After the euphoria, a reality check for Indian basketball players

  • B Shrikant, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jan 03, 2016 15:06 IST
Satnam Singh Bhamara gets set to score against Kazakhstan during the 2013 Asian Championships in Manila. (AP Photo)

It’s a great feeling to be talked about, but living up to the hype is difficult.

National Basketball Association (NBA) aspirant Satnam Singh Bhamara is finding it tough to live up to his status as the first Indian to be drafted in NBA. Same is the case with Sim Bhullar, the first Indian-origin player to feature in an NBA team.

Bhamara, the 20-year-old from Punjab, was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in July, unleashing a flood of publicity for the player and franchise.

In 2014, Bhullar was awarded a contract by the Vivek Ranadive-owned Sacramento Kings and played a few minutes towards the end of regular season.

Both Bhamara and Bhullar are currently roughing it out in the NBA Development League (D-League) — Bhamara for Texas Legends and Bhullar for Raptors 905.

While the Legends have played 14 games so far, Bhamara, the 7’2” center weighing 132 kg, has played in only five, managing 31 minutes in all and scoring six points. He has failed to get a single start.

Bhullar has fared marginally better. He has played eight games, managing two starts. In 108 minutes this season, the 7’5”, 163kg giant from Ontario has scored 46 points.

Compared to Bhamara, the five others from the 2015 NBA draft class have been streets ahead.

The initiation

At an event to introduce Bhamara after the draft, Dallas Mavericks head coach had said the franchise wants him to play in the D-League to gain experience. “The decision to make him a D-Leaguer initially is a very good decision. He understands, he likes it and he’s willing to do it. He needs experience playing over here.”

But how much experience will he gain by spending 31 minutes on the court? Legends officials claim he will get more chances as the season progresses.

“Right now our primary focus is on improving Satnam’s quickness, agility, ability to run the floor and overall understanding of the American style of play,” informed Malcolm K Farmer, president, Texas Legends, in an email interview.

Nobody expected Bhamara to straightaway get into an NBA team. The Dallas Mavericks too had taken a risk by drafting him as he was an unknown quantity. Unlike others in the draft, Bhamara is not a product of the US college circuit nor has he played extensively for India in international competition, which helped the likes of Yao Ming and other international players in getting into NBA.


Sat Prakash, head coach of the India team, feels Bhamara has to earn his place in the starting lineup through hard work. “He has to earn the confidence of the coach. Even if he gets to play two minutes, he has to do well in that period, only then will he get more opportunities.”

According to him, Bhamara will benefit even if he does not get enough time to play. “He will be working out with very good players and watching strong teams in action and that will help him in the long run. He should pick up the good points from them and include in his game. He is very young and this experience will help him.”

He said Bhamara should continue to represent India in international competition and not shift base to the US, as he announced during his recent visit to India. “Yao Ming represented China while playing in NBA. If he can do that so too can Satnam, as that experience will help him become a better player. He should not shun India just because he got into the American setup.”

If Bhamara listens to Sat Prakash’s advice and continues to represent India in international competition, he may get more time on the court to show his mettle.

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