With just two weeks to go until the beginning of NBA training camps, the offseason is nearly over. Players will begin returning back to their respective NBA cities and most seem excited to finally get back in the gym and play competitive, meaningful basketball again.
For Lamar Patterson, who spent his first NBA season splitting time playing with the Atlanta Hawks and in the D-League, the summer has been quite eventful. Shortly after the Las Vegas Summer League started in July, Patterson found out that the Hawks had waived him. The team had just agreed to deals with Kent Bazemore, Dwight Howard and Kris Humphries, so they had to clear Patterson’s contract off of the books to help make room for those players.
Being waived was obviously a down moment for Patterson. When players are waived, they begin to question their basketball abilities. They have to figure out what the next step in their career is and where they go from there. Patterson was no exception. He even remembered thinking that he wasn’t good enough.
His luck quickly turned around as the Sacramento Kings claimed him off of waivers just three days later. He’s now excited to join a Kings organization that is in a bit of a transition period with a new coaching staff coming in and several new players on the roster.
While he’s excited to join the Kings and to have another opportunity in the league, it was his time with the Hawks that helped mold him into the player he is today. The Hawks have made the playoffs in nine-straight seasons and have one of the most highly-regarded and knowledgeable head coaches in the league in Mike Budenholzer. Accordingly, Patterson was learning how to play at the NBA level from veteran players and one of the best coaches in the league.
“The biggest thing I learned from Coach Bud is professionalism and how to approach every game,” Patterson told Basketball Insiders. “In the NBA, there is really no days off; you have 82 games and practice in between and a lot of travel. Being a professional every single day and I feel like I learned that a lot from him. He used to give me some articles to read on certain players that he felt were similar to me to just show me that there are other guys that are going through it. I have nothing but love for Atlanta, Coach Bud and everyone there.”
Prior to joining the Hawks last season, Patterson played a season in Turkey. It seemed as though all of the odds were against him trying to make the Hawks’ roster. The team has a number of veterans on its roster and is constructed to win now. There weren’t that many roster spots to be had, but he fought his way through camp and the preseason to make the team. Although he appeared in just 35 games with the Hawks last season, he still remembers his ‘Welcome to the NBA’ moment.
“Our first preseason game I got matched up with LeBron,” Patterson said. “That was probably when it hit me the most. I’m like, ‘Dang, a couple of months ago I was in Turkey and the year before that I was in college.’ Just going through the whole season and seeing LeBron one night, Carmelo one night, James Harden the other night.
“You got all of these superstars that you have to guard and prepare for. After the first week or two, I was like, ‘Okay, this is normal.’ You can’t get caught up in stardom too much. Probably the only person that had me in stardom was Kobe Bryant because I grew up watching him and he was going through his farewell tour last season.”
One of the biggest things Patterson learned last season was how to handle himself as a professional. If it wasn’t from Budenholzer, it was from the other players on the team. To see other guys on the team that went from being a second-round pick like he was to being successful was something that he could relate to.
Patterson worked with players like Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Mike Muscala, each of whom were in similar positions and had to fight to where they are now. He picked up different things from those players and really found it beneficial to see the way they handled themselves and prepared for games.
Patterson has been working hard all summer long to continue improving his game. In fact, he was even working out during his vacation time over the summer as well. He said he would just jump on the treadmill and run sometimes during his time away from basketball.
Patterson shot 26 percent from three-point range last season in the D-League, so he’s really made improving his jump shot a point of emphasis this summer. He said that his shot has really taken a step forward and that he has has added more consistency. After putting in extensive work, Patterson says he is much more confident in his shot now and hopes to keep improving moving forward.
Now, Patterson and the rest of the Kings’ roster will be spending the days leading up to training camp by getting acclimated with each other. The Kings added a lot of new players to the roster, including Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes and Garrett Temple among others. Several players have been in Sacramento working out together and running pick-up games.
Patterson will head into training camp with a lot to prove. The Kings currently have 14 guaranteed contracts on the roster, so Patterson will be battling for the last roster spot with Ty Lawson and Isaiah Cousins. He understands the importance of putting together a good showing at camp, but he won’t let that impact his mindset.
“[I’m] going in prepared and just doing simple things,” Patterson said. “I don’t have to go out there and try to force the issue because that’s not my game, that’s not what I do. I just go out there and take what’s given. Just being able to have that mindset and just work and control what I can control and that’s your work ethic and attitude.
“Just going into camp I’m really excited by the past few weeks I’ve been in Sacramento with the guys and the way the ball has been flowing. I feel like the opportunity is definitely going to be there and it’s just up to me to take advantage.”
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