This offseason, a number of notable veterans have expressed interest in returning to the NBA. Ray Allen, Stephen Jackson, Richard Hamilton and Carlos Boozer are among the players who are reportedly thinking of making a comeback for the 2016-17 season. It makes sense that these players would want to return to the league, especially now that the NBA salary cap has reached an unprecedented high. Also, many of these individuals never lost the itch to play and want to compete at the highest level once again.
In addition to the aforementioned players, you can add Ronald “Flip” Murray to the list of veterans looking to get back into the league. Murray, who is 36 years old, told Basketball Insiders that he’s determined to make an NBA roster one last time.
Murray, a 6’4 combo guard, made a name for himself in the NBA with his ability to score the ball from all over the floor and provide instant offense as a sixth man. Over the course of his eight-year NBA career, he averaged 9.9 points and 2.3 assists while playing just 22.7 minutes per game. His per-100-possession stats for his career are impressive – 23.2 points, 5.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds – since his minutes were relatively limited.
Throughout his time in the NBA, Murray had stints with the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls. And that doesn’t even count the times he was signed by a team and cut before playing in a game, such as when the Memphis Grizzlies inked him to a deal on Oct. 1, 2012 and waived him later that month without playing him a single minute.
Murray hasn’t played in an NBA game since the 2009-10 season, when he suited up for the Chicago Bulls and averaged 10.1 points over 29 contests. However, Murray has remained in shape because he played overseas and in the D-League. Between these stints, he also participated in a number of professional competitions, including The Basketball Tournament (which has a $2 million prize, is broadcast on ESPN and includes many overseas stars and D-League standouts).
“I work out every day,” Murray told Basketball Insiders. “I’m in Philly right now working out with a group of guys, a lot of college guys and guys who play overseas. Some guys who actually play for Philly work out at the same center down here. Some workouts are at La Salle and some workouts are at Temple University, but we’re working out every day. Usually, we go lift from like 8-9 a.m. and then we do workouts from like 9:30-10:30 a.m. and then play a little bit of pick-up afterwards. Dionte Christmas, who played in the league and played overseas as well, is one of the guys. The Morris Twins [Marcus and Markieff], Dion Waiters, Hakim Warrick, Mark Tyndale – who played at Temple as well as overseas and in the D-League – are some of the guys there.”
One reason Murray hasn’t played in the NBA for quite some time is because he fractured his hip during the NBA lockout, sidelining him for nearly half of a year.
“It was a bad situation because at the end of the day, that’s when we went into the lockout year and during the time of the lockout, we were doing a lot of charity games where we would be playing against different cities,” Murray said. “I actually ended up suffering a major injury, fracturing my hip. When I fractured my hip, I was out for about four to five months and it took me a while to get back to 100 percent after that.”
In an effort to get his confidence back and ensure he was completely healthy, Murray decided to play in the D-League with the Austin Toros. He essentially treated it as a rehab stint. It went even better than he could’ve imagined, as he helped the Toros win the 2012 D-League championship in his lone season there. He averaged an impressive 21.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals in 38.8 minutes while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as the team’s go-to option offensively. Perhaps most impressive is that he says he was only at 80 percent at that time since he was playing himself into shape.
“I didn’t mind playing in the D-League,” Murray said. “A lot of people thought I was done playing basketball because I suffered that hip injury and nobody really saw me play for a while. Because of that, I wanted to just go out there and show people that I could still play and that I still love the game. It was a good experience for me; I had a chance to connect with some younger guys that were trying to make an NBA roster at the time. It was more of a leadership role for me playing down there with the young guys, but I also still had a nice experience playing there because there’s a lot of talent. And a lot of those talented guys I was playing against made it up to the NBA.
“When I came back from the injury, I went to the Austin Toros of the D-League and we won a championship in the D-League. At that time, I still wasn’t feeling 100 percent. I was probably around a good 80 percent. Following that, I just went overseas and played abroad for a couple years.”
As he mentioned, Murray would play with teams in Turkey, Ukraine and Lebanon, and he really enjoyed his time in these countries. He continues to receive interest from international teams to this day, but he doesn’t want to leave his family behind to go overseas again.
“It was a great experience,” Murray said of playing abroad. “I got a chance to travel the world and see different countries and cultures. Turkey was beautiful. Ukraine was okay – where I was at, it was a little rough in the city, but I was able to travel and see other parts of Ukraine too. And Lebanon was just beautiful. Beautiful. The competition level over there is good as well. Turkey had good competition and the game is very physical over there. I mean, those guys play hard. Every second of every game, they never take a play off over there. Those guys play extremely hard. Like I said, there is a lot of talent over there and I’m glad I got the chance to experience that and play overseas.
“But I just didn’t want to go back overseas because of the situation with my wife and my family. I didn’t want to leave them here and go back, you know? So that’s why I didn’t take the option of going back overseas. But I have been playing a lot and working out daily. I played in The Basketball Tournament, which includes professionals and college alumni teams. I also played in the Danny Rumph Classic in Philadelphia, and other competitive tournaments and leagues too.”
In his last professional action, Murray played for Al Mouttahed Tripoli in Lebanon’s Division A. He averaged 24 points, 4.2 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals while shooting 34 percent from three-point range (on 9.4 attempts per game).
Teams looking to add an experienced veteran may give Murray a look, as he has played in 487 regular-season games and 45 playoff games in the NBA. He’s a savvy vet, and he insists he’s willing to embrace any role a team asks of him including helping young players develop (something he enjoys).
“I would definitely bring a lot of veteran leadership because I know the game of basketball,” Murray said. “The way the game is now, I feel like I could fit perfectly in. I could be someone who comes off the bench and produces for the team. I’d also like to mentor the young guys and pass on some of the experiences and lessons I learned from playing against some of the guys I matched up against during my time. If I come in right now, I could bring a lot of veteran leadership and still be able to produce on the court.
“The way the game is set up now, I think my game fits perfectly for the NBA. The way the game is going now with a lot of pick-and-roll and a lot of iso and [creating your own shot], that opens up the floor for the spread fours who can shoot the three. With a lot of isos, it opens the floor up a lot so you are able to make plays for yourself as well as others. I believe I could come in and fit perfectly.”
Murray knows that a job won’t be handed to him given his age and his time away from professional basketball. Because of this, he’s absolutely open to working out for NBA teams or attending free-agent minicamps to show what he has left in the tank.
“I have no problem doing that,” Murray said of working out for an NBA team to show what he can do at this stage of his career. “I’m working out every day anyway, so I have no problem going to work out for an NBA team and show what I can do.
“Given an opportunity, given a chance, I would love to go out there to show that I can still play this game at that level. I can still go in and produce, even at the age of 36. I’m still very athletic and still very quick, and I still want to play this game.”
It may be tough given his age and the basketball mileage on his body, but Murray has never let slim odds stop him. After all, he turned a Division II collegiate career into eight years in the NBA that netted him nearly $10 million. You can’t knock Flip’s hustle or work ethic.
It’s this determination and underdog story that has impressed so many of Murray’s peers. Many players – former and current – have nothing but positive things to say about Flip and they know how much damage he can do when he gets hot with the ball.
“I’ve always been a huge Flip Murray fan,” said Chauncey Billups, who played with Murray on the Pistons in 2007 when they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. “He’s always been a Jamal-Crawford-type guy. He can come off your bench and score with the best of them. As long as he’s in great shape, I’m confident he can really help a team win.”
Speaking of Crawford, he has a lot of respect for Murray since they are both sixth men known for scoring at will. Murray never won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year trophy, but he did finish seventh in voting for the award in 2009. That was one year before Crawford won the award for the first time; now, Crawford has been honored as Sixth Man of the Year an NBA-record three times, including this past season.
“Flip was always nice, always had game,” Crawford said. “He didn’t play much in Milwaukee or in Seattle at first. Then, Ray Allen went down for a while and Flip averaged like 20 points a game and they were winning in that stretch! I always enjoyed watching him and I had a lot of respect for his game.”
“He’s one of the most prolific scorers I saw on a daily basis,” said Brent Barry, who played two seasons with Murray on the Sonics. “He could get anywhere he wanted and used his body very well. I’m happy to hear that he is still chasing his dream and continuing his career. I will never forget ‘Flip Your Lid’ filling in for Ray to start the 2003 season.”
What Crawford and Barry are referring to is when Allen had to miss an early stretch of the 2003-04 season, which thrust Murray into Seattle’s starting lineup. At this point, Murray was in just his second NBA season and nobody expected him to do a whole lot. After all, he had appeared in just 14 NBA games as a rookie, averaging just 1.9 points in 4.4 minutes. The Sonics were hoping that Murray could be a serviceable stopgap until Allen returned.
Murray had other plans.
He dominated and led Seattle to five wins in their first six games. Murray averaged 23.9 points, 4.4 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals through the first 11 games of the season. In his 18 starts that year, he averaged 19.2 points, 4.5 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 35.6 minutes. When asked to perform on the biggest stage in basketball and fill in for a future Hall of Famer, Murray shined and turned heads around the NBA. That’s why over a decade later, Barry says he’ll never forget that stretch of impressive basketball and why Seattle native Crawford sounds like an excited fan when he talks about it.
Some have compared Murray’s remarkable stretch to Jeremy Lin’s “Linsanity” run in New York, but it honestly may have been even crazier. While Lin went undrafted, he played at Harvard and was somewhat of a known commodity after having success with the Dallas Mavericks’ Summer League team, playing particularly well against rookie John Wall and earning a spot on the Golden State Warriors’ regular-season roster. Murray not only went undrafted, he attended Shaw University (a Division II school) prior to joining the Sonics. Before bursting onto the scene in 2003, his previous career-high was six points. He had scored 27 points total in his NBA career before stepping in for Allen in the starting five. So the fact that he scored 20 or more points in 10 of the first 11 games that season – and topped 27 points on five different occasions that year – was incredible.
Once Murray showed what he could do when given minutes and touches, the Sonics used him more and other teams eventually showed interest as well. That’s what allowed him to suit up for so many different teams and sign numerous contracts – both in the NBA and, later, abroad.
Now, he’s hoping for one last NBA contract and a final chance to prove himself once again.
NBA Daily: Kaiser Gates Determined To Silence His Doubters
He may not be listed on some draft boards or seen as an impact player by certain individuals, but Kaiser Gates knows what he’s made of.
If you’re looking to further your career at the next level but coming out of college as a prospect on the fringe, you’d better be willing to work twice as hard to draw attention from the basketball world.
Attending the Preparation Pro Day in Miami with team representatives and scouts watching, Kaiser Gates wanted to show everybody who was there that the chip on his shoulder would drive him to silence his doubters.
“I feel like I have a lot to prove,” Gates said in Miami. “I feel like a lot of the guys in the draft this year, I’m just as good if not better than (them), so I gotta show that.”
After three years at Xavier University, the 22-year-old decided it was time to move on from the program and passed on his senior year to enter the NBA Draft. The news came as a surprise to many, considering he might’ve gotten the opportunity to earn an even more expanded role next season with the departure of Musketeer favorites Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura.
The numbers across the board weren’t exactly eye-catching. Primarily a wing, Gates knocked down 37.8 percent of his threes as a junior. He averaged 7.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in almost 24 minutes per game.
Looking at conference play in the Big East, those figures took a dip. Gates shot less than 30 percent from deep and really struggled to contribute offensively for Xavier against tougher opponents.
There was an incredible discrepancy in shot selection over his three-year collegiate career. Astoundingly enough, 300 of his 409 career attempts came outside of the arc. The other 109 tries were twos, which he converted at a 54.1 percent rate.
It’s hard to ignore statistical evidence when it comes to evaluating players, but misuse and fit could have been more prominent factors in this case. It’s something that happens quite a bit at school programs with prospects, and Gates believes that he could be added to that list of mishandled talent.
“I don’t think I’m inconsistent at all,” Gates said. “At Xavier, I know my stats showed that I was inconsistent. Playing at that school it was a great experience—great guys, great coaches.
“Just kinda like my situation and the way I was playing at that school didn’t really allow me to showcase my full talents, and with that being said, it’s kinda hard to stay consistent not doing something I’m used to doing.”
Furthering the point, it’s not easy to be judged off that information, which some use as the only indication of what you’ll bring to the pros. Gates plans on using that as motivation whenever he meets with different teams.
“I would come in and people would just assume like, ‘Oh he could shoot a little bit, play defense, a little athletic.’ But I know on the flip side, I know what I can really do and like, my full potential.
“So when I know that and see what teams already think, already have in their head, just now it’s up to me to prove to them what I can do and show them what I can do.”
So what does that exactly entail?
“My first few years or so, I’ll probably be more of a three-and-D guy—stretch the floor, play defense make hustle plays, rebound the ball, things like that,” Gates said. “But as I’mma grow, (I’ll) look to expand on my game. Maybe work out the pick-and-roll a little bit and expand from there.”
Thus far, the 6-foot-8, 228-pounder has reportedly worked out for multiple organizations, including the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. He is enjoying the draft process and his growth as a player since it started.
He may not be listed on some draft boards or seen as an impact player by certain individuals, but Gates knows what he’s made of. And if he can attract the right set of eyes, he’ll be in good shape.
“You could get 30 workouts and that one team could fall in love with you,” Gates said.
“That’s what [my agent] Aaron Turner’s always talking to me about. He’s always said, ‘It only takes one team.’”
NBA Daily: Second-Round Draft Steals to Watch
Several possible second round picks have a chance to make an impact at the NBA level, writes David Yapkowitz.
The NBA Draft is upon us this week. The hopes and dreams of many basketball players will become reality. Each year there are players who are drafted in the second round who end up outperforming their draft selection spot.
A premium has been placed on draft picks in recent years. Even second round picks have become extremely valuable. For a team like the Golden State Warriors whose payroll might limit their ability to sign quality rotation players (veterans taking discounts to win a ring notwithstanding), smart drafting has seen them scoop up steals like Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell. Both those players have emerged as key rotation guys on a championship team, and both were taken in the second round.
The second round is an opportunity to pick up overlooked young talent on cheap contracts. Sure, it’s rare to get a Manu Ginobili or an Isaiah Thomas or a Draymond Green that goes on to become an All-Star caliber player, but plenty of quality contributors can be found.
Here’s a look at a few guys who have a great chance at becoming second round steals.
1. Allonzo Trier – Arizona
Outside of DeAndre Ayton, there may not have been a more valuable player to the Arizona Wildcats last season than Allonzo Trier. He was the Wildcats second-leading scorer at 18.1 points per game. There have been questions about his supposed selfish style of play, but he’s been a solidly efficient player his three years at Arizona.
This past season as a junior, he shot 50 percent from the field and 38 percent from the three-point line. Over his three years in college, he was a 47.5 percent shooter from the field and a 37.8 percent shooter from the three-point line. He’s also an 82.3 percent shooter from the line. And he did dish out 3.2 assists this past season.
Trier is a scorer, plain and simple, an efficient one at that. Despite this, his name has failed to appear on many mock drafts. The few that actually project the second round as well have him being drafted near the end. At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, Trier has great size for a shooting guard in the NBA. A sixth man type scorer is probably his best projection at the next level.
2. Brandon McCoy – UNLV
The Runnin’ Rebels didn’t quite have such a noteworthy year, which might explain a little about why Brandon McCoy is flying under the radar. UNLV posted a 20-13 record and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. Despite that, McCoy managed to emerge as their biggest bright spot.
In his lone college season, he led UNLV in scoring with 16.9 points per game on 54.5 percent shooting from the field. He also pulled down 10.8 rebounds per game and was their leading shot blocker at 1.8 blocks per game. For a big man, he shot a semi-decent 72.5 percent from the free-throw line.
He has good size, he’s a legit seven-footer. He moves well on the floor and with some work, can be a very good defensive player. Part of what might be causing him to get overlooked is he doesn’t have much in terms of a mid-range game, a necessity for big men in today’s NBA game. But that can be worked on. At any rate, he can be a high energy big off the bench, good to come in and block some shots, grabs some boards and clean up around the rim. Every team could use a guy like that.
3. Devonte Graham – Kansas
One year ago, Devonte Graham’s Jayhawk teammate Frank Mason III was also being overlooked in the draft. Like Graham, the major issue working against him was his status as a four-year college player. Mason went on to be one of the bright spots for the Sacramento Kings, establishing himself as a legit NBA point guard.
This summer, Graham is looking to do the same. Mason was also a bit on the shorter side, coming in at 5-foot-11. Graham has little more size than that at 6-foot-2. He was the Jayhawks best player for most of the year, putting up 17.3 points per game while shooting 40.6 percent from the three-point line. He also dished out 7.2 assists per game.
Most mock drafts have consistently had Graham being drafted early to middle second round. Being a college senior, he has leadership abilities. He’d be perfect for any team looking for a solid point guard off the bench.
4. Chimezie Metu – USC
For much of the mock draft season, Chimezie Metu’s name appeared as a first round selection. But in recent weeks, as other names began to climb up the draft ladder, Metu it appears has fallen back into the second-round. It’s interesting though, as his skill set for a big man appears to project well in today’s NBA game.
He was the Trojans’ best player as a junior this past season. He put up 15.7 points per game on 52.3 percent shooting from the field. He pulled down 7.4 rebounds while averaging 1.7 blocked shots. Although the percentages may not reflect that, he has an improving jump shot. He’s quick and mobile defensively.
He’s got all the tools be able to guard the post as well as switch out and guard other positions if need be. With a little more work, he can be a good jump shooter. With the evolution of today’s game, Metu has the perfect build and talent to find success as a modern NBA big man.
5. Tony Carr – Penn State
Tony Carr has been a consistent second round pick in most mock drafts. There has been the occasional one here or there that had him being drafted at the end of the first-round, but the second round is most likely where he’ll hear his name called.
Carr was the best player for a Nittany Lions team that ended up winning the NIT. This past season as a sophomore, he put up 19.6 points per game and shot 43.3 percent from the three-point line. He was able to pull down 4.9 rebounds per game and he dished out 5.0 assists.
He can play both guard positions and create for himself or his teammates. There have been question marks about his athleticism and ability to defend at the NBA level, but all a team needs for him to do is come in off the bench, run the offense a bit and get a few buckets. He’s definitely capable of doing that.
NBA Daily: Kawhi Leonard Would Look Good In a Knicks Uniform… In 2019
The Knicks need to take a page out of the Sixers’ book… and trust the process.
The NBA world nearly stopped last week when reports circulated that Kawhi Leonard wanted out from San Antonio.
All of a sudden, within a few days, both he and Kyrie Irving were both reportedly open-minded about taking their talents to New York.
And while either (or both) of the two would look great as Knicks uniforms, they’d look much better in orange and blue in 2019.
After all, only a fool does the same thing over and over and expects different results.
Seven years ago, the Knicks the made mistake of trading their farm for a superstar caliber small forward. His name is Carmelo Anthony, and we all know how that story ended.
If you want to make the argument that Leonard is a better player than Anthony was at 27 years old, that’s your right, but one thing that not even Max Kellerman could argue is that smart teams simply don’t trade assets for players they could ultimately end up getting for free. That’s exactly why Paul George spent last season flanking Russell Westbrook instead of arguing with LaVar Ball.
So if Leonard or Irving wants to eventually take up residence in New York City, they can prove it… Next year.
If there’s one thing the Knicks historically imprudent front office should have learned from Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, it’s that.
This summer, after hiring David Fizdale, Scott Perry will have another opportunity to prove that the job at Penn Plaza isn’t too big for him, so it’ll be interesting to see whether he even publicly entertains the idea of attempting to make a splash this summer or whether he continues to hold steadfast to the belief that there are not shortcuts on the route to contention.
The right play for the Knicks is to follow the route that the Lakers took as it relates to Paul George—refrain from dealing valuable assets for players that you could sign for free. Danny Ainge hit home runs with Gordon Hayward and Al Horford and by essentially adding each of them to an existing core of young talent—and more importantly, refraining from acquiring either via trade—the Celtics now have an embarrassment of riches.
The Knicks don’t have those kinds of problems, and as it stands, have little aside from Kristaps Porzinigis going for them. With the Latvian unicorn expected to miss the majority of next season, they’ll probably have a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. That could be paired nicely with Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina and the ninth overall pick that they’ll have in the 2018 draft.
In other words, one year from now, the Knicks could have four of their own lottery picks under contract—Porzingis, Ntilikina, and whichever players they will have selected in 2018 and 2019. Between now and then, the team would be best served scouring the G-League and overseas markets to find cheap help that can contribute at the NBA level. Let the young guys play, let them develop and then carry them into the summer of 2019 with a clear plan in place.
That type of prudent management will not only help the Knicks in the long run, it will go a long way toward convincing soon-to-be free agents and player agents that Perry and his staff actually know what they’re doing.
If they play things right, and if the team managed to unload either Courtney Lee or Joakim Noah, they could open up the very real possibility of landing both Leonard and Irving, but instead of trading the farm for them, they’d have a realistic shot at signing them. They’d be adding them to the core instead of sacrificing it for them. Imagine that.
From where most people sit, Irving seems to have an ideal situation in Boston, and his entertaining the idea of taking his talents elsewhere seems curious, at best… But so did the choice of leaving LeBron James.
Irving has been consistently rumored as having real interest in playing in New York when he’s able to test the market next July, and depending on who you ask, there does seem to be a genuine level of concern in Boston that he could opt to take his talents elsewhere.
Growing up in the shadows of Madison Square Garden, the young guard knows better than most what winning in New York City would do for his legacy. At the end of the day, would one championship in New York make Irving a legendary figure among the likes of Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? Probably not. But one thing we can call agree on is that winning in a single championship in New York would do much more for Irving than winning a single championship in Cleveland or even a single title in Boston.
As it stands, fair or not, history will always look at Irving as the “other” player on James’ championship Cavaliers team, even though he was the one who made the biggest shot of James’ career.
And with the success of the Celtics this past season, truth be told, Irving helping lead the Celtics to a championship with the team’s current core in place wouldn’t necessarily cement his legacy in the way it would have had we not seen Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown show signs of being franchise-caliber players.
Because Irving is a shoot-first guard, he’ll continue to unfairly carry the reputation of being someone who doesn’t make his teammates better. He’s no Steve Nash, but he is truly special. Just don’t tell the national media that.
Because of the circumstances, he’s now in a bit of a catch-22. He’ll get less of the credit than he’ll deserve if the Celtics manage to win an NBA title and more of the blame than he’ll deserve if they fail to.
Still, even if Irving and/or Leonard end up elsewhere, the summer of 2019 will feature other free agents including Kemba Walker—the only “true” All-Star caliber New Yorker in the NBA—and Long Island product Tobias Harris. Jimmy Butler, Khris Middleton, Kevin Love and Nikola Vucevic, too.
Going from Leonard and Irving to Walker and Butler might seem like a sad story of riches to rags, but one could very easily make the argument that adding two high-quality All-Star caliber starters to a core featuring Porzingis, Ntilikina and two lottery picks would do more to make the Knicks contenders than unloading the cupboard in an attempt to bring one in.
If that sounds like exactly what the Celtics did, that’s because it is. The Lakers, too. There’s a reason why they’re the most winningest franchises in NBA history, it would seem.
One thing we know for sure in the NBA: there will always be marquee free agents. The Knicks just need to do a better job of being able to attract them.
So this summer, if Perry wants to continue to earn favor with Knicks fans with even half a brain, the best thing to do might actually be to do nothing.
In other words, if the Knicks have truly learned anything from the futility of their recent past, it’s that they should try to be more like Magic Johnson and Danny Ainge.
So if word eventually gets to Perry that Leonard’s interest in the team is real, and if Irving decides that he wants to take up residence in his backyard to try to succeed where Patrick Ewing, Stephon Marbury and Patrick Ewing fell short, Perry’s response should be simple.
Either would look great in a Knicks uniform, but they’d look much better in a Knicks uniform in 2019.