The New Orleans Pelicans are making a playoff push in the Western Conference. After winning their fourth game in a row versus the New York Knicks, the Pelicans are now 1.5 games out the eighth seed.
A big reason for the team’s success has been the sharp-shooting of Langston Galloway. Galloway, who signed with the Pelicans this past offseason, got off to a slow start this season. However, he has steadily improved throughout the campaign. Galloway is proving to be one of the league’s elite late-game perimeter shooters. With his no-conscience shooter’s mentality, you don’t have to tell Galloway twice to let it fly.
Basketball Insiders caught up with Galloway to discuss his transition to the Pelicans, the changes he has adapted this season to improve his performance, and how he got his new nickname in New Orleans.
Rauchbach: What is the biggest difference you have found transitioning from the Knicks to the Pelicans on the court this season? What’s the biggest change?
Galloway: “The biggest change on the court is the pace of our team. We are out there trying to score 100 points a game and play great defense. The main thing is the freedom to move and things that can work with pick-and-roll. It is definitely a lot better, and I am definitely enjoying it.”
Rauchbach: Are you finding different ways to score in Coach Alvin Gentry’s offense when compared to last year? How are you scoring differently this year?
Galloway: “I definitely worked on it real hard this summer. I worked on a lot of ball screens and just how to find different ways to get easier buckets. I think working with [trainer] Drew Hanlen this summer definitely helped out. With Coach Gentry, he really is a great offensive coach… he wants us to go out there and play free and play with a green light. Especially with myself, he gives me the green light to go out there. He gives us the confidence to go out there [and] keep doing your thing. Go out there and play great defense, but at the same time offensively be aggressive.”
Rauchbach: I was reading that you picked up the nickname Green Light Galloway this season with the Pelicans?
Galloway: “(laughs) Yeah, they gave me a nickname. One of the reporters down here gave me that nickname. It seems like it is sticking right now. I am trying to see what’s going to happen with it, but as of right now, I am just out there having fun. Whatever happens happens.”
Rauchbach: From what I understand, they nicknamed you that because you really have no conscience when you are shooting the ball. Where did that mentality come from?
Galloway: “I think my confidence has grown with all the work I have been putting in. Like I said, all the work I have been putting in with Drew Hanlen and with Pure Sweat, and also just the work I have been putting in the gym… A lot of late nights to get up a lot of shots and just the confidence I have in my shot. I know that once I cross half-court, I feel like I am in range to knock down the shot, so that’s definitely the confidence I have [from] my teammates, that they continue to fill me with. They always tell me, ‘Hey the next shot is going in.” And I am like, ‘Hey, I know it’s going in.’ I might miss 10 in a row, but that 11th one is going to go in.”
Rauchbach: You started the season off slowly, averaging 3.9 points through October, but have rebounded nicely over the past couple of months. In December, you averaged 11.6 points and had a career-high 26 points against the Grizzlies. What has allowed you to put up those numbers as of late?
Galloway: “I think I am just getting more comfortable. I think the first couple of games we definitely had some great opponents that we faced, but at the same time, I was just trying to get used to playing back home. Definitely a little nerve-wracking playing back at home, but just [had to] get comfortable again. But lately, I am getting more comfortable and enjoying having the family there and just loving the whole environment of playing down here in New Orleans.”
Rauchbach: Did you tweak your preparation throughout the October/November time frame in order to get you back on track, like getting more shots up, watching more film?
Galloway: “Yeah, I definitely stayed in the gym a lot longer. There were definitely a lot of long nights, and we would go back to the gym and keep working on it and just figure out what I could continue to do – just work on it. It’s never an easy process when you want to do something that you love and you want to be great at it. That’s why I just continued to stay at it and continued to keep working hard. It’s going to continue to show and continue to pay off during this season.”
Rauchbach: Your three-point percentage has improved by about five percent, and scoring has increased from 7.7 to 9.9 points per game from last season. Why do you feel the reason for that is?
Galloway: “I really can’t put my finger on it. I definitely had a lot of great looks last year, but things weren’t falling for me. It was just a tough time, but this year I am out there playing free and just enjoying myself. And like my Mom always tells me, ‘Just go out there and have fun.’ My wife is always telling me go out and have fun too. I’m just enjoying it and playing the game I love.”
Rauchbach: You’re one of the leaders in the league in fourth quarter three-point shooting efficiency (55.6 percent). What changes for you in the fourth quarter?
Galloway: “I just think that Coach just draws up a lot of great plays for me in the fourth quarter, and then my teammates know I want the ball… and the fourth quarter just happens to be at the specific time that we need [big shots]. I just stay confident whenever we need a big shot and stay locked in.”
Rauchbach: Do you think the return of Jrue Holiday (and Tyreke Evans) has helped you with the type of quality shots you are now getting?
Galloway: “Yeah, we got Jrue back and Tyreke back and just getting most of our team back, I think that it made everybody just see where they were going to get their shots from and made the offense flow a lot easier. We have a lot of great guys on this team. Everybody is unselfish and everybody wants to win. Everybody is just trying to help each other win, and that’s a big key right now.”
Rauchbach: What has your experience been sharing backcourt duties with Tim Frazier? Both of you guys have similar backgrounds in going undrafted and earning guaranteed contracts this season.
Galloway: “It has been great. Tim is another guy who has a similar story to me, but at the same time we both just want to be successful and want to make it. We know where we have been at it, and what it took to get here, and now we don’t want to go back to the D-League. We want to continue to improve and continue to show what we can do, so it’s definitely great. I think we are both just having fun out there and just trying to push each other to be great.”
Rauchbach: What are some of your focuses heading into January in regards to improving parts of your game? For instance, you are killing it on catch-and-shoot and dribble hand-off opportunities ,ranking in the upper part of league. But pick-and-roll and isolation opportunities seem to be slightly down for you when compared to last season. What adjustments are you thinking about making to improve in these areas?
Galloway: “I just gotta keep working at it. I think it’s a long season. Just slowly but surely, you work on it. I think the more and more I work on it, the more and more I get better with it, and with the time I put in, I’ll get the results I want.”
Rauchbach: Do you keep in touch with any of your old Knicks’ teammates?
Galloway: “Here and there, I definitely keep in touch with them. I talk to Kristaps [Porzingis] once or twice and then everybody else… it will be great to see them, and it’s definitely going to be a battle [when we play them]. Everybody is competitive, and it’s always great to play against your old team. They know my tendencies, and they are definitely going to take me away from that. They are a great team. They are doing really good this year. They have a lot of new guys on the team, so it’s definitely going to be a great test for us.”
Rauchbach: What do you think of Kristaps’ improvement this season when compared to last?
Galloway: “He has been doing great. You could see it last year coming. He puts the work in. He is a great player. The more and more he continues to learn and the stronger he gets, you can see he is getting better game by game.”
Rauchbach: You guys are two games out of the playoffs. What do you think the key is individually and collectively for your team to grind your way into a playoff spot in the West?
Galloway: “I think we just have to stay consistent and keep having fun. That is what we have been doing these past few games, and it has been getting a lot better with the team camaraderie. I think we are focused on the task at hand, and that might mean one night we have to get a lot of stops and we gotta get up and down, and the next night it might mean we have to lock in and score the ball. We have a lot of guys on the court that can play, and everybody knows the game. It’s definitely huge for us going forward, and we know we are two games out of the playoffs. We don’t want to settle for just getting in the playoffs. We want to keep moving up and up in the standings.”
Rauchbach: What are your individual and collective goals for the rest of the season?
Galloway: “My team and individual goals are just to make the playoffs. That’s all I care about. My first two seasons, we weren’t able to make the playoffs. And now in the third year, it’s just like hey, [it’s time]. The further and further you get into your career, you want to make the playoffs and experience that and definitely just want to help this team in anyway that I can to make the playoffs.”
The Pelicans are currently 14-22, trailing the eighth seed in the Western Conference by two games. They have the seventh-ranked defense in the NBA, allowing just 103.6 points per 100 possessions.
NBA Daily: Meet Chimezie Metu, A Versatile Big Man
Chimezie Metu could end up being one of the steals of this year’s draft.
Each year when it comes to the NBA draft, there always seems to a few players flying under the radar a bit. Players who are underrated or overlooked for whatever reason. This year, one of those players is Chimezie Metu from the University of Southern California.
In early mock drafts, Metu was projected to go anywhere from mid to late first-round. In some of the more recent mocks, he’s fallen out of the first-round altogether and into the second-round. If those projections hold and he does end up being selected in the second-round, then some team is going to get a huge steal.
Metu is a versatile big man who impacts both ends of the floor. He is an agile shot blocker who can control the paint defensively, and on the other end, he can score in the post while being able to step out and knock down mid-range jump shots. He is confident in what he’ll be able to bring to an NBA team.
“I think being versatile and being able to make an impact on defense right away,” Metu told reporters at the NBA Draft Combine this past week. “Being able to switch on to smaller players or guard the post, and just being able to knock down shots or make plays when I’m called upon.”
In his three years at USC, Metu blossomed into one of the best players in the Pac-12 conference. This past season, he led a solid Trojans team in scoring with 15.7 points per game on 52.3 percent shooting. He also led the team in rebounding with 7.4 per game and had a team-high 59 blocked shots.
He’s taken note of some of the best big men in the NBA, some of whom he’s tried to model his game after. He told reporters at the combine that some of his biggest influences are Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid. He knows that there may be misconceptions about his game, or those that doubt him, but he isn’t worried about that at all.
“I don’t really worry about what other people are saying about myself. I just go out there and play hard, and try to help my team win games,” Metu said. “My strength is being versatile, being able to impact the game in multiple ways. Not being one dimensional and being able to have fingerprints on different parts of the game.”
It’s been busy past few days for Metu. He’s had 13 interviews with NBA teams to go along with workouts, medical testing and media availability. Although it’s been a hectic time, part of what has made it so worthwhile is all of the NBA personnel he’s been able to interact with. What really has stood out to him being at the combine is the difference between college and the NBA.
“I can just go up to the owners and the GMs and just talk to them,” Metu said. “Coming from college you basically have to act like they’re not there, cause of the rules and stuff. Just the fact that they can come up and talk to you, you can talk to them, that’s probably the most surprising part for me.”
Aside from all the front office personnel he’s interacted with, Metu has also had the opportunity to meet with some of the most respected names in NBA history. Among the former players who he’s had a chance to meet with, Magic Johnson and Bob McAdoo have definitely stood out to him.
While he’s grateful just to have been able to meet NBA royalty, he’s used it as an opportunity to pick their brains. He’s also been able to showcase his game in front of them. He is confident that he’s been able to impress them and hopefully make an impact on their decisions come draft night.
“Just coming out here and having fun, there’s a lot of basketball royalty,” Metu said. “Being able to get a chance to shake their hands, being able to take stuff from them and what helped them become great. I’m just trying to take their advice. It feels great because never in a million years did I think I’d be here. It’s fun just going out there and showing what I can do.”
The Case for Upperclassmen in the NBA Draft
College upperclassmen are becoming increasingly viable options in the NBA Draft, writes David Yapkowitz.
Each year when the NBA draft comes around, there seems to be an aversion to taking upperclassman with a top selection. More specifically, it’s college seniors who often find themselves getting drafted in the second-round if at all.
It can be understandable. NBA teams are clearly looking for a home run pick with a lottery selection. They’re looking for a player who they can build a foundation around for years to come. College seniors often project as solid role players to strengthen a team once that foundational superstar is already in place.
However, recent years have seen the entire first round dominated almost entirely by freshmen and sophomores. In 2017, a college senior wasn’t drafted until the San Antonio Spurs took Derrick White with the 29th pick. The Los Angeles Lakers followed that up with Josh Hart. Hart ended up having a better rookie season than a few of the underclassmen taken ahead of him.
A few other upperclassmen, Frank Mason III, a senior, and Dillon Brooks, a junior, both had better rookie seasons than many of the freshmen taking before them as well. Junior Semi Ojeleye is playing a major role for the Boston Celtics who are in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In 2016, Malcolm Brogdon, another college senior, was taken in the second-round with the 36th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year award and was a starter for a playoff team.
Senior Tyrone Wallace was taken with the last pick in the draft at No. 60 that year. When a rash of injuries hit the Los Angeles Clippers this season, Wallace stepped in right away as a starter at times and helped keep the team afloat in the playoff picture.
There were a few college seniors that went undrafted in 2016, players such as Fred VanVleet Yogi Ferrell that have had better NBA careers to this point that a lot of the underclassmen taken ahead of them.
This isn’t to say that NBA teams should completely abandon taking young, underdeveloped players in the first-round. The Spurs took Dejounte Murray, a freshman point guard, over Brogdon, Wallace, VanVleet and Ferrell. That’s worked out well for them. It’s more a testament to having a good front office and scouting team than anything else.
But maybe NBA teams should start expanding their horizons when it comes to the draft. There appears to be a stigma of sorts when it comes to upperclassmen, particularly college seniors. If a guy can play, he can play. Of course, college production is often not the best means of judging NBA success, but it does count for something.
With the 2018 NBA draft about one month away, there are a few interesting names to look at when it comes to college seniors. Players such as Devonte’ Graham from Kansas, Theo Pinson from North Carolina, Chandler Hutchinson from Boise State, Jevon Carter from West Virginia and Bonzie Colson from Notre Dame are all guys that should be on NBA team’s radars.
Sure, none of those guys are going to turn into a superstar or even an All-Star. But you’re probably going to get a player that becomes a solid contributor for years to come.
Again, it’s understandable when teams take projects in the lottery. After a long season of losing, and in some cases years of losing, ownership and the fanbase are hungry for results. They don’t want a top pick to be used on a player that projects as only a solid contributor.
But after the lottery, the rest of the draft gets a little murky. A good front office will find an NBA caliber player whether he’s a freshman or a senior. The NBA Draft isn’t an exact science. Nothing is ever for sure and no player is guaranteed to become the player they’re projected to be.
College upperclassmen tend to be more physically developed and mentally mature for the NBA game. If what you’re looking for is someone who will step right in and produce for a winning team, then instead of wasting a pick on the unknown, it might be better to go with the sure thing.
NBA Daily: Are the Houston Rockets in Trouble?
Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals may have been the perfect storm for Houston, writes Shane Rhodes.
The Houston Rockets took a gut punch from the Golden State Warriors, but they responded in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
After they dropped the first game of the series, Houston evened things up at one apiece Wednesday night with a 127-105 blowout win over Golden State. With the Warriors struggling on the offensive end and Houston rebounding from a less than stellar Game 1, the Rockets rolled through the game with relative ease.
But was their improved demonstration a fluke? While fans may not want to hear it, Game 2 may have been the perfect storm for Houston.
The Rockets’ gameplan didn’t change much from Game 1 to 2. They attacked Steph Curry relentlessly on the offensive end, James Harden and Chris Paul took plenty of shots in isolation and their role players got shots to drop that just weren’t going down in Game 1. Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker exploded for 68 points while shooting 66.7 percent from three after scoring just 24 the previous game. The trio averaged only 35.8 points collectively during the regular season.
Meanwhile, Golden State couldn’t buy a bucket; starting Warriors not named Kevin Durant scored just 35 points. Curry shot just 1-8 from downtown while Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguadola combined for just 19 points while shooting 35 percent from the floor. All of that will undoubtedly change.
So, going back to Oakland for Game 3, where do the Rockets find themselves? Not in a great place, unfortunately.
Golden State did their job: they stole a game — and home-court advantage — from the Rockets at the Toyota Center. Now, as the series shifts back to Oracle Arena and, assuming the Warriors return to form in front of their home crowd, Houston will have their work more than cut out for them. If Curry, Thompson and Durant all have their shot falling, there isn’t much the Rockets can do to keep up
The Warriors, aside from Curry, played great team defense in Game 2, something that will likely continue into Game 3. The Rockets hit plenty of tough, contested shots — shots that won’t drop as they move away from the energy of the home crowd and shots that Golden State would gladly have Houston take again and again and again. Harden and Paul didn’t exactly bring their A-game in Game 2 either — the two combined for a solid 43 points but took an inefficient 38 shots to get there. If the two of them play like that at Oracle, the Warriors will abuse them in transition, something that can’t happen if the Rockets want to steal back the home-court advantage.
The aforementioned trio of Gordon, Ariza and Tucker are unlikely to replicate their Game 2 performance as well, and relying on them to do so would be foolish on the part of Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni. Devising a game plan that will keep the offense moving while not leaning heavily on the role players will be of the utmost importance — if the offense returns to the bogged down effort that Houston gave in Game 1, the Rockets stand no chance.
Meanwhile, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr will likely adjust his defense in an effort to limit the Rockets effectiveness in the isolation while also trying to find somewhere to hide Curry on the defensive end. It almost certainly won’t be the same sets that Houston throttled in Game 2 which will take another toll on the Rockets offense, especially if they fail to execute.
Not everything looks bad for Houston, however. Faced with a do-or-die scenario, Harden, Paul and co. were the more aggressive team from the jump. Pushing the pace flustered the Warriors and forced some pretty bad turnovers consistently throughout the night. If they come out with the same kind of energy and pace, the Rockets could have Golden State on their heels as they did in Game 2.
Budding star Clint Capela also has plenty of room to improve his game, as he has averaged just 8.5 points and eight rebounds through the first two games of the series — the Rockets need him to play his best basketball of the season if they want a chance to win.
Still, the Warriors are virtually unbeatable at home. The team has lost three games this postseason, just four times over their last two playoff trips and not once at Oracle, making the Rockets’ task even more daunting than it already was. Like Game 2, Game 3 should be played as a do-or-die situation for the Rockets because, if they don’t come out with the same aggressive, up-tempo energy, things could be over quickly.