First-Year Jitters

Just about a month ago, the young players congratulated each other, finally realizing their dreams. They had been drafted by pro basketball teams all over the country, achieving a goal that they had set long ago. These players worked hard their whole lives to reach the pros and finally got there.

Now comes the hard part.

Summer League: First-year players are known as rookies. For the rookies entering the NBA this season, the pressure has already started. The new players were required to play in the NBA's Summer League, held earlier this month in Las Vegas. The Summer League gives fans a first look at these athletes in their new roles as NBA players.

The rookies: Some of the NBA's rookies are already household names. Some received a lot of attention in college or playing overseas and were selected with the first couple of picks in June's NBA Draft. Others made a name for themselves by playing well in the Summer League. One of the best college players last season, Blake Griffin, played very well in the Summer League. He averaged more than 10 rebounds per game for the Los Angeles Clippers and is considered the top rookie in the NBA. Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks and Jonny Flynn of the Minnesota Timberwolves were two of the best point guards this summer, and should make immediate contributions to their teams when the NBA season starts this fall.

What's different?: Like we said, many NBA rookies were big-name college players or stars playing in other countries. In the NBA, they are simply first-year players. Take Blake Griffin. He was a superstar in college at Oklahoma. However, he has yet to accomplish anything in the NBA. He will be going up against players who are bigger, stronger and better than the competition he faced in college. These players have been in the NBA for many years and know what it takes to succeed. Griffin and the other rookies are at a disadvantage. They have never played games as fast-paced or as demanding as the games they'll play in the NBA. However, the obstacles they will face because they are new to the NBA can be overcome by hard work and determination.

Rookie of the Year: Because rookies face so many challenges in their first year, the NBA awards the Rookie of the Year award. This goes to the league's best rookie each year. Often, these players go on to become stars in the NBA. Players like Chris Paul, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan have all won the Rookie of the Year.

Who will win it this year?

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