draft combine in Chicago, put him on the radar as a possible draft prospect.

A series of good workouts, which included one with the Celtics, only strengthened Lalanne's chances of being drafted. 

For the Haitian-born Lalanne who overcome immigration issues and injuries to become one of UMass’ all-time leaders in several statistical categories, there’s still much to prove and improve upon, which is the mindset of most second-round picks.

“In the second round, it’s a show-me round,” Lalanne said. “You have to show that you can play; what kind of player you are.”

Indeed, Lalanne is a player who is more about potential than proven talent at this point in his career.

“But he has size, good length, can shoot the ball a little bit better than you saw in college,” said one NBA scout who said he has seen Lalanne play a handful of times this season. “He won’t play much, if at all, if he sticks this year. But look at their track record? Say all you want about Tim Duncan and how great he is, which is true. But they’re always in the hunt because of the guys that they developed around Duncan, guys that seem to get better every year.”

Lalanne says he’s also encouraged by the impact that second-round picks have had recently with the poster child for second-round success being Golden State’s Draymond Green.

Drafted with the 35th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, Green helped lead the Warriors to an NBA title this past season and was rewarded with a  five-year, $85 million contract during the offseason when he became a free agent.

“It shows you have to stay in the gym and work and I’m someone who is willing to work and stay in the gym as long as possible,” Lalanne said. “I know that’s what he did to get his opportunity, being able to shoot and dribble and just be ready when his time came and his number was called. That’s what I hope to do in the NBA; just make sure when my time arrives I’m ready for it.”

 

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