This offseason, the Portland Trail Blazers made headlines with their big-money acquisitions and re-signings. They decided to go all-in on continuity and fostering their chemistry, building a team that can stay together for the foreseeable future. In signing free agents Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli, and re-signing C.J. McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard, the Trail Blazers amassed $112 million in used cap space (which is the third-highest in the league).
With 14 of 15 roster spots already locked up, there was only one spot for three potential players: Grant Jerrett, Greg Stiemsma and Tim Quarterman all had to battle for the 15th chair.
In the end, it was the 22-year-old Quarterman who made the cut. The former LSU guard, who went undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft, earned a place on one of the league’s most promising teams.
“It was surreal,” Quarterman told Basketball Insiders. “Just to know that I finally made it to this point. I remember calling my mom and letting her know. Hearing how excited she was, it was big for me and her.”
His age and potential, coupled with an ability to hit the three-point shot, make him a perfect fit for this team. Learning on the fly under the influence of a young, mature leader in Damian Lillard, Quarterman has nothing but good things to say about his time with one of the most dynamic point guards in the league.
“It’s great for a young guy like me,” Quarterman said of playing with Lillard. “He’s a special dude. Even though he’s a superstar, he’s probably the most humble guy I know. Just being around him, you can be yourself, you can be a cool guy. He’s pretty laid back and you enjoy the company of him, just to pick his brain and learn.”
Grateful for the opportunity, Quarterman knows he’s in rare company. With the Blazers having no player over the age of 28, none of his teammates are too far removed from their early years in the league, which means they each can offer him practical advice he can relate to and build from.
Other Blazers teams in recent memory weren’t always this way. But this team is different. The culture, chemistry and friendships have helped this team form a very strong collective bond and team culture, which has translated to notable success on the court.
“This is a very special group,” Quarterman said. “The vets we’ve got, they’re also young guys at the same time. So it’s a very close-knit group and they treat everyone like family, from the coaching staff on down. It’s a great position for a young guy to be in.”
Quarterman understands that he is the 15th man on this deep Blazers team and that he’ll need to continue improving his game in order to carve out a role where he can make a consistent impact. He isn’t taking this opportunity with the Blazers for granted and is ready put to put in the work necessary to earn his keep.
Part of that work will include adding strength in the weight room and being open to whatever role or assignment he may get from his coaches.
“I think the weight room is going to be big for me this year,” Quarterman told Basketball Insiders. “I just want to learn a lot from these guys. Taking everything that they show me, all of the advice they give me, and just try to have a good year. Whatever Coach [Terry Stotts] asks me to do, just try and do it to the fullest of my potential and go out there and just work hard.”
The 6’5 point guard has a notable work ethic. The trait, which is sometimes undervalued in the league, is extremely helpful on a team level as well. The Blazers’ roster is loaded with players who have a similar work ethic, which means Quarterman is fitting right in. When a team is stacked with players who are not only talented, but particularly hard-working individuals as well, it oftentimes has the effect of pushing the group even further. Whether he gets a real chance to make an impact on the court this year or not, Quarterman will be pushing his teammates and himself day in and day out.
“The chemistry and the way we work separates us,” Quarterman said. “Everybody from the top man to the low man. Dame, even though he’s where he’s at, he comes in and works hard every day. When you see that as a young guy and you’re kind of at the bottom, you know what separates yourself. So you just try to go out there and put in the work that he does. From him on down to all of us, everybody puts a lot of work in, a lot of time in. We’ve got good chemistry, everybody can hang around everybody. I think that’s what separates us from other teams.”
After working so hard to get to this point, Quarterman isn’t taking anything for granted. He knows this team and city are very different from any other around the NBA. The fan base is rejuvenated, the team is confident and the expectations have gone up for this squad – all of which Quarterman notices.
“It’s a great city and we’ve got a great fan base,” Quarterman said. “When we’re out, a lot of people notice you. We’ve got great fans, and everywhere we go there’s just a great atmosphere.”
An undrafted player who never gave up on his dream, Quarterman is hoping to turn some heads and be a difference maker for years to come. After landing with a great organization that possesses a proven track record of developing young talent, Quarterman is certainly a name to look out for in the near future.
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