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October 31, 2014

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NBA Day 7: Jasper warming up to Vegas

Jasper warming up to Vegas

Be prepared if you meet Derrick Jasper. The future UNLV basketball player has a handshake like Bernie Mac.

He stood inside a Thomas & Mack Center tunnel early Thursday night and watched Phoenix play San Antonio in an NBA Summer League game with former Kentucky teammate Joe Crawford.

Crawford was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers and attended high school in Detroit with Malik Hairston, who is playing with the Spurs.

Jasper also knows Robin Lopez, the former Stanford big man who plays for Phoenix, and Javaris Crittenton, a guard out of Georgia Tech playing here for Memphis.

Jasper left the Bluegrass State after the 2007-08 season and gave Rebels coach Lon Kruger a verbal commitment at a Sunday breakfast during his recent official visit to Las Vegas.

"I'm definitely looking forward to playing here," he said. "It was the right decision for me and my family."

A point guard by trade, Jasper will have to years of eligibility remaining when he starts playing in 2009-10.

He's been on campus for a week and awaits the results of a physical examination. He had micro-fracture knee surgery in June. He expects to review those results with UNLV medical personnel Monday, then they'll determine a rehabilitation course.

Jasper hopes to resume pick-up ball with his new teammates in two months and be ready when practice starts in October.

Excuse me, sir

J.R. Smith, who went straight to the pros out of high school instead of playing at North Carolina, tried to slink into a courtside seat with a buddy to watch the second half of the Suns-Spurs game at the Mack.

The Denver Nuggets guard sat in the padded seat for all of 10 seconds. He didn't have the proper ticket or credential.

Wearing his Cincinnati Reds cap backward, he eked to the tunnel where Jasper was standing, then sat in a baseline seat.

Classic Elgin

When Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor tried to exit the Cox Pavilion on Wednesday night, he begrudgingly signed an autograph and stood for five seconds, which looked like an eternity to him, to pose for a camera-phone snapshot for a fan.

Finally executed, Baylor rolled his eyes to the sky and couldn't wait to get out of the arena.

The Lakers' legend -- kids, he was Jordan before Jordan -- usually displays a distracted playfulness.

Once, when I covered the Clippers, I asked Baylor what the drafting of a power forward meant to the career of his current power forward.

He stammered. "Well, now you're looking for an answer." He never answered the question.

Another time, he was quite candid before a game, talking about his career and the state of the game. He was asked what he would average in today's NBA.

"Twenty," he said. "But I'm 56 years old!"

Tricks are for kids

Then there's Olden Polynice, the well-traveled center who was in the Mack on Wednesday.

Not sure who he's working for or why he needs to work -- he supposedly made about $21.7 million during his career.

When he was with the Clippers, he told a story about playing in Europe. The rich owner had the team over for a lavish dinner, and Polynice dug in. Halfway through a rich stew, he asked someone what the meat was.

Rabbit, he was told. He dropped his soup spoon.

Hasn't touched rabbit since.

Good thing he didn't see it on the concessions menu at the Mack.

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