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18 Years of Pain for Tre Kelley and No Stopping Now

Tre Kelley is 29 and hasn’t played an NBA game. But after losing his mother 18 years ago, he won’t stop until he makes it.

Jessica Camerato



The numbers slowly change on the clock, each one another 60 seconds that Tre Kelley lies awake. Days blend into night with pockets of slumber in between. His body has adjusted to it by now. Sleep is hard to come by when 18 years ago today his reality became a nightmare from which he cannot awake.

An 11-year-old Kelley didn’t think anything of it when he heard a loud noise coming from his grandmother’s bedroom on August 21, 1996. Lila Haythe often filled her apartment with laughter when she watched television; she was probably enjoying one of her favorite shows, he thought. But when his uncle’s friend saw her crying, Kelley left the living room to check on her.

Haythe caught a glimpse of her grandson and began yelling out his name as he got closer.

“‘Tre! Tre! Tre! They found your mother,’” Kelley recalled her saying. “It didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand what she was saying.”

TreKellyParents1Kelley’s parents, Monica and Alfrie, had been estranged. His mother was having an affair with another man, one whom Kelley later learned had a dangerous past. As time went on, she wanted to leave him as she and her husband attempted to reconcile their marriage. Each time she threatened to end the relationship, she returned home battered—a bruised face, an eye swollen shut.

Then she never returned home again.

“He beat her to death,” Kelley said. “She had some type of head trauma. He beat her so bad that the argument had ended and she went to sleep and she never woke up.”

Kelley stormed out of the apartment and sprinted across the street. Dazed, he began walking in what felt like a state of unconsciousness. He was only 11. His mother was just 38. This could not be possible. A family friend ran after him.

“Things will be fine,” the friend said, placing his arm around the youngster before turning back for the apartment.

Confused and alone, Kelley began contemplating his future without this mother. He continued to walk, passing the basketball court. Years later it would be named after him.

“I started thinking – I want to play basketball,’” Kelley said. “That was it. That honestly became my mindset.”

Kelley and his father decided he would benefit from moving in with his grandmother and transferring to an elementary school with a better opportunity to pursue the sport. He enjoyed living with Haythe and other family members. His father, who was also his best friend, came by after work to visit.

As much as Kelley was surrounded by those who loved him, the loss of his mother was irreplaceable. Shortly after her death, he began experiencing effects of the devastating absence. He was a child, and he was scared.

“It was shocking to me and I could not sleep at all,” Kelley said. “I couldn’t even doze off. I would sleep with all the lights on. I would take a shower and wouldn’t close the curtain. I wouldn’t close the door to the room because a lot of my imagination thought this couldn’t be [real]. If I opened my eyes after sleeping, she would be there. Or if I took a shower and opened the curtain, she would be there. I was terrified of the fact that she wasn’t there anymore.”

Kelley and his father didn’t really talk about the tragedy. Instead they focused on being there for one another in this new life that was thrust upon them. The only way Kelley knew how to cope was through basketball. It became a haven to shelter him from the pain of losing his mother and others in later years.

The sport was also an escape from the Washington, D.C. neighborhood in which Kelley lived. The streets of Brentwood were plagued by drugs and violence. Shootings and stabbings took those he knew, others fell victim to destructive lifestyles. Death and loss was all around him.

“When I walked inside those lines and the whistle blew, I didn’t have those thoughts. I was able to play,” he said. “I didn’t think about anything, the hurt that it had caused for me and my family. I just went out and played. That began to be my therapy over the years. When a family member would pass away, a friend would pass away, getting all these calls and news about deaths, I just went and played.”

Kelley poured his heart into the game. He became a standout point guard at Dunbar High School and was recruited by multiple Division 1 colleges. He chose the University of South Carolina, where his family would make the round-trip drives in one day just to see him play.

TreKelleyInsideAfter four seasons Kelley went undrafted and began his international career in Croatia. Over the next three years he went through training-camp stints with the Miami HEAT, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies. Each time he was cut, he moved on elsewhere to keep improving. He has accumulated a resume that includes stints in Israel, Lebanon, Belgium, China, Italy, Venezuela, two NBA Development squads and, most recently, the 2014 D-League Select Summer League team.

Yet he has never played a single game in the NBA.

At 29 years old, Kelley will not stop chasing his dream. He can’t.

“It would mean everything to me as a basketball player,” Kelley said. “All the hard work I put in, all the things I’ve been through, it goes into that. It means much, much more than the game of basketball because I’ve had to overcome different obstacles just to even make it to college and get a full scholarship. Coming out of my door and seeing drugs and violence for years of my life and be able to overcome those things, have people from my neighborhood be able to see me play in the NBA, it would be monumental.”

Last season Kelley played for the Austin Toros and Sioux Falls Skyforce, averaging 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.2 rebounds. In six summer league games this July he posted 11.7 points, 5.2 assists and two rebounds, including a 14-point, nine-assist, four-steal finale.

With high praise from coaches and front office personnel, Kelley was one of the first chosen when the D-League Select team was assembled. Summer league head coach Conner Henry saw the fire that has been driving Kelley for years and gave him the keys to lead the floor.

“He’s a complete pro and it’s been a joy for me to coach him because I never felt like anything I was giving him was too hard for him to execute. I felt very comfortable with him running the team,” said Henry. “He’s done everything— he’s worked hard, he’s communicated with me on everything … He’s represented himself here perfectly. Now he’s going to have opportunities for that.”

When Kelley returned from Summer League he was approached in his neighborhood by fans, many of them young children, who watched him play on televised games. He could sell out the Verizon Center with just his supporters, his friends tell him, with so many eagerly waiting to see Kelley on an NBA roster after all these years. Kelley continues to push – for those who have stood behind him in the past and for those he hopes to help in the future.

“For me to be able to live 18 years past this and become some measure of positivity and do all the things I’ve been able to do as a basketball player, someone else can do this also,” he said. “I’m not the last one to lose their mom. I’m not. Some future basketball player is going to lose their mom or their dad at 11. But what is the story after that? What’s going to happen after that? Hopefully me getting my story across will help that.”

Kelley’s story is still a work in progress. He hopes this is the season he writes the chapter of making an NBA team. As training camp approaches, he continues to be a gym rat with his summer workouts. Letting up is not an option.

“I want to play in the NBA,” Kelley said. “I’m going to continue to push for it. If I go to camp with someone, I’m going to push myself so they understand who they have. I want them to really know me as a person and as a basketball player. They’ll get a steal.”

Eighteen years ago today, Kelley’s world was rocked by an unfathomable loss. Since then he has mourned the death of both parents (his father passed away last year from heart issues), relatives and friends. He has also overcome devastating adversity to become a focused and driven professional who refuses to stop short of his ultimate goal.

The sleepless nights have become part of the norm for him. But as the numbers change on the clock, maybe each passing minute will be one closer to him achieving his dream.

“I’m a fighter, I’m a courageous guy,” Kelley said. “There’s no situation that I can give up in. … Some people at 29 have given up on their NBA goals, but not me. I just can’t do that. I just can’t do that.”

Jessica Camerato is a bilingual reporter who has been covering the NBA since 2006. She has also covered MLB, NHL and MLS. A graduate of Quinnipiac University, Jessica is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association and the Association for Women in Sports Media.




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A Breakout Season for Joe Harris

Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Harris talks to Basketball Insiders about his second chance with the Nets.

David Yapkowitz



The NBA is all about second chances. Sometimes players need a change of scenery, or a coach who believes in them, or just something different to reach their full potential. They may be cast aside by several teams, but eventually, they often find that right situation that allows them to flourish.

Such was the case for Joe Harris. Originally drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Harris rarely saw the court during his time in Cleveland. He averaged about 6.4 minutes per game over the course of about one and a half seasons with the Cavaliers.

During the 2015-16 season, his second in Cleveland, he underwent season-ending foot surgery. Almost immediately after, the Cavaliers traded him to the Orlando Magic in an attempt to cut payroll due to luxury tax penalties. He would never suit up for the Magic as they cut him as soon as they traded for him.

After using the rest of that season to recover from surgery, he would sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016. He had a very strong first season in Brooklyn, but this season he’s truly broken out.

“I think a lot of it has to do with just the right situation in terms of circumstances. It’s a young team where you don’t really have anybody on the team that’s going out and getting 20 a night,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a collective effort most nights and it can be any given person depending on the situation. It’s one of those things where we’re real unselfish with the ball. A lot of guys get a lot of good looks, so your production is bound to go up just because of the system now that we’re playing.”

Known primarily as a sharpshooter in college at the University of Virginia as well as his first stop in Cleveland, Harris has started developing more of an all-around game. He’s improved his ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays as well as crashing the glass and playing strong defense.

In a relatively forgettable season record-wise for the Nets, Harris has been one of their bright spots. He’s putting up 10.1 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field while playing 25.4 minutes per game. He’s up to 40.3 percent from the three-point line and he’s pulling down 3.3 rebounds. All of those numbers are career-highs.

“My role, I think, is very similar to the way I would be anywhere that I was playing. I’m a shooter, I help space the floor for guys to facilitate,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “I’m opportunistic offensively with drives and such. I’m out there to try and space the floor, knock down shots, and then play tough defensively and make sure I’m doing my part in getting defensive rebounds and that sort of stuff.”

Although Harris didn’t play much in Cleveland, he did show glimpses and flashes of the player he has blossomed into in Brooklyn. He saw action in 51 games his rookie year while knocking down 36.9 percent of his three-point attempts.

He also saw action in six playoff games during the Cavaliers’ run to the 2015 Finals. But more importantly, it was the off the court things that Harris kept with him after leaving Cleveland. The valuable guidance passed down to him from the Cavaliers veteran guys. It’s all helped mold him into the indispensable contributor he’s become for the Nets.

“Even though I wasn’t necessarily playing as much, the experience was invaluable just in terms of learning how to be a professional,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “The approach, the preparation, that sort of stuff. That’s why I learned a lot while I was there. All those good players that have had great, great, and long careers and just being able to kind of individually pick their brains and learn from them.”

When Harris came to Brooklyn two years ago, he initially signed a two-year deal with a team option after the first year. When he turned in a promising 2016-17 season, it was a no-brainer for the Nets to pick up his option. Set to make about $1.5 million this season, Harris’ contract is a steal.

However, he’s headed for unrestricted free agency this upcoming summer. Although he dealt with being a free agent before when he first signed with the Nets, it’s a different situation now. He’s likely going to be one of the most coveted wings on the market. While there’s still a bit more of the regular season left, and free agency still several months away, it’s something Harris has already thought about. If all goes well, Brooklyn is a place he can see himself staying long-term.

“Yeah, it’s one of those things that I’ll worry about that sort of decision when the time comes. But I have really enjoyed my time in Brooklyn,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a great organization with a lot of good people, and they try and do stuff the right way. I enjoy being a part of that and trying to kind of rebuild and set a good foundation for where the future of the Brooklyn Nets is.”

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 3/20/18

With most of the major NBA draft prospects eliminated from March Madness, things in the mock draft world are starting to get interesting.

Steve Kyler



A Lot of Mock Movement

With the race to the bottom in full swing in the NBA and the field of 64 in college basketball whittled down to a very sweet sixteen, there has been considerable talk in NBA circles about the impending 2018 NBA Draft class. There seems to be a more consistent view of the top 15 to 20 prospects, but there still seems to be a lack of a firm pecking order. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton seems like to the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall, but its far from a lock.

It’s important to note that these weekly Mock Draft will start to take on more of a “team driven” shape as we get closer to the mid-May NBA Combine in Chicago and more importantly once the draft order gets set. Until then, we’ll continue to drop our views of the draft class each Tuesday, until we reach May when we’ll drop the weekly Consensus Mock drafts, giving you four different views of the draft all the way to the final decisions in late June.

Here is this week’s Mock Draft:

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick is top-five protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects –

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NBA Daily: Jonathan Isaac Proving to be Key Part of Orlando’s Future

Basketball Insiders spoke with Jonathan Isaac about his rookie season, injuries, areas to improve on, his faith and more.

James Blancarte



On January 13, the Orlando Magic were eliminated from playoff contention. This date served as a formality as the team has known for quite some time that any postseason hopes had long since sailed. The Magic started the year off on a winning note and held an 8-4 record in early November. However, the team lost their next nine games and never really recovered.

Many factors play a role in a young but talented team like the Magic having another season end like this. Injuries to franchise cornerstone Aaron Gordon as well as forward Evan Fournier and forward Jonathan Isaac magnified the team’s issues.

Isaac, a rookie selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, started the season off reasonably well. On November 10, in 21 minutes of action, he registered an 11-point, six-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, two-block all-around effort against the Phoenix Suns to help the Magic get to that 8-4 record. Isaac then suffered an ankle injury midway through his next game and wouldn’t play again until December 17, by which time the team was already 11-20 with the season quickly going sideways. From November until March, Isaac would only play in three games until finally returning to consistent action in the month of March with the season all but decided.

Basketball Insiders spoke to Isaac recently to discuss how he has pushed through this season, staying healthy, his impressive skill set and more.

“I’ve had a lot of time off from being injured so, I think my body is holding up fine along with how much I’ve played. I haven’t played a full season,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders “I feel good. I feel good.”

Isaac talked about what part of his game he feels strongly about and has improved on.

“I think defensively,” Isaac said. “I didn’t expect myself to make strides defensively like I have. I’ve been able to just be able to just do different things and help this team defensively and I didn’t expect that coming in so, that would be the one thing.”

Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise of Isaac’s defense and also focused on the rookie’s great defensive potential.

“His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20-years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.

While Isaac hasn’t logged a huge number of minutes on the floor this season, he has impressed in his limited action. As Coach Vogel stated, anyone who has taken the time to watch Isaac play this season has noticed his ability to guard other big men and his overall defensive impact.

“I think I’ve been able to do a good job on most of the people that I’ve had to guard,” Isaac said.

Missing Isaac’s defense impact and overall contributions partially explains why the Magic cooled off after their hot start. However, with the playoffs no longer an option, younger players like Isaac now have the opportunity to play with less attention and pressure. While it can be argued that the Magic aren’t really playing for anything, the truth is these late-season games can be an opportunity to develop these younger players and determine what to work on during the offseason.

There is more to Isaac than just basketball, however. Isaac discussed other parts of his life that are important to him, including religion and his faith.

“[M]y faith in Jesus is something that I put a lot of emphasis on,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a part of me.”

Isaac did not hesitate to credit his faith when asked if it helped him push through his injuries.

“I would say definitely,” Isaac said. “Especially with getting injured so early in the season and being out for 40 games. That’s a lot on somebody’s mental capacity and then just staying positive, staying joyful in times where joy doesn’t seem like it’s the right emotion to have. And I definitely [attribute] that to my faith.”

Looking forward, both Vogel and Isaac discussed the future and what the young big man can improve on.

“Offensively, he’s grown in confidence, he’s gained so he’s going to give us a big lift and our future’s bright with him,” Vogel stated.

Isaac gave a hint of his offseason training plans when asked what he looks forward to working on.

“I would say consistency with my jump shot. Really working on my three-ball and I would say ball-handling,” Isaac stated.

When asked if there was anything more he wanted to add, Isaac simply smiled and said, “Oh no, I think I got to get to church right now,” as the team prepared to play later that evening.

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