As the NBA Summer League enters the third round of tournament play in Las Vegas, the San Antonio Spurs hold the eighth overall seed with a 3-1 record. With most eyes focused on Dejounte Murray, as well as rookies Derrick White and Jaron Blossomgame, a different name has been the talk of the town.
Bryn Forbes, a second-year guard who went undrafted one year ago out of Michigan State, is making waves as his skills continue to develop.
Coming out of Salt Lake City as the Utah Summer League’s leading scorer, the 23-year-old has been one of the most consistent offensive threats in July. Averaging 29.3 points per game as the league leader in Las Vegas, has Forbes exceeded his own expectations?
“In some ways, yeah,” Forbes told reporters on Wednesday night. “I just didn’t really know what to expect from myself, but I knew I put in a lot of work, so I expected good things. But I didn’t know how our team was going to be.
“I knew our coaching staff pretty well and what they had been telling me for all summer, the things I need to do out here, but I think once I got to play with the team a little bit I was like, ‘Okay.’ I started to feel it a little more. I love playing with these guys.”
Having only played in 36 games in his rookie year, Forbes has “worked his ass off” over a busy summer to improve his game and earn some more minutes. Predominantly a pure scorer, the 6-foot-3 guard has made it a priority to add more to his repertoire.
“I think that’s the weight room,” Forbes said of his newfound versatility. ”Ball handling. Everything I put in this summer. Conditioning. Everything I put in, I think it’s starting to be able to control it more. Control the things I’m doing more than I was able to years past.”
Being a part of a perennial winning organization such as San Antonio doesn’t hurt his case, either, and Forbes is a big believer that he’s headed down the best path possible.
“I trust our staff and our coaches with my life, so it’s like, whatever they think the right thing is to do, I’mma do exactly that,” he said.
Will Hardy, an assistant alongside Gregg Popovich, is the head coach of the Spurs summer league team. Through seven games between Utah and Las Vegas, he’s already seen Forbes’ confidence growing with each night.
“He’s a very skilled offensive player,” Hardy said. “I’ve said before, it’s not just catch and shoot. He’s got a nice game off the bounce. He’s really good off the ball. He’s tough to guard because he can get in a lot of different ways.
“I think our big guys have done a really nice job of screening for him and getting him free. When he gets it going, everybody’s looking for him.”
Simplifying the game helps a ton when you’re trying to find a flow. When asked about why things have slowed down for him, Forbes agreed with his coach.
“My teammates are doing great too—on the defensive end, on the offensive end, setting picks, rebounding,” he said. “Everything they’re doing is making everything for me a lot easier.”
Three times, once in Utah and twice this past week in Las Vegas, Forbes has eclipsed the 30-point mark. This includes back-to-back games with 35 to lead the Spurs to victory in each. He’s averaged four assists and a little over three rebounds to go along with 1.3 steals per game as well.
As San Antonio continues to move on in the tournament, he doesn’t see much of that changing for him.
“I don’t think there’s a fall-off,” Forbes said. “This is all of the work I’ve been putting in and I think when you put a lot of work in, you get out of it what you get out of it. You get what you give to the game.”
Hardy doesn’t see any signs of slowing down, either.
“He’s continued to stay aggressive and he’s in a good rhythm right now,” he said. “His mindset’s really good on that end.”
Forbes’ dedication off the floor has definitely played a factor in his success, but nothing can substitute being on the hardwood like live action. It’s something he missed dearly before summer league started up, and now he’s got the chance to showcase his talents in front of everybody.
“It was fun just being back out here,” Forbes said. “I hadn’t got to play all summer, five-on-five or anything like that, not even one-on-one. It was just like workouts and lifting and all different types of stuff. It’s just fun to be back out playing.”
It’s been a pleasure to watch, Bryn.
Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN