The past six weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind for most NBA rookies. From having your name called on draft night, to relocating to a new city, playing in Summer League and preparing for your first season in the NBA, there’s plenty to do if you’re a first-year player. Most of the rookie class of 2016 convened in the gym at the New York Knicks training facility on Sunday afternoon to take pictures for their Panini playing cards.
We used the opportunity to talk to Kris Dunn, Jaylen Brown, Buddy Hield, Denzel Valentine, Caris LeVert and Brandon Ingram about their biggest surprises since entering the league, the biggest purchases they’ve made so far and their first NBA moments.
The QAs below have been edited for length and clarity.
ESPN.com: Have you had any “Welcome to the NBA” moments?
Kris Dunn Besides how much money is coming in? Growing up I’d never seen $10,000. So when I got $10,000 for doing something, I was shocked. But other than that, no.
Jaylen Brown: A little bit. My first Summer League game, I hyperextended my knee and sprained both of my wrists. I was like, “Wow.” That was my welcome-to-the-league moment.
Denzel Valentine: Yeah, when I was playing with the [USA] Select Team with all the best, pretty much the best players in the NBA and talking to them. That was pretty much, like, “I’m here.” I’m used to watching those guys on TV and not having an interaction with them. And now I’m here, just chilling, just talking to them about the NBA.
Brandon Ingram: Yeah, I think playing with the USA Select Team. Just playing against all of the greater guys in this league and just seeing how they work and how hard they go every day, I think it was a wake-up call for me, just giving me motivation to see where I can be in the next couple of years.
ESPN.com: Have you made or do you plan to make a big purchase?
Dunn: For my brother. Me and my brother, we’ve been through a lot growing up and he’s starting a family. I think the best way to start a family is to have a nice home to create that family.
ESPN.com: What’s it like to be able to provide something like that for your brother?
Dunn: At first it was exciting. Now it’s just like, this is what I’m supposed to do. He’d done a lot for me growing up, he was my first father before I actually met my father. So he deserves it. He’s always been my greatest supporter, he’s always helped me through the process, so really, he don’t even have to say, ‘Thank you.’ I know he will, I know he’s going to appreciate it, but it’s just coming from my heart.
ESPN.com: Has there been a big surprise about life in the NBA?
Caris LeVert: I got my first advance from the team the other day, living in New York is pretty expensive, and they took out like 60 percent, so I wanted to cry after that. That was probably the biggest surprise.
Ingram: Maybe how much downtime there is. Just going through this, you see all of the busy schedules and you‘re doing everything and you don’t notice how much downtime you have. You’re just playing basketball and doing nothing else, so you have find hobbies and different things to do.
ESPN.com: What’s it like to have your face on a trading card?
Dunn: It’s cool. When I was growing up I used to collect Pokemon, I never collected sports cards. The fact that I have my face on a card, I understand the little kids, how exciting it is to collect cards. Because when I was a little kid I used to get excited when I got good cards. So it’s really cool.
Levert: When I was a kid I used to collect [trading cards], so that’s a huge deal for me. Hopefully some kid is collecting mine.
ESPN.com: What player did you idolize growing up and model your game after?
Ingram: Kevin Durant, just because of the way he carried himself. I watched him when he was at Montrose Christian, I watched him when he was at Texas, I watched him when he was at Oak Hill, when he went to the Supersonics. I was just a big fan of the way he played, his skill set, his frame and his body size. He always struck something in me.