September 15 My home here in Atlanta is a hotel connected to the CNN Centerthe epicenter of the world of cable television. As such, one would think that I have a plethora of televisionary options to fill my non- basketballing time. Not so. I think I have two channels that are not somehow related to CNN. And I doubt that either of them is going to show the Kansas City Chiefs game that I am fixated on watching, if only because it would breathe some normalcy into my current existence. I'm here trying to make the Atlanta Hawks. My days are filled with basketball workouts, obsession about the repercussions of those workouts, and avoidance of the out-of-doorsstrangely, it's really hot in the South. My chances of success in this endeavor weren't great to start with. (Chances of making the team, that is. I'm pretty good at staying inside.) However, I'd feel better about my odds of making the team if I had the use of all of my digits. I should explain. My brother Dan volunteered (was coerced) to take me to the Kansas City airport. As I robustly tossed my duffel bag into the trunk of his teal Grand Am, an as-yet-unidentified metal protrusion in that trunk nearly tore off the top of my right index finger. I said, "Darn it," and went back inside to patch myself up before he drove me to the airport. Obviously, worse events could have befallen mea car accident, a tornado, or a raging case of syphilis each would have caused me far more strife. Nonetheless, I could have done without an additional hurdle in an already uphill climb. My seemingly insignificant injury resulted in a condition wherein I now occasionally have no idea where a basketball will go when it leaves my hand. Which would have been fine had I not been bound for an NBA training camp. (Additionally, I am struggling to type the letters Y, U, H, J, N, and M. So perhaps I should amend the previous statementstenographer's boot camp would have been a challenge as well.) Most players in the NBA do not fight for their jobs each year. Generally, they have guaranteed contractsoften for multiple years. For one of those players, training camp is merely the season's beginning. That player endures the twice-daily practices safe in the knowledge that he will be on the team for the entire year. Because the team has already committed to paying him a salary for the season, it would make no sense to release him. I have never been the player in the example. Most teams maintain one or two open roster spots and allow players like me, who will jump at the chance to make an NBA team, to fight among like-minded souls for the remaining slots. (Note: it is not an actual fight . . . although that would make camp more interesting. I envision gladiator-style arena battles for the final roster spot, audience participation, a vote at the end . . . it could work.) The team guarantees the combatants nothing more than a per diem and a fair shot. It is debatable how fair that shot really is, but at least the per diem isn't bad$95. The difficulty in wrangling even an unpaid NBA training camp invitation amazes me. Last yearmy rookie seasonI had to fly to Los Angeles for a two-day tryout with the Lakers before they would commit exactly zero dollars for my training camp services. This year, I needed to impress the Atlanta Hawks coaches in yet another tryout setting. To this end, I went early in the fall to a two-day workout with the Hawks in order to fight for a position as low man on the proverbial totem pole. While I was there I played well enough that the team invited me to training camp, starting October 1. Camp with the Hawks will be populated by several players in a like situationguaranteed nothing and hoping to remain on the team through the madness thShirley, Paul is the author of 'Can I Keep My Jersey?', published 2008 under ISBN 9780345495709 and ISBN 0345495705.