Back in early July, Willie Reed wondered whether he’d ever get an opportunity to play in the NBA. He was obviously confident in his abilities, but it was disconcerting that he was still out of the league.
The 25-year-old big man sat in an Orlando restaurant – at a table far too small for his 6’11 frame – and discussed each of his professional stops throughout his career. Reed went undrafted in 2011 and had brief stints with the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies, as well as a training camp invite from the Brooklyn Nets last year. However, he never appeared in an NBA regular season game.
He spent the last three seasons playing in the D-League and he had one stint in the Dominican Republic, where the league organizers repeatedly referred to him as Willis Reed’s son and promoted him as such, no matter how many times Willie told them that wasn’t accurate (although the two are distant relatives).
As he ate his dinner, Reed spoke of just needing that one call, that one opportunity, from an NBA team to show that he can produce on basketball’s biggest stage. Last season in 48 D-League games, he averaged 16.4 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, while shooting 60.3 percent from the field. He was ranked the top D-League prospect, but he still didn’t get a call-up from an NBA team.
“At times it was frustrating, but it humbled me,” Reed told Basketball Insiders. “I had gotten the opportunity to get called up in the past, but this past season it didn’t happen. It just made me want to work harder. I figured that if that call-up wasn’t coming, there was something more I needed to do or something I needed to work on, so I was in the gym every single day. And I tried to be as consistent as possible; I was determined to be consistent in every single game and keep improving.”
After putting in the work and expanding his game, now it was time for him to take the next step in his career. The way he sees it, he needs to be on an NBA roster this season. No more D-League, no more stints abroad if he can help it. As he said this, he was sitting with his newly pregnant fiancée and holding his 18-month-old son, who is a big reason why he desperately wants to ink that NBA contract as soon as possible. Reed wants to give his children the best life possible and provide for his growing family, which can be extremely difficult when playing in the D-League since salaries range from $13,000 to $25,000. With his son on his lap, and always on his mind, Reed was clearly on a mission entering the 2015 Summer League: NBA contract or bust.
In the Orlando Summer League, Reed was initially going to play for the Indiana Pacers’ squad. However, once Indiana selected center Myles Turner with the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft, Reed’s camp decided to make a change of plans.
Sensing that Turner would significantly cut into Reed’s minutes, his camp decided to move him to the Miami HEAT’s Summer League team. This shuffling is relatively common leading up to the event, as agents want their players in a situation where they can receive significant minutes and actually showcase their skill set.
Moving to Miami’s team ended up being a blessing in disguise for Reed. He got the opportunity to start each of his games with the HEAT and took full advantage of this opportunity. With plenty of minutes and an increased role, Reed ended up emerging as one of Miami’s best players – an impressive feat considering the team also featured lottery pick Justise Winslow and HEAT roster players Tyler Johnson, Shabazz Napier, James Ennis and Zoran Dragic. Hassan Whiteside was also practicing with the team (but not playing in the games), and Reed held his own against last season’s breakout center in workouts.
Reed approached Summer League like a professional. This was a business trip and he treated it as such. While many of the younger players were going out and partying at night, Reed was at his hotel and in bed early. This wasn’t a vacation; this was every man for himself in a brawl for NBA jobs. As a veteran, he understood that.
Over the course of Reed’s week in Orlando, the big man averaged 13.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 26 minutes, while shooting 60 percent from the field. His blocks were down from the previous year in Summer League, when he averaged 2.8 rejections in just 19.9 minutes. But that may have been because Miami wanted to see more of his offensive game since they already knew what he brought to the table as a shot blocker. Instead of swatting shots, he was actually attempting them this year. He took more shots in this Summer League than in any previous year, and even served as Miami’s offensive focal points at times (while still being their defensive leader).
Reed’s best statistical outing was his 17-point, seven-rebound, four-block game against the Los Angeles Clippers, in which he shot 7-10 from the field.
However, the performance that turned heads was against the Brooklyn Nets. This was somewhat of a revenge game for Reed, since the Nets had cut him after training camp last year. This game was clearly important to him and he wanted to send a message. He did just that. Reed finished the game with 17 points (on 8-12 shooting from the field) and nine rebounds in 28 minutes. Cory Jefferson, who was one of the players who made the team over Reed last year, had zero points, two rebounds, three turnovers and three fouls in 12 minutes. Reed admits that he entered that game with something to prove.
“I obviously knew some of the guys who were there [for Brooklyn], the young core, and I was upset that I was the only person who was waived last year,” Reed said. “But I understand that this is a business. I used that [experience being waived] and made myself better. I just tried to get better throughout the D-League season, and I was able to become the No. 1 D-League prospect and become really consistent. … It all worked out; I had a great game against them and a great Summer League.”
After playing so well for Miami, Reed’s stock was suddenly on the rise. The L.A. Clippers approached Reed’s camp during the brief window when they thought DeAndre Jordan was going to the Dallas Mavericks. The Clippers had actually expressed interest in Reed during the 2014-15 season when he was in the D-League, so they had their eye on him for quite some time. They were a possibility for Reed, but then Jordan returning to L.A. obviously changed everything.
But Brooklyn expressed interest in Reed as well. His performance against Jefferson was eye-opening, as was his productivity throughout the rest of the week in Orlando. The Nets ultimately signed Reed on July 9 and waived Jefferson on July 13. Finally, all of Reed’s hard work paid off and he got the chance he’s been desperately seeking for years.
“I was in Orlando and we had the day off, so me and my son were just eating at a restaurant and I got that call,” Reed said with a smile. “They called me and let me know they wanted to sign me. It was so exciting. So exciting. And right away, like five minutes later, I was actually doing my physical. Then, I was sitting on the bench for their next Summer League game. It was extremely exciting.”
Reed signed a one-year, $947,276 partially guaranteed contract with the Nets. The deal became fully guaranteed on October 28 – the day of Brooklyn’s first regular season game – so Reed received every cent of his contract.
Reed’s partial guarantee alone ($500,000) was worth 25 times his 2014-15 D-League salary, and his full salary was 48 times his D-League income. Suddenly, the Reed household is doing significantly better financially.
“My family is very excited,” Reed said. “I told them it was going to happen, because I was never going to give up on this dream. The first time I got called up, I didn’t even dress out – I was in a suit the whole time in Memphis. Then I got called up to Sacramento and I didn’t play. After that, I told my fiancée, ‘The next time you see me in the NBA, I’ll be on the court.’ Now, it just so happens that I got a contract with the Nets before the season even started and I’ll get an opportunity to show that I’m an NBA-caliber player, that I’m a rotation player and that I can help a team.”
It remains to be seen what kind of role Reed will have on Nets this season. The team will bring back veterans Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young in the frontcourt, and this offseason they also added Andrea Bargnani, Thomas Robinson and Chris McCullough in addition to Reed.
Reed has been in communication with the Nets’ officials and coaches. They were impressed with the huge strides he had made over the last year and explained why they signed him.
“They thought I had a very good Summer League performance; they thought I rebounded the basketball well and led on the defensive end because I was very vocal,” Reed said. “When they signed me, they also told me that this was the most consistent they had seen me play for such a long stretch and that’s exactly what they wanted to see.
“I just want to continue to do those things. I also want to continue to work on my explosion, my hand-eye coordination, my rebounding and my offensive game over the summer. I just want to be able to get into training camp and show them that I can be a reliable option throughout an 82-game season.”
From day one, Reed wants to make it clear that he’s going to be the energy guy who does the dirty work and never takes a second off. That’s the first impression he plans to make, and he’s more than willing to embrace that role during the season.
“You know what you’re going to get when you have me on your team; you’re getting a guy who’s always going to play hard every time he steps on the floor and a guy who’s going to defend as best as I can and pursue every rebound,” Reed said. “I think the coaches know that they rely on me to provide those things and always provide energy. That’s what I’m going to bring: athleticism, rebounding and energy.”
While Reed’s journey since 2011 didn’t go the way he had originally planned – from being undrafted to toiling in the D-League for years – he’s grateful for the ride and believes it was absolutely necessary. Rather than being upset that it took this long for him to land on an NBA roster, he has a very mature outlook on the situation. He views every moment along the way of his career as a learning experience that helped him reach this point. Each stepping stone led him to Brooklyn, and he’s not sure what would’ve happened had he missed one.
In early July, he wondered out of frustration if he’d ever get the chance to play in the NBA. Now, a little over one month later, he wonders if he ever would’ve gotten this NBA opportunity had he not experienced said frustration and taken his unique path.
“I’m 10 times better than the player I was when I first came out of school [in 2011],” Reed said with a laugh. “God makes things happen for a reason. I wasn’t ready when I first came out of school, but everything happens for a reason. I had to go through this journey. I had to go through the D-League. And all of that is what prepared me to now be in this position with the Nets and make the most of this opportunity. I’m just thankful for the journey. I got the opportunity to get stronger over those three years in the D-League, improve my offensive game and still keep the athleticism I had when I came out of school.
“Overall, I became a better player because of this journey. And I’m prepared for what’s next.”
UPDATE: This week, Reed signed a two-year, fully guaranteed contract with the Miami HEAT. The deal, which is for the veteran’s minimum, includes a player option for the second year so Reed can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
NBA Daily: Tacko Fall Out To Prove He’s More Than Tall
Most of the attention centered around Tacko Fall stems from his height, but after an impressive combine outing, he’s out to prove that there’s so much more to him.
Tacko Fall was one of the many participants who attended the NBA Draft Combine this past week in Chicago.
By so doing, the combine retrieved all of his official measurements as a player such as his height, weight, and wingspan among others. After the combine was over, Fall had the following measurements.
Height (without shoes): 7’5 ¼’’
Height (with shoes): 7’7″
Weight: 289 pounds
Wingspan: 8’2 ¼’’
Standing Reach: 10’2 ½”
Vertical Leap: 26.5″
Those measurements set many records at the combine. So, in case you didn’t know it before, growing has never exactly been an issue for Tacko Fall. Even though the findings that measured how freakishly tall Fall is shocked the masses, none of them really fazed the man himself as long as that meant he wasn’t going to grow anymore.
“I kind of already knew so I wasn’t really surprised,” Fall said. “I don’t think I’m going to keep growing. I think it’s just going to stay there. Hopefully. We’ll see.”
Fall’s physical advantages made him look like a man among boys in his four years at the University of Central Florida. The Senegal native averaged 2.4 blocks and 7.7 rebounds – in only 23 minutes per game – and put up a scorching field goal percentage of 74 percent over the four-year span of his college career. Basically, Fall’s good stats mainly come from his unrivaled length.
During his time at the combine, Fall believes that sticking to his guns and not doing things out of his comfort zone made him look good to spectators.
“I think I’m doing pretty good,” Fall said. “I’m holding my own. I’m not going out there doing anything out of character. I’m staying true to myself. I’m playing hard. I’m talking. I’m running hard. I’m doing everything that I need to do.”
Despite his towering presence, Fall is not expected to be a high selection in this year’s NBA Draft, if he is selected at all. Not many mock drafts at the time being list his name among those who will be taken, and the ones that do have him among one the last selections in the draft.
Some of his primary critiques as a player include his low assist-to-turnover ratio and his faulty shooting mechanics. The biggest one of them all is his lack of mobility. Being as tall as he is would make it hard for anyone to move around well enough to compete with NBA offenses that rely more on quickness and spacing now than it did on mass.
The concerns surrounding Tacko’s mobility were made loud and clear to him. That’s why he believed he had something to prove to the skeptics at the combine.
“For people my size that’s the biggest thing that they’re looking for,” Fall said. “‘Can he move?’ ‘Can he keep up with the game?’ ‘Can he run the floor?’ ‘Can he step out and guard?’ I feel like I have the ability to do those things. So, coming in here and having the opportunity to play against great competition and showing my abilities have been a great blessing for me.”
Before the combine, Fall’s stock benefited from his final performance as a college basketball player. Tacko and the ninth-seeded Knights fought the first-seeded Blue Devils until the very end but ultimately lost 77-76. Fall had much to do with UCF’s near-upset over Duke, putting up 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes before fouling out.
That game did a lot for Tacko’s belief in himself as a player leading to the combine. Putting up that kind of stat line against one of the best college basketball programs with three top-10 prospects with so much on the line had to make him feel good about his chances. He said as much following his performance at the combine.
“That was definitely one of the best games in my college basketball career,” Fall said. “It helps build confidence. You go toe-to-toe with those people. You think, ‘Wow I can really do this.’ All you have to do is keep working and working and keep proving that you can step out there and compete every night.”
For some prospects, the NBA Combine is nothing more than just a formality. In fact, multiple prospects for this upcoming draft – including RJ Barrett, Rui Hachimura, and consensus No. 1 pick Zion Williamson – decided to skip out on it. For prospects who are on the bubble like Tacko, it’s a rare opportunity to show that there’s more to them than what they showed in college.
Fall recognized the importance of the occasion and voiced his appreciation for the chance he had to show everyone who attended what he can bring to a basketball court.
“It’s been a great experience,” Fall said. “I’m blessed to be here. I worked really hard. I thank God I’m in this position. I just got to take advantage of it.”
Tacko’s efforts impressed scouts and media members alike. There have been rumblings that his play at the combine has further increased his stock in the NBA Draft. Even with all the work he’s put in and the ambition he has to make it to the biggest stage, Fall is soaking it all in.
“I’m enjoying it because not a lot of people get the opportunity to come here,” Fall said. “I’ve worked really hard and God put me in this position. I’m just trying to enjoy it.”
NBA Daily: Bruno Fernando Is Ready To Take On The NBA
After his sophomore season at Maryland, Bruno Fernando is confident that he is ready to take on the NBA, writes James Blancarte.
The 2019 NBA Draft Lottery kicked off the draft season in a shocking way as numerous teams jumped into the top four due to the new draft structure. After the Lottery, it’s a bit easier to predict the order in which Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett will be selected. Who gets drafted after that, and in what order, is still very much unclear. There are some consensus players in the upper half of the first round. After that, things get very interesting.
Expect the mock draft boards to be all over the place as we move closer to this year’s draft, especially after going through the Combine. Many once less-heralded players show up to the Combine with eye-opening physical measurements, impress in workouts and scrimmages and demonstrate a level of professional polish, among other things.
Last year, after his Freshman season as Maryland, center Bruno Fernando participated in the draft process. Fernando did not sign with an agent and ultimately returned to Maryland where he continued to raise his profile. This year, Fernando again participated in the Combine and spoke with Basketball Insiders.
“I think what’s different this time around is just how much easier it’s gotten. For me, how much more comfortable I am. How much easier it is. Obviously, you know what to expect,” Fernando told Basketball Insiders. “I think just really being here and being around the guys on the team has been a completely different experience than I had last year. This year I know a lot more of the guys. I’ve been working out with a lot of different guys. I think it’s just been a much, much better experience.”
Starting all but one game his sophomore year, Fernando averaged 13.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and two assists per game. These averages were a significant jump over his freshman year. Fernando uses an aggressive, mobile game at and around the basket to do his damage. After solidifying his game on the court, he felt comfortable enough signing with an agent and letting Maryland know he wouldn’t be returning for his junior year. Fernando is now confident about his positioning in the draft, which played a factor in his decision to not play in five-on-five scrimmages.
“Last year I was in a position where I didn’t really know where I stand as much. Last year I had to find out a lot of things coming into the combine,” Fernando said. “And this year I think I am in a position just by talking to my agent and my coaches where I feel like I’m in a position where I’m a lot comfortable compared to last year, in a much better place. Having that that feedback from teams really, my agent really felt like that was the best decision for me not to play five-on-five.”
Fernando’s offensive prowess and athletic upside have him looking like a solid first-round pick. According to the Basketball Insiders version 3.0 mock draft, Fernando is projected to go anywhere from 14th- 29th overall. Tommy Beer projects him to go 25th. Being drafted in the first-round, in general, portends a better career as teams find themselves with a greater financial stake in the player and accordingly will be pinning higher hopes for that prospect.
At 6-foot-10, Fernando projects as a low post threat with excellent handwork who can score with a variety of moves down low as well as a lob threat. Fernando also occasionally takes advantage of steal and breakaway opportunities to run the floor and score easy points with his ferocious dunking ability. He didn’t do much damage from distance, although his shooting stroke and mechanics make that part of his game a potential future weapon in his arsenal. Fernando addressed that very point.
“The part of my game that is unseen so far is my ability to space the floor. My ability to dribble the ball and put the ball on the floor, take guys off the dribble and my shooting ability,” Fernando told Basketball Insiders. “I really think my shooting ability is something that people don’t notice that I am able to shoot the ball. Just because of my situation in Maryland where I didn’t really take many shots. You know, I never really had to come outside and try to play outside. You know we had a lot of really good players on the perimeter. I think it’s really just a matter of me staying to true to myself, who I am and trying to win in the best way possible.”
Any team in need of a possible pick-and-roll threat who can score down low should keep an eye on Fernando. Whether a team believes that Fernando can also be successful as a stretch big is not as clear. Where Fernando ends up is still totally up in the air. Regardless, he’s grateful for the opportunity to be the first representative from his own home country of Angola to play in the NBA and made it clear that he has been hearing from other Angola natives.
“Sending a lot of love and positive energy, lot of words of encouragement for me and I think it is really special to get those text messages,” Fernando told Basketball Insiders. “Having people from home texting me every single day. Just knowing that a whole nation is behind me. I’m here fighting and sacrificing to make a dream come true, something that will not just benefit me but a whole nation.”
NBA Daily: Who Is Cam Reddish?
An underwhelming season at Duke casts a shadow over Cam Reddish, who oozes talent and potential. Shane Rhodes looks to answer the question: Who is Cam Reddish?
“I’m Cam Reddish.”
Cam Reddish gave the tongue-in-cheek response Thursday at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine when asked “who he is” as a basketball player.
But who is Reddish?
A former high school phenom, five-star recruit and projected top pick, Reddish was expected to flourish at Duke University under the watch of Mike Krzyzewski. When R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson later followed him to Durham, North Carolina, the three were expected to take the NCAA by storm.
Things didn’t quite go as planned.
While he is still a projected lottery pick, the jury is out on just who Reddish is and how his game will translate to the NBA. A dominant force in high school, the reserved 19-year-old took a backseat to Barrett and Williamson as the three tried but failed to capture a National Championship in their lone season together at Duke.
When compared to the sky-high expectations that were set for him, Reddish underwhelmed mightily as a Blue Devil, and that played a major part in their failure. Relegated to the role of a spot-up shooter and the third option on offense, Reddish averaged an okay, not good 13.5 points on just 12 attempts across 36 games. He managed a meager 35.6% from the field (33.3% from three) and dished out just 1.9 assists per game. When he had the ball, he often deferred to Barrett and Williamson, too often for some.
The focal point of his high school team at Westtown School, Reddish was lauded for the ability that made him a top recruit. He oozed (and still oozes) athleticism – Reddish, who weighed in at 208 pounds, was measured as 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot wingspan at the Combine – and is as versatile as they come. At Westtown, Reddish ran the point, while he spent most of his time at the two-guard or in the front-court at Duke. He was an aggressive, efficient scorer that had no problem getting what he wanted on the floor with the ball in his hands.
But at Duke, that player that Reddish was, the aggressiveness and ease at which he operated, seemed to disappear for long stretches. Those struggles have cast a large shadow over someone that had the look of a future superstar, and Reddish’s draft stock has taken a hit as a result. While some still stand behind him and his talent, plenty of others have faded Reddish in favor of other prospects.
But, at the Combine, Reddish isn’t dwelling on what was or what could have been at Duke. He just trying to learn and get back to being that do-it-all force that he was.
“I’m just trying to learn about the NBA process,” Reddish said. “I’m just trying to get back to who I can be, who I am.”
But that begs the question: who, exactly, is Reddish, and what could he do at the NBA level?
“I feel like I can do everything,” Reddish said. “I was more of a shooter this year – I don’t want to classify myself as just a shooter. I feel like if I just go out there and play my game, I can do a variety of things.”
“Once I show that, I should definitely move up [draft boards].”
There were plenty of flashes of that player during his short stint at Duke. Reddish, at times, seemed to will the ball into the basket, while his shooting stroke appeared to be as good as advertised. He had a knack for performing in the clutch, with multiple shots to win or tie the game for Duke, or keep them in it down the stretch when the others started to fade. The wing managed double-digit points in 23 games, 15 of which he posted 15 or more points (with 20 or more points in eight of those). Reddish managed 18 multi-steal performances and recorded a block or more in 16 games as well.
Wrap all of that up with his plus-defensive ability, and Reddish could very well prove the type of player that could do a little bit of everything for an NBA squad. But he can bring more than that, not only on the court, but off the court as well.
While some may perceive his passiveness alongside Barrett and Williamson as a negative, a lack of “mamba-mentality” or killer instinct that many teams hope for in their top draft picks, Reddish could (and probably should) just as easily be applauded for his willingness to share the ball and step into an ancillary role on a team loaded with talent. As we saw this season with the Boston Celtics, who were projected by many to go challenge the Golden State Warriors for the Larry O’Brien trophy but flamed out against the Milwaukee Bucks after a season fraught with discontent, that can be hard to do on the biggest stage.
And, while he is the quiet type, Reddish made it a point to say that evaluators shouldn’t confuse that for laziness or lack of effort.
“I’m kind of reserved – my personality is kind of reserved – some people might take that as lazy or too laid back. But that’s not just who I am, I’m just a naturally reserved, calm guy.”
There were certainly issues, however.
Despite flashes, Reddish wasn’t the player he could be on anywhere near a consistent basis, even in a smaller role. His time at Duke revealed some major deficiencies in his game and presented some serious causes for concern; a penchant for bad shots, struggles close to the basket and the inability to maximize his athletic gifts. On more than one occasion, he looked to have turned the corner, only to drop another underwhelming performance soon after.
All of that doesn’t exactly bode well for Reddish’s transition to the NBA, regardless of the team that picks him on draft night.
But, the potential is there for him to be great. Now it’s on Reddish to capitalize on that potential.
Reddish could very well prove the most polarizing prospect in the 2019 Draft Class. His ability to maximize his natural talent and recapture the aggressiveness that pushed him to the top of his recruiting class could prove the difference between him becoming the next Jeff Green or the next Paul George
Or, should he really find himself at the next level, he could become the first Cam Reddish.