Josh Selby was sitting in the upper deck of a small high-school gym with one-side seating when he challenged a bench-warming teammate to hit a three-pointer from the bleachers. The stakes weren’t high, in the neighborhood of $130 per shot, make-or-miss.
The kid missed. Twice. Selby was up $300, but he never had any intension of collecting the cash. It was his way of making sure his team doesn’t fold under pressure.
It wasn’t long ago that Selby, once the No. 1 NCAA recruit in the nation and former NBA draft pick, hit rock bottom.
Selby, once the highest ranked high-school baller in the United States, led a class that featured some of the NBA’s current-and-future stars. In a sense, he went from hero-to-zero. Selby bounced around the NBA and the respected D-League before heading overseas for stints in China, Croatia and now Israel. At one point, the 23-year-old Baltimore native began to mull over retirement.
“I went through a time where I was depressed with basketball. I got depressed because things weren’t going my way. I had thoughts of retiring,” Selby told Basketball Insiders following a team practice in Herzliya, a suburb city outside of the Tel Aviv.
His dream of an NBA comeback was still alive as he attended a private workout for the Orlando Magic over the summer.
“I had a good workout for the Magic and was able to get my feet wet after not playing since January. It was a blessing to get a camp invite, but it was the only invite I got,” said Selby. “I went up against Seth Curry and a few others, but the Magic already had a Summer League roster, so I didn’t get a real chance.”
“A real chance,” Selby said as his face frowned and dropped south, is all he ever asked for. But he never got it.
Selby was a late second-round draftee of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2011. It was his time as a backup point guard with the blue-and-gold that sparked Selby’s depression. Selby had just moved into to his new home and was getting comfortable in Memphis when the business side of the league took a swing at the former McDonald’s All-American.
“It was around Christmas,” the 6-foot-2 guard recalled, “I had my entire family in Memphis when the Grizzlies traded me to the Cleveland Cavaliers. I left them all behind.”
Selby recorded just 2.2 points and 0.9 assists in 38 appearances for the Grizzlies before being shipped off to the Cavaliers. Selby was crushed. His depression, though, began a lot sooner.
“I got depressed when I was with the Grizzlies,” Selby said. “When I got drafted, Memphis signed Jeremy Pargo as a backup point guard during my rookie season. Then, Memphis drafted Tony Wroten my second season, so I never go a real opportunity to play. I was always a third-string point guard. If I had a legit chance to showcase my talents and a coach that trusts me, I might reach my full potential.”
Prior to that, before the walls crumbled around him, Selby capped a highlight-real Summer League chapter for the Grizzlies, averaging over 25 points per game on 70 percent shooting from the perimeter. He was ranked as the third best scorer and earned co-MVP honors with Portland Trail Blazers phenom Damian Lillard.
Soon after, Selby became a basketball journeyman, moving from one place to the next.
“I’ve been on five teams in five months. I went from Memphis to Reno; from Reno to Cleveland; from Cleveland to Canton; and then from Canton to Maine. Wow, five teams in five months,” Selby said, tossing his hands in the air as his eyes opened wide.
Selby’s depression escalated upon his arrival in Ohio.
“As soon as I get to Cleveland they sent me down to Canton to the D-League,” he said. “I had no chance with the Cavaliers. Then I’m released two weeks later, traded to another D-League team. I was like damn, no one wants me, what am I doing wrong? I’m working hard and trying my best. I couldn’t believe it.”
The former Kansas Jayhawk star saw the NBA doors closing as teams failed to offer a contract. Selby was forced to cross the pond and his first deal was a short-lived era in China, land of high-volume scoring guards and even higher checks.
On November 2013, Selby signed a one-month, $40,000 deal with Qingdao Double Star Eagles of the CBA, but that lasted just three games. The transition to the high-speed overseas style of play wasn’t the issue. Selby posted averages of 22.3 points, three rebounds and three assists per game, yet his team couldn’t win.
“Our team was losing all the time. I don’t think the club won a game in two years. I was playing well but all the imports got sent home because we weren’t winning. I sure didn’t see all the money I was owed. I don’t know what happened to it,” said Selby, who realized how shady and cut-throat the hoops market is outside the NBA.
The next attempt at resurrecting his career was in Croatia. Selby signed with local power-club Cedevita Zagreb for $15,000 per month, but recorded just one game before receiving his release papers. According to multiple sources, Selby’s coach, Jasmin Repesa, coach for the Croatia national-team at recent World Cup games in Spain, isn’t fond of U.S. players. Furthermore, his current team has zero American imports.
Selby, though, wouldn’t comment in full on Repesa’s dislike of non-European players.
“I’ll say I was cut because of a stomach injury, that’s what the team told me,” Selby said.
In high-school, Selby was one of the brightest NBA prospects and top ranked recruits in a class that included Kyrie Irving, Harrison Barnes, Dion Waters, Tobias Harris, Jared Sullinger, Brandon Knight and Tristan Thompson.
His one-and-done stint with Kansas was shadowed by a suspension and injuries, as Selby played in only 26-of-38 games for a total season average of 7.9 points and 2.2 assists per contest. He then declared entering the NBA draft.
“Honestly, I don’t know if my knee injuries impacted my draft stock. All I know are rumors. Would I still be in the NBA if I were a first-round draft pick? Man, I have no idea. God is the only one to know that,” Selby said.
Selby continues to battle common misperceptions about him wherever he goes. Now, roughly 6,000 miles away from home, he tried to brush it off.
“The negative media had a lot of impact on my career,” Selby said. “I put myself in the wrong situations in the past, but I was young. I read all the negative stuff about me, some parts are true, others aren’t.”
During the recent offseason, Selby signed a single-season deal in top league in Israel worth $110,000, according to team insiders. Selby didn’t wait long for his coming out party, dropping a season-high 30 points in 39 minutes for Bnei Herzliya in the season opener. Over the first month of the season, Selby was No. 1 in the Israeli-League in scoring and efficiency.
His stock slipped over the last couple of weeks, but Selby cemented himself as the third-best scorer in the league with 16.4 points per game. He’s also ranked sixth in three-point shooting percentage with 43.5 percent, and ninth in steals with 1.9 to go along with 2.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Selby is Herzliya’s lead candidate to make the domestic All-Star Game.
Still young and learning, Selby found a way to transform his negative publicity and fuel the jets.
“I try to take the negative rumors, learn from them and better my character and continue to grow,” Selby said. “I used to get angry over what people were writing, but I’m more mature now and just ignore it. I hate that people keep talking about the old Josh Selby.”
Upon signing in Israel, a couple of Twitter users invented “The Selby Line” – an over/under estimation of the total number of appearances Selby would register before losing his job.
“8 games,” tweeted one handle.
“If he plays over 10 games that’s starting to get towards a successful stint for him,” tweeted a second user.
“The Selby Line,” caught up to Selby, who screen grabbed the tweets and saved them on his cell phone.
Next week, Selby will enter round No. 14 and complete almost five full months with his club. His mission, he confessed, is accomplished.
“Those tweets added fuel to my fire,” Selby said. “When I saw that I said, ‘Damn. People really doubted me like that? People are really going to tweet … what’s the under/over score of Josh Selby staying in Israel? Seriously?’ C’mon man, I’m 23 years old, people should be happy that I’m somewhere playing. I’ve never been someone people talk good about. It’s always some negative tag to me.”
With just a handful of practices in preseason, a second teammate of Selby’s, a starting 6-foot-4 point-forward who is also known as a defensive specialist, asked the former NBA guard to stay after training. When his coach gave the green light to hit the showers, Selby’s teammate was waiting at one end of the floor with a basketball.
“Let’s settle this. One-on-one,” said the teammate.
Needless to say, Selby, one of the quickest and elite ball-handling guards in Israel, took his opponent to school with a series of playground buckets. Selby won.
“I didn’t know anything about Israel, besides the wars and what people see on CNN. My family was hesitant and nervous about me coming here, but I discovered a beautiful country with nice people. I’m happy I made the right decision to sign here,” Selby said.
The off-court transition, though, was a struggle for the lone overseas guard. Selby knew nothing about his new club, he never heard of its city and was completely oblivious of the fact that the reigning European champions, Maccabi Tel Aviv, compete in the same league.
Things changed quickly for Selby.
“When I got over to Israel, as I started talking to people, at least 25-out-of-26 people didn’t know who Herzliya was, but told me about Maccabi,” he said.
The overall public assumptions were that Selby, based on his appearances, landed a deal with one of Europe’s most decorated organizations ever.
“People asked if I play for Maccabi and I had to correct them,” he said. “You play for Maccabi? No Herzliya. Who? Herzliya Who? Heeeerzzzliyaaaaa. I’m trying my best to get the team on the map because out here it’s Maccabi land.”
As far as an NBA comeback goes, he is currently out of sight and mind, but not giving up hope. Selby said no scouts or NBA personnel have contacted him thus far, but it’s not troubling him at this point in time.
“I want to help my team reach the playoffs and take them as far as possible,” Selby said. “As long as I take care of business and win here, the NBA will come find me.”
NBA Daily: Checking In With Terrance Ferguson
Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Terrance Ferguson talks to Basketball Insiders about learning from his teammates, earning minutes and being mentally tough.
Before he reached the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Terrance Ferguson was once often referred to as a man of mystery. After changing course on two different programs in a two-month span, Ferguson ditched the typical one-and-done collegiate season for an adventure on the other side of the planet. But even after the Thunder selected Ferguson with the No. 21 overall pick in last year’s draft — the questions still lingered. How would a teenager with one season overseas adjust to the world’s most physical basketball league?
Not many rookies can contribute to a 40-plus win squad out in the cutthroat Western Conference so quickly — but down the stretch, here Ferguson is doing just that. With the Thunder locked in a tight playoff battle with six others teams, the 19-year-old’s hard-working personality has fit alongside the roster’s three perennial All-Stars — Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And although his rookie season has come with some growing pains, Ferguson is earning meaningful minutes and making the most of them.
“I think it’s my work ethic, I come in every day with the same mentality,” Ferguson said. “I work my butt off — inside the game, being physical. Even though I’m a skinny guy, as everyone can see, I’m still everywhere on the floor being physical. I think [the coaching staff] really likes that, especially on the defensive end.”
Skinny or not, Ferguson is one of the league’s youngest players, so the 6-foot-7 guard has plenty of room to grow — literally. But for now, he’s playing an integral role on an Oklahoma City team looking to protect its high postseason seed. Late January brought the unfortunate season-ending injury to Andre Roberson — an All-Defensive Second Team honoree in 2016-17 — so the Thunder have needed both new and old players to step up in bigger roles.
While those candidates included the three-point shooting Alex Abrines, veteran Raymond Felton and the newly-acquired Corey Brewer, Ferguson’s recent rise in the rotation has arguably been the most interesting development. Since the calendar flipped to January, Ferguson has featured in almost all of the Thunder’s games, tallying just two DNP-CDs and one missed contest following a concussion. This steady diet of opportunity comes as a stark contrast to the 15 games in which he received no playing time, spanning from the season’s opening tip to the new year.
Of course, playing time is not always indicative of success, but Ferguson himself isn’t surprised that he’s carved out a crucial role ahead of the playoffs.
“Not really, it’s all up to coach’s decision,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I’m just here playing my part, staying ready at all times and some minutes came, so I’mma take them and play to the best of my ability.”
Back in October, Basketball Insiders’ own Joel Brigham spoke to Ferguson about his unconventional path to NBA and the choice to spend a year grinding with the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian outfit. In the land down under, Ferguson averaged just 15 minutes a night, considerably less than he would’ve likely received as a highly-recruited prospect here in America. Some five months later, Ferguson’s early-season stance on the move still stands out.
“I’m living the dream now, right? I must have done the right thing,” Ferguson said.
Today, it’s hard to disagree with Ferguson’s decisions considering that they’re currently paying off. In 2009, Brandon Jennings became the first to skip college and play in Europe before being drafted, with Emmanuel Mudiay most notably following in his footsteps six years later. While those two point guards both were selected in the top ten of their draft classes — at No. 10 and No. 7, respectively — it still remains the road far less traveled.
Considered raw by most pre-draft evaluations, an early expectation was that Ferguson would spend much of the season with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate. Instead, Ferguson has played in only three games with the Blue, where he has averaged a commendable 14.7 points, four rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
But as of late, the Thunder have found somebody that’ll always work hard, learn from others and do the little things that don’t show up in the box score.
“I’ve learned a lot more from when I first started,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I got great teammates — I got Nick Collison, I got Russ, PG, Melo, so just picking their brains. I got Corey now, so just the work ethic they put in, just picking their brains each and every day about what I can do better, watching game film, it’s a lot of things.”
When he was drafted, Ferguson had a reputation as a skyscraping leaper with the athleticism to become an elite perimeter defender. Although his current averages with the Thunder understate his innate potential, Ferguson knows he can contribute without scoring — even noting that he can make up for it “on the other side of the court.” Playing defense and competing hard every night, he has slowly made a name for himself.
And while Ferguson has tallied far more single-digit scoring outings than his 24-point breakout performance in early January, he’s earned the trust of head coach Billy Donovan and his veteran teammates, which is something the rookie will never take for granted.
“Coach believes in me and that means a lot to me,” Ferguson said. “But my teammates believe in me, so I’m not gonna let them down. I’m gonna go out every day and play my hardest, compete and try to get the win each and every night.”
One might assume that his year abroad in Australia helped to mentally mold him into the high-flying, hard-nosed rookie we see today. Ferguson, however, contends that he’s had that edge from the very beginning.
“I’ve been mentally tough, it wasn’t overseas that did that,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I had to be mentally tough just to go over there — so I’ve always had that mentality, the [desire] to just dominate, play to the best of my ability and compete.”
And now he’s doing just that in the NBA.
Is Kyrie Irving’s Second Opinion a Cause for Concern?
Shane Rhodes breaks down the tough situation the Celtics are in with Kyrie Irving.
The Boston Celtics are in one awful predicament.
With a third of the roster out due to injury, Brad Stevens has been forced into the impossible task of maintaining Boston’s championship aspirations with some subpar talent; while they have performed admirably, the likes of Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye wouldn’t see the same run they are currently on with most contenders. Gordon Hayward has missed the entire season, save a few minutes on opening night. Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are all currently out, some for the year and others not. Key contributors Al Horford, Marcus Morris and others have missed time as well.
It couldn’t get worse, could it?
Well, it may just have. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Irving, who had missed time this season — including the last four games — with left knee soreness, is seeking a second opinion after a lack of progress in his recovery.
My understanding is that Kyrie Irving is getting a 2nd opinion on his left knee, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Bottom line: he needs the screws out. Knee is flaring up. He will either play thru it going forward or … he will get thee screws out and won’t play at all. Stay tuned.
— Tony Massarotti (@TonyMassarotti) March 20, 2018
With lack of progress on his ailing left knee, Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving plans to travel for a second opinion later this week, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 20, 2018
In the wake of the Isaiah Thomas fiasco and his ailing hip last Summer, an injury that lingered deep into this season, the Celtics will likely be more than cautious with Irving, whom they gave up a haul (the rights to the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, most notably), to acquire. But one can only wonder if these persistent issues — Irving’s left knee was surgically repaired after he sustained a fractured kneecap in 2015, and he reportedly threatened the Cleveland Cavaliers with surgery this offseason before his trade to Boston — are a cause for concern for general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics.
The situation presents the Celtics with a quandary, to say the least.
Knee injuries aren’t exactly a death-knell, but fans need not look far for to see the devastating effect they can have on NBA players (e.g. Derrick Rose). They can snowball and, over time, even the best players will break down. Regardless of the severity, Irving’s knee issue presents problems both now and in the future.
The problems now are obvious: the Celtics, already down Gordon Hayward, cannot afford to lose Irving if they are at all interested in making a Finals run this season. Boston struggles mightily on the offensive end when Irving and his 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists aren’t on the court. In a playoff atmosphere, especially, the team would sorely miss his scoring prowess.
Looking ahead, if Irving is dealing with these problems at the age of 25, what could the future hold for the All-Star guard? Knee issues, most lower body issues in general, are often of the chronic variety, and constant maintenance can wear on people, both mentally and physically.
Just a season separated from a likely super-max payday, will the Celtics want to commit big-money long-term to potentially damaged goods?
If there is a silver lining in it all, it is the fact that 20-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum must now shoulder the scoring load, something that should go a long way in building on the potential that made him the No. 3 overall pick last June. And, should Irving miss the remainder of this season, exposure to the fires of the playoffs should only temper the Celtics’ young roster. In the event that Irving’s absence isn’t prolonged, time like this could only serve to strengthen the roster around him.
Still, Ainge brought Irving to Boston for a reason: he was meant to lead the Celtics into battle, alongside Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, in their quest for a title. Obviously, he can’t do that from the bench. Without Irving at 100 percent, the Celtics are not a championship caliber squad, healthy Gordon Hayward or not. That fact alone will make Irving’s situation one to monitor going forward and for the foreseeable future.
NBA Daily: Houston Has It All
Deciphering whether Houston is a contender or pretender is tough, but they’re making it easy.
It is very easy to get caught up in the NBA regular-season hyperbole. The past is littered with a plethora of NBA teams that looked like world-beaters in the regular season only to pull up lame in the playoffs and emerge as a bunch of pretenders.
So when it comes to the Houston Rockets, it’s no surprise many pundits and fans of the game fall heavily on one side or the other. The 2017-18 Rockets are a polarizing squad in that respect. On one side of the fence, you have the folks that are struggling to get behind Houston until they see how the franchise performs in the playoffs under the brightest of lights and on the biggest of stages. On the other, folks that place a great deal of weight on the 82-game regular season and the ability to sustain consistency throughout the marathon.
As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
At the top of Houston’s lineup are two future Hall of Famers in James Harden and Chris Paul. The latter was a perennial star in his heyday and is still a top-tier talent in the league. Harden, on the other hand, is closing in on his first MVP award and had serious cases for winning the honors in prior seasons, as well. Both Harden and Paul are criticized for their past playoff failures.
Paul entered the league during the 2006 season and has been dogged by the ever looming fact that he’s never reached a Conference Finals. Harden has been to the NBA Finals but has been dogged for multiple playoff missteps and shaky performances that remain etched in everyone’s memory. But something about this season’s Rockets team (57-14) seems different as the duo closes in on 60 wins.
One way to measure the true greatness of a NBA team is evaluating how many ways the roster can win playing a variety of styles. From the eyeball test, Houston checks the boxes in this category. The team sustains leads during blowouts. They have an offense built to erase large deficits quickly. The team possesses the talent to employ an array of versatile lineups to withstand top heat from opposing teams. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has shown the ability to adjust on the fly during certain situations. Houston is seemingly comprised of a bunch of guys that are selfless and ready to sacrifice at this stage of their respective careers.
Time will tell on all of those aforementioned aspects, but the Rockets are built to compete and win now. On paper at least, the team fits the criteria.
Paul has a chance to go down as a top five point guard in NBA history .His court vision is unquestioned and his big men always seem to end up being in the top five of field goal percentage each season (i.e. Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and now Clint Capela). In years past, the Rockets faltered down the stretch of games because the entire system ran through Harden. But this year’s club has the luxury of taking some of the on-ball expectation away from Harden and by giving the rock to Paul who naturally thrives in this role the squad doesn’t take a step back on the floor.
This is going to be big for Houston which has seen Harden gassed late in playoff games from carrying the entire load.
Small Ball Ready
Presumably standing between the Rockets and an appearance in the NBA Finals are the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors turned the NBA upside down with their free-flowing offense, long range accuracy and the successful ability to push the pace while playing small ball.
At the height of Golden State’s success they employed the “death lineup” which places All-Star forward Draymond Green at center. In different variations this gives the Warriors five guys on the court who can dribble, drive, pass and shoot. Versatility is important and if you look at this year’s Rockets team they have the ability to match the death lineup with their own version. Veteran forward P.J. Tucker would be able to guard Green in this scenario at center or Houston could just rely on the athleticism of Capela.
When it comes to defense, the Rockets will never be confused for the bad boy Detroit Pistons of yesteryear, however, the team has an assortment of individually capable defenders on the roster. Paul has all defensive team honors hanging on his mantle during his time in the league. Small forward Trevor Ariza made his bones in the league by placing an emphasis on defense. Before Capela emerged as a double-digit scorer, he was relied on as a defensive spark off the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute has a reputation and consistent track record of being a very willing defender.
Shooting, Versatility and Experience
All of this success, leads to the variation D’Antoni can put out onto the floor. The versatility to go with a small ball lineup or a lineup heavily skewed toward defenders is a luxury amenity. Houston also features five guys with 125 or more three-pointers made this season with Harden, Eric Gordon, Ariza, Paul and Ryan Anderson leading the way. A sixth, Tucker, should join the +100 club before season’s end. Veteran Gerald Green has only played 30 games with the franchise but has already knocked down 76 attempts from distance.
Experience is key as well. This year’s Rockets team features only one player under 25, receiving 25 or more minutes per night in the rotation. Look at NBA history, title winning teams are full of veterans not second or third year players.
Again, the Rockets will never be confused with the late 80s or early 90s Pistons but the team has more than a few guys that don’t shy away from contact or physical play. The collection of Nene, Tucker, Green and Ariza have had more than their share of shoving matches when things get heated on the floor.
With the start of the NBA playoffs (April 14) under a month away, the Rockets continue to build momentum toward a title run. Will Harden and Paul’s playoff demons from the past emerge or is their first true shot at greatness with a complete team? These questions will soon be answered.