Yo, stretch: There’s a sports hook to “Grown Ups”

You saw them enough of them during the NBA Finals — Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider and Kevin James, going improv about basketball-related stuff, wearing the home-team jerseys — trying to pitch their new movie, “Grown Ups,” to anyone who finds comedy material in basketball.

Because funny sells.

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There is a basketball foundation to the movie that finally hits theatres Friday, albeit a stretch. These are five grown-ups who played on a church-league hoop team long ago and won a championship. They’re reconnecting after attending their coach’s funeral. And, before you know it, they’re being challenged to play together again to defend their honor.

That’s about as much as they’ll stretch it.

Sandler said originally it was going to be a high school team that they played on together, but it was easier to sell it to the audience as a group of smaller kids as players.

“Sixth grade was a big time in my childhood,” said Sandler.

They seem to have convinced their female co-stars that they’ve got game. During a recent press junket in Agoura Hills, actress Maria Bello, who plays Sally Lemonsoff, the wife of James’ Eric Lemonsoff (and has a breast-feeding scene, according to the trailer above), said she thought Sandler was by far the best baller of the group.

“I think he could be a professional,” she said. “He almost beat my 9-year-old.”

Sandler’s wife in the movie, played by Salma Hayak, probably does not concur.

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There’s enough of a sports slant that Mark Ellis was hired as the “sports coordinator” for this, based on his work in “Just Wright,” “Tooth Fairy,” “We Are Marshall,” “The Benchwarmers,” “Semi-Pro,” “The Longest Yard,” “Coach Carter,” “Miracle,” “Mr. 3000,” “Varsity Blues,” “Summer Catch,” “The Rookie,” “The Water Boy,” “Jerry Maguire” and “Any Given Sunday.” To name a few.

Ellis’ assistant on this one was former UCLA and Clippers guard Pooh Richardson, who, according to Spade, taught the stand-ins the plays that would be run on the court, then had the actors replicate it for their scenes.

“And then I’d do it wrong, and they’d say, ‘Dude, were you watching?’” said Spade.

Dan Patrick has a role in the film: Norby the Ride Guy. Can’t explain more than that, except that he is at a water park.

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One more sports angle to this: Director Dennis Dugan admits that when they were filming “Grown Ups” last year, his son, Kelly Dugan, the former Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks switch-hitting outfielder, was drafted in the second round of the 2009 selection. The first pick of the Philadelphia Phillies, 75th overall, got a $485,000 signing bonus, bypassing a chance to play at Pepperdine.

Kelly held a press conference and signed his contract on the set that day back in Boston while the cast wore Phillies’ hats. He played in the Phillies’ Gulf Coast rookie-league team last season.

“He’s in (high Single-A) Clearwater now and going up to Pennsylvania (at Double-A Reading) or New Jersey (Double-A Reading) soon, the next level up, doing great, batting about .310 now and figuring out the pro game,” said Dennis Dugan. “(Being a baseball dad) is the best. It’s kind of the same as like casting in Hollywood. You can prove your worth there with actual statistics.

“Their philosophy is to train their No. 1 pick to be a major leaguer no matter how long it takes. If he’s hit by a pitch, they’ll sit him down for a week. He’s had a groin strain, they want him to be the real deal and will be very careful with him.”

Maybe when Kelly Dugan moves up in the chain, the MLB Network scoutniks will figure out what Dennis Dugan is all about (linked here).

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